Mitch Marsh wins ODI man-of-the match awards more often than Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers. His career stats to date are far better than those of legendary all-rounders Jacques Kallis, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson and Andrew Flintoff.
Marsh is on track to become one of the true superstars of the ODI format. Yet, bizarrely, few cricket pundits or fans offer him the respect he deserves after a stunning start to his ODI career.
Many cricket followers are falling over themselves to shower praise on fellow gifted youngsters like South African quick Kagiso Rabada, England all-rounder Ben Stokes and Bangladesh paceman Mustafizur Rahman.
Meanwhile, Marsh is flying under the radar, comparatively, despite putting up jaw-dropping numbers in the 50-over format. Indulge me, for a moment, while I swamp you with facts and figures.
After 37 matches, Marsh is averaging 39 with the bat and 31 with the ball – incredible returns for a 24-year-old who made his ODI debut at just 19 years of age.
Marsh’s career record is particularly impressive when you compare it against those of other prominent all-rounders, past and present.
To date, he has comfortably outperformed some of the format’s all-time great all-rounders, including South Africa’s Kallis, England’s Flintoff and Australian legends Symonds and Watson.
Averages after 37 ODIs
Mitch Marsh – Batting average 39, bowling average 31
Ben Stokes – Batting 21, bowling 36
Moeen Ali – Batting 26, bowling 40
Shane Watson – Batting 29, bowling 45
Andrew Symonds – Batting 30, bowling 28
Jacques Kallis – Batting 40, bowling 48
Andrew Flintoff – Batting 23, bowling 32
None of those players came close to equaling what Marsh has done in his first 37 games. Of course, averages do not tell the full story. What is really important is a player’s ability to have an impact on a match.
In this regard, Marsh has been phenomenal, winning an incredible six man-of-the-match awards already in his brief ODI career.
To highlight just how astounding that number is, compare Marsh’s strike rate of winning a MOM award every 6.2 games against the career rates of the format’s two best players – Kohli (one MOM every 8.2 games) and de Villiers (8.3 games).
Now compare Marsh’s strike rate of one MOM every 6.2 games against Watson (11.1 games), Kallis (10.2), Flintoff (10.1) and Symonds (9.5).
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, not one of Marsh’s MOM awards has been earned in familiar home conditions. His six MOM awards have come in four different parts of the globe – England, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and the Caribbean.
Marsh also was man-of-the-series as Australia defeated a resurgent England in their five-match series in the UK last year. As evidence of his ability to shape results with either bat or ball, he won two MOM awards in that series – one in a match where he only batted (making 80no from 63 balls), and the other in which he only bowled (snaring 4-27).
While Marsh is in the side as a batting all-rounder, having earned a promotion to number five in the order, his bowling is as good as numerous specialist quicks playing ODIs across the world. It was his ability to take wickets in bursts which stood out in the tri-series final this week, earning him his latest MOM award.
The Windies were well positioned at 1-62, chasing 270, when Marsh flipped the match on its noggin. First he induced an edge from Darren Bravo, then he deceived Marlon Samuels with a cutter, before he trapped LBW the well-set Johnson Charles.
After 4.1 overs, Marsh had the incredible figures of 3-4 and Australia suddenly were in complete command. ODI batting all-rounders typically operate as support bowlers, aiming to get through their overs relatively cheaply while snaring the odd wicket.
Not Marsh. In Tests, too, Marsh has displayed an invaluable ability to dislodge key batsmen at pivotal moments. His bowling has been wonderful in the longest format for the past year and very solid in ODIs.
Where his batting in Tests is well and truly a work in progress, he is a very accomplished middle order 50-over batsman. In his past 19 ODIs, Marsh has cracked 562 runs at 51, while scoring at a run-a-ball.
At times he has played with atomic belligerence, at others with deft touch, patience and intelligence which belied his reputation as a front foot hitter. Yet wait until the next time Marsh fails in an ODI, and watch as clueless observers round on him with clichéd, baseless snipes.
The young all-rounder looks capable of becoming one of the finest ODI cricketers Australia ever has produced. Eventually, his detractors will disappear.