Shaun Marsh bounces back: Can he turn Australia’s fortunes around?
by Pramod Ananth
“It is hight time Marsh takes up responsibility, being one of the most senior members of the side. His performances need to be consistent and should ideally set an example for those who are getting started with their international careers”
Australia have played their final ODI in 2018, losing out to South Africa by 40 runs in the series decider at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Australia have won just two out of their 13 ODIs this year and what is more alarming is that they have lost their last five ODI series. This year also saw their captain, vice-captain and opener get suspended, coach resigned and their board’s chief stepped down due to the infamous sandpaper episode that sent shocking waves around the cricket world.
With key players missing from the side, it was time for one of the more established players to take over the mettle. Shaun Marsh was certainly one of them.
Change in format sometimes brings change in fortunes for a cricketer. After scoring 7, 0, 3 and 4 in the two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE, Marsh got an opportunity to play in the last two ODIs and justified his selection in the decider with a much-needed 106. Australia went down, but they did it fighting.
However, just one good knock does not mean that he is back in form, but it will certainly be a relief to him and the team management as his place in the side was under scrutiny due to a string of poor run. Marsh at №3 in ODIs makes perfect sense. He is a free-flowing stroke-maker, who can also play the role of a pinch-hitter, knocking the ball around for ones and twos.
While Marsh’s slot in the XI is more or less fixed at №3, rest of the batting line-up is undergoing a constant shuffle. It is understandable as Australia now have a new limited-overs captain and there will be some experimentation now and then. Australia do not have a fixed XI yet. They still have the likes of D’Arcy Short, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Ashton Agar, waiting on the fringe, who will surely be tested out in the near future.
Australia will have to zero in on everyone’s roles — who opens? Who plays at №4, 5, 6 and 7? Should Glenn Maxwell be sent in at 4 or 5? Do they need another all-rounder other than Marcus Stoinis in the side? And many more.
Marsh in 2018, has scored three centuries, all of which have ended in losses. In fact, his three centuries have come in a span of six innings. His current form in the ODIs has been quite good, but it is the Test run that will worry him and his team.
Usman Khawaja buried the ghosts of playing in Asia, by slamming a sublime century in Dubai to draw the Test. Marsh, who has a good record in the sub-continent, however, failed to make any sort of impact. Barring that 156 against England at the start of the year, Marsh has failed in his next 12 innings. His highest score in those innings has been 40. Eight of those innings have been single-digit scores, including two ducks. It is safe to say that everything is not hunky-dory when it comes to Tests.
After the debacle in the UAE, Marsh went back to First-Class cricket and scored 80 and 98 for Western Australia against Tasmania at Perth, which would have given him a lot of confidence ahead of the ODI series. He did not disappoint as his century at SCG gave Australia an outside chance. What was good to see from Australia’s point of view is that they did not surrender meekly, despite losing three wickets in fairly quick time.
Marsh came into bat in the second ball of the innings, thereby giving him a great opportunity to get a big score. But with the South African bowlers on the money, it was difficult to score runs. The fact that South Africa had set a 321-run target also did not help. Australia coach Justin Langer has seen the rise of Marsh during his stint at Western Australia and also with Perth Scorchers. But if Marsh keeps on failing in Tests like he has this year, Langer will have no other option but to discard him.
It is hight time Marsh takes up responsibility, being one of the most senior members of the side. His performances need to be consistent and should ideally set an example for those who are getting started with their international careers.
The upcoming series against India will be a crucial one for him. He does not have a particularly good Test record against them but has a decent record in the ODIs. But, Australia will be playing at home, which should give Marsh a huge boost. This tour could very well determine the role Marsh will have in the team in Tests and ODIs.
Originally published at www.cricketsoccer.com on November 11, 2018.