It’s not Shaun Marsh’s fault that he’s good enough to play Test cricket for Australia

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Shaun Marsh being good enough to play for Australia (BT Sport)

Australia have dropped Shaun Marsh. Again.

The news was met with plenty of that particular brand of rejoicing where people look really sour-faced and say: “About time.”

We’ve an inkling that the main problem with Marsh is that he’s good enough to play for Australia in the first place.

Marsh averages 34.31 in Test cricket and everyone in Australia says that’s not good enough for a specialist batsman. But they’re wrong. They’re really, really wrong.

Just because 34.31 isn’t good enough in a “we’d quite like to win some games of cricket” sense doesn’t mean it’s not good enough in a “let’s pick the best available batsmen” sense. Marsh is mediocre, but his rivals are generally slightly worse.

Marsh’s unique quality – insofar as he has one – is that he’s juuuust about good enough to make the Test team. This carefully calibrated level of ability absolutely maximises the time he spends getting right on everyone’s tits by being rubbish and out of form.

Great players get plenty of leeway. Good players get a bit of leeway. Marsh? Well, even when he’s in form, his presence is only really tolerable at best. Out of form his mediocrity is impossible to ignore.

What’s really remarkable when you look back on it now is how England permitted him to score 445 runs at 74.16 in the last Ashes series. He has played in 10 matches since and made 344 runs at 18.10.

Reviewing Marsh’s latest Test innings, Ricky Ponting said: “We saw again he started nice and positively and hit two really good cover drives and then it’s just the ball that doesn’t do anything that gets him out.”

Imagine that! Imagine a Test batsman with a weakness against ‘the ball that doesn’t do anything’. You’d drop him, wouldn’t you? You’d drop him in a heartbeat.

Now imagine it’s a few months down the line and you’ve realised that the guy who replaced the guy with a weakness against the ball that doesn’t do anything is even worse and you’re seriously considering bringing Shaun Marsh back again.

Imagine you’ve brought Shaun Marsh back countless times before and each time he’s been creatively and innovatively mediocre. How many more times can you do it? How many more times can Australia possibly bring back Shaun Marsh?


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    1. Thats Shaun Marsh for you, if you think this is bad Cricket Australia have spenf over 20 years obsessing over him.

  1. It’s the final piece of the jigsaw. He is Hick, Ramprakash, Butcher… He is proof that Australia are about to experience “English Cricket in the 90s”.

  2. He’s like Shane Watson, but without the useful medium-medium outswing and the comedy factor

      1. Is Mitch unbinding with the Marshes?
        And no more Finch and no more Peter Handscomb
        Is Mitch unbinding with the Marshes?
        The time for new and old replacements has come
        Joe Burns and Renshaw are two players we have seen before
        But Will Pucovski be like Marsh or will he score much more?
        Is Starc going to find his swing against Sri Lanka, or
        Will Mitch be binding with the Marshes?

        These are the questions one asks oneself while sipping the morning coffee.

      2. Great reference Bert. I would be surprised if many of KC’s readers were around at the time of the original, (or you for that matter). Unfortunately I was.

  3. Just imagine how good England would have been over the last couple of years with three batsmen averaging 34.31.

    Apropos of nothing, Although I realise that KC wears a different cloak for his regular “unit watch” segment, I thought that:

    “As a batting unit, It’s something you only dream of, batting with these guys, playing in the same side and representing your country,” said Hamza at the Wanderers on Wednesday.

    Although utterly mangled, he does seem to have stumbled upon the literal meaning of “unit”, even if by accident.

    1. Yes, that’s a very fine unit. We’re not going to find anything better than that this week. Thanks.

  4. I think Smarsh is gone for good this time, he’s hit that critical landmark of being 35 years old. That is the official age where cricketers are categorised as super old (He’s older than Sir Alistair…) and usually the point where a dropping is fatal (for your international career, not literally).

  5. Pucovski has only ever played 13 first class innings. In one of those he scored 243 runs. Across the other 12 he averages 28.75. And he’s going to bat in the top six for Australia. Really looking forward the Ashes now.

  6. Excuse me in advance if this is a point which has already been thoroughly covered off in a previous post/set of comments, but isn’t Marsh’s “unique ability” simply his surname? If he were not “SoS” (Son of Swampy) he would surely never have got anywhere near that many chances. (Same with Mitchell I guess – nobody outside Oz ever though he was all that, but the selectors insisted he was some sort of Next Big Thing. He is nominally an all-rounder, but in practice the bits and pieces seldom add up to much… and if he were not a Marsh of the cricketing Marshes, I reckon they’d have dispensed with his services before now)

    Some pundit or other (I think it was one of the Indians – maybe Sanjay Manjrekar?) very recently said that Shaun Marsh looks like the best in the world on his day. In all fairness this was said in the context of assessing why he so often fails to deliver, so the pundit in question was probably just being (overly) kind, but it didn’t half raise my eyebrows I can tell you. I know he has played a few decent knocks but he has never looked THAT good – ?!

      1. …and similarly a more acceptable-looking ODI average.

        Swampy’s test best was at Trent Bridge, when he scored 138. I can remember an occasion at Trent Bridge when the whole Australian team couldn’t even reach half that figure.

        Does anyone remember when that was? Was anyone from around here there on that classic day…not the Swampy 138 one, I mean the time the Aussies were skittled for less than half that number.

    1. There is a whiff of nepotism from the selectors very occasionally – they explicitly mentioned his ‘lineage’ not so long ago – but we’d say it is much more commonly just the specific stick used to beat someone who is simultaneously good enough to play for Australia and not good enough for Test cricket.

      You say if he weren’t Son of Swampy he would never have got anywhere near that many chances, but Harris averages 36, Head 32, Finch 27, Bancroft 30, Renshaw 33, Maddinson 6, Ferguson 2, Nevill 22, Burns 36 (so he’s due a recall), Doolan 23, Bailey 26, Maxwell 26, Henriques 23, Quiney 3 and Wade 28.

      1. There is a whiff of nepotism from the selectors very occasionally –

        Can you imagine if Alastair Cook’s (*) children ever become competent at cricket? They could average 15 with the bat and 58 with the ball, they’d still get a place.

        (*) I am refusing to call him “Sir”. On such moments of public dissent, entire revolutions are built. It starts here, it finishes in Utopia.

      2. Some research has revealed some interesting things. There are only three living cricketing knights – Sir Ian Botham, Sir Richard Hadlee, and Alastair Cook (see above). That is, if you exclude West Indian cricketers. From there you have Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Curtley Ambrose, Sir Charlie Griffith, Sir Wes Hall, Sir Richie Richardson (I kid you not), Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Everton Weekes, and Sir Gary Sobers.

        WTF? Is it the West Indian equivalent of a carriage clock? And who did Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh upset?

        Anyway, I’ve decided that Big Al can have his title, but only if he fights for it like boxers do. Alastair Cook Vs Ian Botham for the British Cricket Knighthood belt. Marquis of Queensbury rules (Cook’s dad, probably). And if he is successful (ha!) he can defend his title against all the better batsmen / better captains / better cricketers who strangely missed out on being knighted on retirement. Arise, Sir Kevin…

      3. Bert – from that list the West Indian knighthoods policy is probably based on which island nation feels like handing these out. All the sirs in your list are from Antigua and Barbados.

        If Jamaica and Trinidad had joined in it would probably include the likes of Lara and Walsh.

  7. Hopefully he’s only been dropped so we can anticipate the obligatory headline about him being back and not suffering from……….

  8. The cycle of Shaun Marsh in test cricket; unmerited call up, world class century, series of low scores, dropped, injury, recall due to experience/ potential dependent on what justification selectors feel most convincing.

    Thanks to his Dad being a test batsman and coach and the fact he qualifies as Bloody Good Blokes he gets picked whenever there is a spot.

    1. See our reply to Dane above.

      He’s not good enough for Test cricket, but he probably is good enough for the Australia Test cricket team.

      1. To be fair he occasionally does pull off a world class knock, which then cushions him against the next set of low scores. England used to have similar obssesions with Hick and Ramps.

    2. As Micko and Ged have both pointed out, Marsh Sr was never one of the outstanding players in that Aussie team. I was thinking more along the lines of Swampy’s having been a selector at some point/having sired a whole clutch of cricketing offspring. This allows for a compelling combination of nepotism-loyalty-sentimentality, rather than a suggestion of “your dad was a legend (etc)”.

      And of course, as Tom notes, SoS is capable of playing very good innings, just not very often.

      I dunno, I thought it was quite well established that it was his “lineage” which always put him in the next-cab position on the taxi rank. Stuart MacGill had a right go about this several years ago, claiming that if the middle order players from any of the state sides had been given as many opportunities as Shaun M. then they would certainly have done no worse. KC’s point about test averages is duly noted, but some of those guys were given very limited chances to impress: Maddinson in particular was discarded very quickly indeed. I’m not saying they were wrong about him, but they made up their minds pretty fast considering all the nice things people said about him when he was first picked.

      As for the West Indian knighthood business, well that’s what I had in mind recently when I said Boycott would be unhappy about Cook. Boycs got his wrists slapped last year for muttering that it’s harder to get a cricketing knighthood if you’re not West Indian, but the statistics would suggest he had a valid point…

  9. If you combined the mindset of Geoff with the skills of Shaun and Mitch you’d have two very, very good batsmen. Alas, that is not how it works.

  10. Careful counting of Bert’s post reveals there are 11 living cricketing knights.

    I can only assume this is deliberate and there is an ancient requirement to always maintain a full strength team of knights in case of a cricketing emergency.

  11. Howe is spot on in the matter of West Indian cricketing knights – some Caribbean nations dole out honours like smarties while others made a conscious decision, upon independence, not to use them.

    Guyana for example. Which in a way is a shame, as I think one of my cricketing heroes from there, Lance Gibbs, was as deserving as many and would have sounded mighty fine as “Sir Lancelot”.

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