For Shaun Marsh, it’s now or never
Date: August 7, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Although, given Voges has played many seasons for Northamptonshire whose home ground of Trent Bridge is the venue for the fourth Test, he may just hold his spot. Either way, time is running out for Marsh to live up to the expectation that has been a constant companion throughout his first-class career.
It was back in January 2003, when the Sheffield Shield was the Pura Cup, that Marsh first came to national prominence.
Following an innings of 119 – his maiden first-class century – against New South Wales at Newcastle Marsh received a glowing endorsement from the Test captain of the day, Steve Waugh. Having seen Marsh’s innings up close that day he stated that it was the finest knock he had seen in his life by a teenage batsman.
At the time Marsh was 19 years of age and brought up his century with consecutive sixes from the off-spin of Mark Waugh.
The son of former Australian vice-captain and WA skipper, Geoff Marsh, Shaun was always to always follow in his Dad’s footsteps. As a young boy he was exposed to the dressing rooms and introduced to the stars of the day. Along with younger brother Mitch he progressed all the way to national representation.
There has never been any doubting his natural talent or ability.
Yet, in a first-class career that has spanned almost 15 years, Marsh has failed to live up to the expectation that accompanied his arrival on the scene and the ever present raptures that are thrown his way by past and present players.
Time and again we have heard about Marsh’s talent and his promise. Sadly, time is running out for him to prove that the hype is warranted. The time for promise has past. It is now a matter of performing consistently at the highest level.
The left-hander turned 32 last month and to date he has played just 14 Tests for 859 runs at an average 35.8.
He burst onto the Test scene with 141 against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in September 2011. In the next Test at Colombo he scored 81 in the first innings.
He seemed ready to take Test cricket by the horns and give it a good shake.
Yet, just three months hence he found himself out of the side after a truly disastrous home series against India where his scores across the four Tests were 0, 3, 0, 11, 3 and 0.
It would be two full years before he earned a recall and when he did it was a case of déjà vu.
First Test back – at Centurion against a South African attack that included Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander – he scored an imperious 148. In the next match at Port Elizabeth he had the ignominy of registering a pair, giving him six ducks in his past 11 Test innings.
He was dropped for the final Test at Cape Town, with Shane Watson returning from injury, and then overlooked for the two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE in October last year.
He found himself back in the side last summer, returning to the line-up for the second Test of the India series at the Gabba as a replacement for injured skipper, Michael Clarke.
Through the last three Tests of the summer he scored 254 runs at 42.3 including being heartbreakingly run out for 99 at the MCG.
In the lead in to this Ashes series he was called upon to open in the two-Test series in the Caribbean when Chris Rogers was ruled out with concussion. In an unfamiliar position for him at first-class level he posted scores of 19, 13no, 11 and 69.
With Rogers fit for the first Ashes Test at Cardiff, and with debutant Voges having made scores of 130no and 37 in the Caribbean, Marsh found himself once again on the outer.
But with Voges’ returns though the first three Tests of this series a mere 73 runs at 14.6, a Marsh recall is looming.
And this time he has to make it pay.
In first-class ranks the past ten months have been the best of Marsh’s career. He is coming off a Shield season where he amassed 706 runs at 64.2 along with three centuries.
He has since scored a century in a tour match in the Caribbean and two in county warm-up matches on the current Ashes tour against Kent and Derbyshire.
That means six of his 16 first-class hundreds have come in the past ten months. In that time he has elevated his first-class career average from the mid-30s to 39.2.
Yet even that number is far from what you would like from a specialist batsman after 108 first-class matches.
Numerous other long-term players in the Australian set-up boast significantly higher averages in first-class ranks – Voges (45.1), Watson (42.7), David Warner (49.6), Steve Smith (53.7), Chris Rogers (49.9) and Clarke (47.4) – to name a few.
Even wicket-keeper Peter Nevill has a superior batting record to Marsh with a first-class career average of 43.3 from 58 matches.
Marsh is often seen as a dashing, fluent batsman but that is not the case. In his 14 Tests to date his strike rate has been a pedestrian 46.6 and across his first-class career just 47.3. Even in ODI ranks, where he has performed well, his strike rate is just 77.4.
Often he gets tied down, and a little like Watson, tends to look more for boundaries than a simple rotation of the strike when the bowling is tight.
Technically he is sound but with respect to concentration and application when I matters he can at times be found wanting.
Like his father he is a nervous starter. He may well get another chance in the baggy green tonight. If so, it will come at a time not only crucial for him but for his team as well. If he does return he has to strike gold.
After a rollercoaster, and largely unfulfilled career, he has shown he is in the best form of his life.
If he does not capitalise on his next call-up it could mean the end of his Test career leaving him as an unfulfilled talent.
And that would be a shame.
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 6 August 2015, soliciting 49 comments