History is repeating itself, with the Australian Ashes squad announced yesterday leaving the most talented left-handed batsman at home for the biggest Test series on the calendar.
A largely overlooked reason Australia lost the epic 2005 Ashes series is prolific run-scorer Mike Hussey wasn’t in the squad, as the selectors stuck with out-of-form Matthew Hayden, whose style and ability was completely unsuited for the English conditions – fast, lateral-moving ball.
Had the selectors selected the best batsman for the job of opening, in Hussey, from the beginning of the series, Australia more than likely would have had a decent platform to score enough runs to win the series.
Fast forward to 2013, and the selectors were faced with the very same conundrum. Persist with mediocre lefties in Ed Cowan and Usman Kawajha while re-engaging with another unproven and largely untested first-class veteran in Chris Rogers (to name a few), or add a bit of variety and class in dumping one of those bland ideas for our most skilled left-handed top order batsman in decades – Shaun Marsh.
Sure Marsh’s Sheffield Shield form had been poor prior to finishing the season strong, but his technique and ability is not only superior to Hussey’s, it is arguably the greatest of any left-hander in the history of Australian cricket.
The fact the selectors found no room for him in our squad of 16, which only has one world-class Test batsman in Michael Clarke, needs clarification.
I’d imagine the selectors would argue Marsh has discipline and personal issues, combined with his sub-par form. However form is temporary and class is permanent and from what I’ve seen of Marsh, his struggles at Test level seemed to stem from being a victim of his own exquisite technique, which has often given him a false sense of security.
Marsh’s technique is so well built he has the ability to defend any ball delivered, while also dispatching almost any type of delivery to or over the boundary and it was apparent he was well aware of this.
Consequently, his shot selection suffered in the form of arrogantly trying to play every delivery, which meant bowlers were able to find his edge and have him caught behind square early in his inning.
All Marsh has to do is slightly channel his less talented peers (Ed Cowan) and predecessors (Mark Taylor) and leave 60% of deliveries that are missing the stumps, especially early in his innings, and he will be well on the way to having Test career statistics that will rival Hussey and Hayden.
What must also not be discounted in Marsh’s omission is that it may not be just be due to the non-player selectors, but due to him not fitting within the playing group.
If true, this is a failure of captain Michael Clarke and the so-called high performance unit for not creating an environment that gets the absolute best out of Marsh.
In previous years it was acceptable for selectors to dump Test batsmen like Ricky Ponting, Greg Blewett, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Martin Love and Brad Hodge to find form in domestic cricket as there was a plethora of world class batsmen waiting in the wings.
Now we are forced to persist with batsmen who cannot average above 40 batting to the best of their ability.
Surely in these times, Marsh is worth persisting with for a year to see if he can find form and play to his potential on the stage he deserves.
Worst case scenario he performs at the same level as the current crop, best case scenario he averages above 50 and plays a pivotal role in Australia winning the Ashes this year.
Marsh’s omission is a disgrace for all involved and we can only hope the England bowling attack continues its recent blunt form and allows our squad to post enough runs to win the Ashes.
But I fear we will be channelling 2005 when we were in desperate need of having Hussey ready and available to replace Hayden, or in this case the entire batting line-up excluding Clarke, and save us from losing the Ashes.