Australia might again be poor enough that they’ll feel like they have to pick Shaun Marsh

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Sometimes there’s a man. We won’t say a hero, because what’s a hero? But sometimes there’s a man – and we’re talking about Shaun Marsh here. Sometimes there’s a man… well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s Shaun Marsh.

If there’s one thing that could potentially surpass all those other times that Australia picked Shaun Marsh, it would be Australia picking Shaun Marsh at the age of 37 having already picked him loads of times in the past.

And it could happen. You won’t believe us, but it really honestly could.

Let’s recap

Shaun Marsh has played 38 Test matches for Australia, during which time he’s hit six hundreds and averaged 34.31.

Everyone in Australia says that’s not good enough for a specialist batsman. But as we wrote last time he was dropped, back in January 2019 – they’re wrong. Or at least sometimes they are.

If you envision the great Test teams, a guy who averages 34.31 does not warrant inclusion. So if you’re trying to build a great Test team, it makes sense not to pick that person.

The problem is that quite often you’re not really in an area where you should be harbouring hopes of being a great Test team. For example, Winnington Park Second XI would be greatly improved by a player who averaged 34.31 in Test cricket and so too, from time to time, would Australia.

It feels offensive to some people this idea that mediocrity can be good enough (and make no mistake, for all his peaks and troughs Shaun Marsh is undoubtedly mediocre). But sometimes mediocrity is good enough. Sometimes you just have to make do for a bit and hope that something better comes along.

That’s very much the role that Marsh has fulfilled in the past. But now he’s getting mentioned again for slightly different reasons.

The current sitch

David Warner has injured an adductor while another opener, Will Pucovski, had to retire hurt after a blow to the head against India A this week, having hit two double hundreds in his previous two matches.

This leaves Joe Burns as the only other recognised opener in the Australia Test squad – a man who’s made only 61 runs in seven innings so far this season.

So Australia are scrabbling around in desperation trying to track down a top order batsman. And what do you do if you’re Australia and you’re scrabbling around in desperation trying to track down a top order batsman? You whip out your Shaun Marsh Horn and play the emergency bugle call, of course.

“Right out of left field, I think maybe even Shaun Marsh could be one of those stop gap guys given the experience we need at the top of the order,” said Allan Border this week. Fox Cricket, meanwhile, had a whole big column about why he should be picked. (In true shaunmartian style, he has been averaging about a hundred this season.)


Shaun Marsh is a once in a generation player: it’s not often you find a player so consistently middling that they can serve as a kind of barometer indicating the health of your team.

If Shaun Marsh is out of the reckoning, you know you’re going okay. But then sometimes times are tough and… well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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    1. Without going into the details, his surname gets him into this team. Ask Brad Hodge what it’s like to be on the outer.

  1. Feels harsh saying he’s mediocre overall. He’s a mediocre Test player, a very good first-class player, and compared to the vast majority of human beings to have picked up a bat, an excellent cricket player. It’s just that Test cricket, in its current state in Australia, is weirdly well calibrated to his “Goldilocks level” – he’s not so good (or Team Oz so bad) that he’s an automatic selection, he’s not so bad (or Team Oz so good) that he’ll never get suggested as a selection, they’re both “just right” for him to vary from a possible to a probable without ever convincing everyone either way.

    To be on the Goldilocks level for your Test side for an extended period of time is quite an achievement. There are plenty of “stalwart journeymen” in County cricket – bowlers who average mid 30s, batsmen who average low 30s, all-rounders who average twenty-something with the bat and thirty-something with the ball – who may need to cross from County to County occasionally in order to keep playing, and don’t expect to be picked every week even after finding a side suffering from the appropriate skills shortage, but who still eke out a decently long career nevertheless. They’re probably the first-class equivalent as people who have “found their level” and got stuck there.

    If transfers were possible in international cricket, Marsh wouldn’t have to drop down to Zimbabwe / Bangladesh levels to get a game or two. International cricket is at different levels in different places, and also has different skills shortages – Australia being a bit light on top-order batsmen for now, England short in the red-ball spin department and so on. Something I’ve been pondering is who’s just at the Goldilocks level for a current World Test XI. Is there anyone the pundits consistently rate as very very good, but have been divided a long time on whether they’re “world class” enough to make the eleven? And what does that say about how strong the current era is in the different departments? I reckon the World XI wicket-keeping slot might be in a “he’ll do” kinda state at the moment.

    1. I think that Shaun Marsh’s mediocre days in international cricket are over. He is 37 now, so Australia are more likely to pick Marcus Harris or Khawaja.

    2. Marsh could maybe drop down to England level.
      Although we do seem to have sorted out the batting a bit with the likes of Crawley and Pope and Jos Buttler in better form.

      1. Yeah I was thinking as I posted that Watling would probably get that nod so don’t want to be too harsh on him (my phone autocorrect is harsher and reckons he should be called Wartling!) but do you think he would be the go-to pick in world cricket if he was up against the competition from a few years / decades back? Obviously hard to compare as the general improvement in the range of shots batsmen play, scoring rates and so on has picked up a lot in the T20 era. So maybe he’d compare quite well and I’m being influenced by his relative lack of that mysterious star quality (which may be more down to the media or the fact he isn’t from a different country than any failing on his part). Whereas right now there are a fair ol’ bunch of top order batsmen who do seem imbued with that quality and those places in a World XI team would be very competitive even in historical terms?

    3. This is crying out for a King Cricket World XI made up of players who are good enough to play Test cricket but aren’t quite able to make it into their respective countries’ side

      1. One of the most dramatic illustrations of this … anyone else here remember the 1994-1995 Australian “Tri-Series” that was really a Quad Series between Australia (hosts), Australia A (co-hosts?), England and Zimbabwe? They finished the group stages in that order, England narrowly missing out on 2nd spot after tying 1-1 with each of their three opponents. So the best-of-three final was between Aus and Aus A, which Aus won 2-0. Aus A never did beat Aus in their 4 matches that tournament but they beat Zim 2-0 and tied 1-1 with England.

        The Aus A batting lineup went Blewett, Hayden, Martyn (c), Bevan, Langer, Ponting, Emery (wk) and they also had the very handy Jo Angel bowling who’d certainly have played a lot more internationals for another side. And while almost all of those guys ended up having a good run in the green and gold, there was a small legion of noughties/nineties Australian state cricketers – often with highly productive county careers too – who stacked up an obscene number of runs without breaking into the national team. Though perhaps less of them than frightening Caribbean pacemen of the 70s and 80s who never or seldom got to play for the Windies… think both of those teams would have liked to spread such a luxury of players over a wider range of decades!

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