(Photo Credits: Cricket AU)
A question that’ll confront, if not haunt, captain Tim Paine ahead of the Third Test is whether to drop Shaun Marsh or let him play.
When Shaun Marsh was dismissed on Day 3 of the Second Test at Perth for a score under 10, it became apparent that the calls for his ouster weren’t unjustified after all.
He doesn’t exactly enamour the fans. He doesn’t make the Indian bowlers work doubly hard to get him out.
Marsh is not the most dashing left hander around. When he takes guard, the bowlers today don’t exactly begin to pant in nervous fidgetiness.
The fielders do not begin to fret in their bid to save the boundary.
Shaun Marsh is known to be a quiet fighter in the middle. He loves the game. Just that he doesn’t seem to be entirely in love with scoring a few runs for his side.
His role in the lower middle order for Australia is to toil, not toy with the bowlers.
And it’s exactly this very task of his that he’s been failing to do where past performances stand.
Day 3 is the day they say where situations change swiftly in a Test.
Had Marsh chosen to soldier on and play a second fiddle to Khwaja, the man who seemed set, things would’ve been far better for the left hander.
He would’ve been contended with for the remainder of the series not out of Australia running out of choice, but out of respect.
But he just might play, for not many in the side seem in great form anyways.
At a time where Australia were looking to bounce back into the Test match, having lost both openers including Finch (sidelined due to a finger injury), Shaun Marsh’s experience- 36 Tests; 65 innings- would’ve been handy.
Thank heavens that Australia were saved by the doggedness of Usman Khwaja and Tim Paine.
Marsh had no role to play in their consolidation whatsoever. To be honest, the sight of his long, haggard walk back to the pavilion was about every bit painful as seeing Finch cringe in pain with the blow to his finger.
But what’s been rather sad about Shaun Marsh isn’t just his lack of runs, of late.
It’s the manner in which he’s chosen to offer his wicket, offering slight or negligible resistance at the crease.
He did look comfortable at Adelaide, going on to collect a fifty, but he stopped when he had all the time in the world to convert a fifty into a big hundred.
At Adelaide, if you saw the manner in which Ashwin claimed his wicket, you’d have found that Marsh had more to do with losing his wicket than Ashwin pulling out a magic wand.
What kind of a shot was that anyways, you wondered?
On a flighted delivery, pitched deliberately outside off, but one aided by enough turn to birth a puzzle even before the ball would come to him, Marsh extended his feet and reached out, only to find the bottom edge of the bat inviting the ball onto the timber.
He had tried to hang around. He spent a few overs in the middle. But despite knowing he was under pressure, perhaps having enough pressure to remind himself that a batting spot had to be maintained, a position had to be defended, a career had to be saved, he offered his wicket like a free after-party present.
Today, despite having not played Test cricket for more than half a decade, he seems to be flirting with the edge. Rather, he’s on the edge isn’t he?
So what can Australia do about it? Are calls for Marsh’s sacking untrue and based on bias?
Surely, anything can happen in the remorseless quarters of utterly competitive international cricketer.
But hey, hang on. In case, you thought that Marsh’s lack of runs concern themselves only against India and in their recent series against Pakistan, then you’d be well advised to visit a stat that can no longer be ignored.
Perhaps it’s worthwhile to look at Shaun Marsh’s year as a whole.
In 2018, Shaun Marsh has played against Pakistan, England, India. From 17 innings, he’s managed 429 runs at 25. He’s failed to fire a hundred against each of these teams.
His overall record points to a modest Test average of 34. This is when he’s got himself 65 innings to contribute, of which he’s managed 2194 runs, with 6 hundreds, none of which have come this year.
While axing Shaun Marsh once and for all isn’t the ideal solution nor the idea of discarding him all of a sudden from the Test eleven a feasible choice, one wonders, whether having a one to one (read man to man) talk with him being given one more Test to justify his selection would make some sense?
That he can bounce back into form isn’t a vague claim. He’s, after all, a batsman who majorly improved his questionable form the last year that produced 38 runs from 3 ODIs.
In 2018, however, Marsh’s limited overs form has been stupendous, if you were to note. His 416 runs from merely 7 ODIs evinces an average of 59; more importantly, bouncing back doesn’t seem an utterly unnatural an idea to him.
What’s more? He’s been responsible for 3 belligerent hundreds, the most memorable being the game against England, in England, wherein, together with Finch, Marsh would make the home team suffer.
So what remains to be fixed is a fledgling Test form. How that can be fixed is something only Marsh knows and the coaching staff can shed light on. The only thing that’s known, however, is that an in form Shaun Marsh would speak well for Australia who’d want one of its more experienced men to improve a somewhat dubious record against India anyway: 13 Tests, 534 runs at an average of 22 minus any hundred.
What can you do, Shaun?