We’re so glad we went with Shaun Marsh is back last time around because now that he’s suffering a back complaint we can use a totally new headline.
Marsh may or may not be fit for the first Test, but the development still has the potential to muddy Australia’s crystal clear selection policy.
Early in the season, the selectors were looking to youth. This led to last season’s New South Wales top-scorer Ed Cowan being omitted from the state side in favour of some young lad no-one’s heard of. The decision was made on the grounds that Cowan is 35 and his replacement has milk teeth and so Non-Cowan Boy therefore had a better chance of playing for the Test team.
Fast forward five minutes or so and Australia implemented a brand new selection policy that favoured ‘experience’. 32-year-old Tim Paine came back, thanks to his 2006 batting form, and 34-year-old Marsh was also given another chance.
All well and good. But if these old boys are going to start complaining of back ailments, dizzy spells, rheumatoid arthritis and general confusion, maybe the selectors will feel they have revert to championing youth as they did so convincingly for one part of one squad announcement about a year ago.
The best policy would probably be to alternate between favouring youth or experience for each individual selection they make. That way every state player can be equally perplexed about what the hell is going on and the selectors themselves can put forward justification for their choices even if they didn’t in reality employ any kind of reasoning that would stand up to scrutiny.
It occurs to us that people are far more likely to say “Shaun Marsh is back” than use the contraction “Shaun Marsh’s back” when referring to his return. This rather undermines an excellent joke we were going to make. Never mind. We’re sure we’ll one day get an opportunity to deploy it using someone else’s surname.
In any case, the headline should more accurately read “Shaun Marsh is rumoured to be back” because it’s one of those news stories that’s based on the word of “a source”. Apparently Tim Paine is also back – utterly bizarre as he hasn’t scored a first-class hundred in over a decade and hardly ever keeps wicket.
Marsh’s inclusion in an Australia team is always welcome from this website’s perspective. We’ve described it as ‘heart-warming’ before now.
The heart-warmth is brought by the innocence and naivety behind such a decision. In the face of all that has happened, these gnarled, wisened selectors still retain extraordinary optimism. It’s rather inspiring.
Like us, you may have something in the back of your mind that says Marsh’s lifelong efforts to try and ensure all his averages remain in the high 30s could end up undermined should he get to play more matches on Australia’s straightforward unchallenging Test pitches.
History disagrees. Marsh’s spectacularly Marshish Test average of 36 from 23 Tests actually drops to 34.23 for his 10 Tests in home conditions.
We’re really looking forward to a spectacular hundred in the first Test followed by extended payment of his duck tax throughout the remainder of the series.
It’s common for people to ask: if Shaun Marsh is the answer, what is the question? As often as not, the question is “who’s the selectorial equivalent of a last desperate roll of the dice?”
Australia have not been making runs in Sri Lanka. In the first two Tests their scores were 203, 161, 106 and 183. Against that backdrop, a duck from a top order batsman doesn’t feel too costly – and if there’s a one in ten chance that the duck-scorer might instead make a hundred, you might as well take a punt. Enter Shaun Marsh.
Selecting Marsh is all about what might happen; very rarely about what probably will happen. In Tests, he makes good hundreds interspersed with a hell of a lot of ducks. His first-class record meanwhile is not much better than reasonable, so there aren’t really grounds for optimism there either. You select Shaun Marsh in hope. It’s quite heart-warming in a way.
The problem for Australia is that Marsh inclusion also comes with a cost. For every “he’s finally cracked it!” there’s a long stretch of “oh no, he hasn’t” to bring the world back into order.
The selectors appear to be onto him however. In December, he made 182 against the West Indies. He was then dropped. This has seemingly allowed him to pay his duck tax in the nets because upon his return to the side, he’s made another hundred.
Or maybe this is all part of the Marsh masterplan. Two hundreds in two Test innings might earn him a long stretch in the side to disprove himself. It’s inadvisable to commit to dice-rolling in the long-term.
It wasn’t so long ago that Australia’s batting was pretty fragile. Since then, David Warner and Steve Smith have joined Michael Clarke as regular run-scorers, providing more than mere gaffer tape solidity. However, while India’s 408 doesn’t look too imposing, nor does Australia’s new-look line-up.
Some players seem underrated by the sides they represent. Others… well, you just feel like you’re missing something. The Marshes are a case in point.
Shaun Marsh makes good hundreds interspersed with a hell of a lot of ducks. He’s played for long enough now that you’d think people would have a fair idea what they will get from him, but the Australian selectors seem far more concerned with what they might get from him.
His brother, Mitch, is looked upon in a similar way. People seem impressed by his bowling, despite the fact that he has only just taken his first Test wicket in his fourth Test, while he finds himself batting at six despite a first-class average of 29.63. By way of contrast, India’s number six averages 58.68 in first-class cricket and recently became the first man to hit two ODI double hundreds – yet still approximately half of his team’s supporters think he shouldn’t be playing.
The middle order Marshes – they sound more challenging than they perhaps are.
No, he did. One of the three deliveries he faced in this Test match didn’t see the fall of his wicket. He really hung around.
When Shaun Marsh was brought back into the Test side, we wrote:
“Whether you think he’s good or not largely depends on whether you consider ‘his best’ to be the norm or an occasional aberrative state.”
Sometimes it’s nice when someone defies your expectations, but there are also occasions when all you want is for someone to carry on exactly as they have been doing. For example, it was impressive to see Hugh Laurie somehow become an American leading man in House, whereas if something’s got Matt Berry in it, you pretty much know what you want from him.
We’ve highlighted this before, but it’s worth linking to Shaun Marsh’s Test scores again in light of recent performances. Six ducks and two 140-plus scores in 15 innings. Majestic stuff.
If there’s one thing Australia have been lacking, it’s dull, steady, three-an-over partnerships in the middle order. Today they got one and they look like a proper team again.
Even while gaily twerking atop England’s comatose body, there was a fragility about the Aussie Test team. How odd that they should give the impression of solidity through Shaun Marsh, the flakiest cricketer since… well, since Shane Watson, who he replaced.
Marsh is a true all-rounder when it comes to flakiness. Physically, he’s only ever one ill-advised blink away from a major muscle strain and behaviour-wise, he’s been known to partake of liquid refreshment. He once made reference to having a favourite vodka. Honestly, who has a favourite vodka?
Then there’s performance. It takes real commitment to the art of making a balls of things to maintain an average of 35 in first-class cricket when you’re also capable of looking as skilled as Shaun Marsh. At the age of 30, this is only his ninth first-class hundred. And just look at this run of Test scores. It’s demented. It’s top form or no form and no middle ground. Yet somehow this is the man who delivered much-needed easy-not-to-watch functionality.
Australia have dropped George Bailey from their Test squad. It was always likely that the side would be eviscerated by the selectors after only just about managing to saunter to five massive wins over England. They’re basically in turmoil.
The replacement is none other than perennial Test yo-yo, Shaun Marsh, of whom Australia’s national selector, John Inverarity, said:
“We all know that when Shaun plays at his best, he’s a very good player.”
This is a pretty good synopsis of Marsh’s career. He does look good when he’s at his best. Whether you think he’s good or not largely depends on whether you consider ‘his best’ to be the norm or an occasional aberrative state. Plenty of Australians hope that a prolonged spell of ‘his best’ is just around the corner. They’ve been hoping for about a decade now, but it must be getting closer.
Marsh has forced his way back into the side through sheer weight of runs. Since he was dropped from the Test team a year ago, he’s made 675 first-class runs at 25.
One-day form may also have played a part in his recall. Short format runs are increasingly being seen as a strong indication of long format ability following the successful promotion of George Bailey to the Test team.
Shaun Marsh said he wanted to play straighter after making 79 in Australia’s win over South Africa. How much straighter does he want to play?
Now granted, we slept through a good deal of his innings, but from what we did see Marsh’s batting was straighter than Chuck Norris doing DIY – which tallies with previous innings of his that we’ve seen.
He’s a full face of the bat man. If he bats any straighter, the fielding side will have to position everyone in single file behind the bowler. He had a net in his back yard when he was growing up. Maybe he’s never realised that match pitches don’t have mesh sides.
Shaun Marsh has hit five fifties and a hundred in the IPL. He’s streets ahead of anyone else. He’s hit the most runs and he’s averaging 74.12. He’s adding to Kings XI Punjab‘s rich history of great batsmen.
The best thing about Shaun Marsh is the way he’s scored his runs. Twenty20’s a big slogathon is it? Then how come the most successful batsman plays straighter than a Wigan binman?
During his 69 ball 115 against Rajasthan Royals, Marsh scored no fewer than 49 runs straight down the ground, hitting three fours and five sixes in that area. We’re not just talking in front of square, you understand. We mean straight back past the bowler with a satisfying ‘pock’ sound and a ‘go fetch it’ flourish.
Shaun Marsh is Geoff Marsh’s son. We didn’t know that and we’re not sure why we didn’t guess. Here’s a view of him from Down Under. Don’t worry, if you read that link again you’ll see that we’ve capitalised the initial letters of ‘Down’ and ‘Under’, so it’s not a cheeky photograph of his undercarriage it’s some Antipodean opinion.