Mitch Marsh needs to go

Date: October 28, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

m-marshMitch Marsh’s position is currently the most problematic in the Australia team.

All the other contenders for a place in the top-six have made a case to be considered.

David Warner and Steve Smith are the two definites who demand selection. Even still, they have shown form in the current round of Sheffield Shield fixtures for NSW with Warner going to stumps on day two 41 not out and Smith making a first innings 117.

Of the others, Joe Burns (129) and Usman Khawaja (79) have starred with the bat for Queensland and Shaun Marsh (73) has dispelled concerns over his recent hamstring strain. While Adam Voges made just 20 in Western Australia’s first innings against South Australia he is coming off a stellar Matador Cup in which he compiled four half-centuries amongst his 301 runs at an average of 75.2.

A smoky in the shape of South Australia’s Callum Ferguson has also been amongst the runs with 154 in the Matador Cup against the CA XI and 101 in the Shield match against Western Australia.

And then there is Mitch Marsh.

Since returning from the one-day tour of South Africa he has played two Matador Cup innings for scores of three and one. In the first innings of the Shield match at the WACA Ground he made just 12 and had figures of 2-84 off 18 overs come the end of the second day.

Marsh has been a project player for quite some time having been identified early on as the next all-rounder in the Australian Test side. Ever since Andrew Flintoff dismembered Australia during the 2005 Ashes series the selectors have been desperate to find an all-rounder.

Both Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson filled that desire for a period and recently Marsh has been the anointed one. To date he has played 18 Tests, during which time he has scored 600 runs at 24.0 with two half-centuries.

They are hardly the sort of numbers expected from a Test number six.

Since the start of last summer, Marsh has played 11 Tests for a batting average of 20.7. Additionally, his bowling has lacked real penetration in that time with 18 wickets at 37.1.

The three-Test series against South Africa will be a tremendous test for Australia’s batsmen with the Proteas currently boasting the best pace attack in world cricket.

Headed up by Dale Steyn (416 wickets at 22.2), it also includes Vernon Philander (130 at 22.1), Morne Morkel (242 at 29.3) and exciting 21-year-old firebrand Kagiso Rabada (29 at 24.4).

The Australian batting has shown a propensity for significant collapses in recent times. The sight of Mitch Marsh striding out to the middle looking to shore things up will likely cause the Proteas little concern.

Ian Chappell has long espoused the philosophy that if four bowlers cannot get the job done it is unlikely that five will.

In Marsh’s case, on face value, he would not have a big impact with the ball.

At times Smith seems very reticent to use him, as if he is worried that a larger bowling workload will disturb his batting. In the recent Test series against Sri Lanka, Marsh was called upon to bowl just 35 overs in Australia’s series total of 501.

When both Burns and Khawaja were dropped for the last Test in Sri Lanka they were replaced by Shaun Marsh and Moises Henriques. Like Mitch Marsh, Henriques is not currently at a true Test all-rounder level.

Given the potent South African attack there is a very strong case for a specialist batsman at number six in the upcoming series.

If it were me, I would consider having Burns and Warner open the batting with either Khawaja or Shaun Marsh at three with the other at five. Smith would bat at four with Voges dropping to number six.

Currently, the Mitch Marsh experiment is not bearing the fruit it needs to. Having turned 25 a week ago there is still plenty of time for him to mature into a true Test quality all-rounder. However, at present, it is not working and this summer the team needs a different dynamic.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 27 October 2016, soliciting 77 comments