Shaun Marsh’s selection confirms it’s Groundhog Day

Date: November 20, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Shaun_MarshHe’s back and the question being asked by many people is “WHY”?

Shaun Marsh has been thrown yet another lifeline by the National Selection Panel with the enigmatic left-hander recalled to replace the hamstrung Usman Khawaja. Once again the selectors are hoping that Marsh will defy the set of numbers that are testament to his 15-year first-class career.

Once again the chorus of discontent over his selection in social media circles and on cricketing blogs is to the fore.

In fact, it is playing out as it so often has with Marsh seemingly playing the part of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

In making the case for Marsh’s selection, coach and selector Darren Lehmann said “I still remember that great hundred he got against South Africa at Centurion”.

That was indeed a good knock. It was also 21 months ago. Marsh played a further 14 innings after Centurion scoring 378 runs at 29.1, losing his sport on several occasions in that time.

Since his Test debut against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in September 2011 – where he made a classy 141 – he has totaled 15 appearances for 861 runs at 33.1.

In his 27 innings he has made two centuries, four fifties, seven ducks and another five scores under 12.

Those numbers are a microcosm of his entire first-class career. In 15 years he has played 113 matches, making 6777 at 38.5 – a modest average for a specialist batsman, especially one of 32 years of age.

His West Australian state captain and once again Test teammate, Adam Voges is 36 and boasts a first-class career average of 45.7 through 173 matches. Voges’ nine Tests have produced two centuries, three fifties, 612 runs and an average of 61.2.

Both have played one-day cricket for Australia – Voges 31 times, scoring 870 runs at 45.8 with a strike rate of 87; Marsh 46 matches in which he scored 1712 runs at 38.8 with a strike rate of 77.

Each has also represented Australia at Twenty20 level – Voges seven times for 139 runs at 46.3 and a strike rate of 122; Marsh has played 13 matches, scored 223 runs at 18.6 on a strike rate of 105.

Whether it be in first-class ranks or in the three forms of international cricket Voges has been a superior to player to Marsh in all four.

Yet, it is Marsh who we keep hearing from the selectors who possesses special talents. Voges, on the other hand receives no such plaudits.

Marsh can be special, on his day, but his day materializes very infrequently.

People talk of his solid technique, copybook cover driving and strengths square of the wicket. He is spoken of as a free-flowing batsman yet his strike rate at Test level is a pedestrian 46.

As mentioned he has scored 16 first-class centuries since his debut in 2001-02.

Some of the more recent ones have come against popgun, second string attacks in overseas tour matches where key bowlers were rested – 114 against Kent and 101 versus Derbyshire on this year’s Ashes tour and 118 against a West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI at Antigua in May.

In 86 Sheffield Shield matches Marsh has scored 11 centuries which equates to around one per full season.

Some people still assign the word ‘potential’ to discussions about Marsh. At 32, potential is no longer on the agenda.

He currently sits 13th on the list of Shield run-scorers this season and his individual innings have again underlined his perennial inconsistency – 15, 1, 2, 92, 64, 33 for 207 runs at 34.5.

There was a feeling that 22-year-old Cameron Bancroft, a State teammate of Marsh, was in the frame to replace Khawaja. He was chosen for the cancelled Bangladesh tour and scored a century in the recent WA v SA day-night Shield match at the Adelaide Oval.

However, with Steve Smith and Adam Voges likely to bat at three and four as they did in their century-making second innings at Perth, Bancroft slipped out of contention being a specialist opener.

That opened the door for Marsh who received the nod ahead of another of his domestic teammates, Michael Klinger, who has scored 365 runs at 91.2 in Shield ranks this season, including an innings of 202no.

Last season he was second only to Voges for the most runs in the Shield competition with 1046 at 58.1 with four centuries and a top score of 190.

Yet he was overlooked for Marsh. Yes, Klinger is 35 but whoever was chosen to stand in for Khawaja was going to make way once he was fit again. The selectors have gone for Marsh.

He has to deliver this time and to do so he needs to show he has rectified the deficiency outside off-stump that he displayed in both innings at Trent Bridge a few months back where he made naught and two.

As for the other changes for Adelaide, Australia may defy a near decade long selection strategy by playing two spinners in a home Test match – it last happened when Stuart MacGill and Shane Warne were chosen in tandem for the SCG Test against South Africa in January 2006.

Lehmann says Steve O’Keefe is a reasonable chance of playing his first home Test in partnership with incumbent spinner, offie Nathan Lyon.

The selection of O’Keefe in the 13-strong squad for the history-making Adelaide Test is very much a case of horses for courses.

He has played three pink ball Sheffield Shield matches in the past three seasons for New South Wales at Adelaide Oval where he has captured 18 wickets at 18.2.

O’Keefe was named as the second spinner for the recently postponed Bangladesh two-Test tour having made his one and only Test appearance to date against Pakistan at Dubai last October.

His first-class record is solid 181 wickets at 25.0. He is also a handy batsman with eight first-class half-centuries and an average of 28.9.

With Mitchell Johnson having ridden into the international sunset there was a requirement to select another quick.

With Peter Siddle certain to be elevated to the XI the reserve quick is James Pattinson who is on the road back from recurrent injuries.

Player-of-the-Series in his first run at Test cricket, against the Black Caps in 2011-12, he has shown he has the goods at the highest level with his 51 wickets at 27.1 from just seven matches. The word is he is still producing some sharp spells for Victoria this season.

With talk that Josh Hazlewood may be rested for Adelaide, Pattinson may be back beneath the baggy green for the first time since March last year.

Should that be the case it is hoped that a five-day match is not a bridge too far at this stage of his comeback.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 19 November 2016, soliciting 251 comments