If Shaun Marsh is the answer, you have to wonder what the question was

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Shaun Marsh has been recalled to the Test side for a ninth time. Yet, the Gabba Test will be only his 24th match playing for Australia.

    Not every omission has been due to form but the significant majority have. Not even John Farnham can boast as many comebacks.

    Given Marsh’s Test record – 1476 runs at an average of 36 – when he did not have his Cricket Australia contract renewed recently it was considered there would be no further opportunities in the baggy green.

    When Winston Churchill spoke famously about Russia in 1939, he could well have been speaking about Marsh: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

    Marsh certainly is a riddle, mystery and enigma.

    However, the national selectors – Trevor Hohns, Greg Chappell and Darren Lehmann – feel selecting him is in the national interest.

    For so long we have heard past and current players extol the virtues of Marsh as a batsman. Much of the comment surrounds his style and attractiveness when he is at his best.

    Sadly, history indicates that he is not as his best regularly or for any extended period. For a man who topped the IPL run aggregate in its maiden year and averaged 43 in List A matches, he has looked a pale imitation at Test level.

    His Test strike rate is a mere 44.7. The likes of Chris Rogers (50.7) and Justin Langer (54.2) were seen as doughty players but both scored considerably quicker than Marsh.

    At Test level he often appears to freeze up. Numerous times he has found it hard to rotate the strike, while nudging into gaps does not appear a forte when beneath the green helmet. As a result bowlers have been able to build pressure and work to a plan in bringing about his demise.

    There must be several players around the first-class traps in Australia shaking their head at Marsh’s latest reincarnation. The incumbent number six, Glenn Maxwell would be at the head of that cue.

    In the three Sheffield Shield matches that have been used as a barometer for Ashes selection – although the Tim Paine recall may devalue that notion – Maxwell has scored 200 runs at 40 and Marsh 236 runs at 39.3.

    Maxwell made a Test century four matches ago. To date, each of his seven Test appearances have come in Asia. He could feel aggrieved that he has been denied playing a maiden Test on home soil where his career first-class record is superior to Marsh’s. At 29, he is also five years younger than Marsh.

    Australia Test player Glenn Maxwell raises his bat

    Callum Ferguson was called up for his Test debut last summer after many years in first-class ranks with South Australia. Heading into the Hobart Test against South Africa he had averaged 51 in his previous 17 Sheffield Shield matches during which he compiled six centuries.

    At Bellerive he was run out for one and scored two in the second innings. With Australia being bowled out for 85 and 161 to lose by more than an innings, the selectors made wholesale changes for the next Test at Adelaide. Ferguson was one of the casualties, dropped after just one appearance.

    This season in Shield ranks he averages 68.6 and boasts an unbeaten 182 against Victoria. His ODI record – an average of 41.4 from 30 matches – shows he has succeeded at international level when given a decent chance but, at 32, he may not be accorded the luxuries again that have regularly gone the way of Marsh.

    And then there is Ed Cowan, who last season was the leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield – 969 at 73.7 – who was told at the start of the season his age was an issue in currently being selected for New South Wales.

    He has not been chosen for the Blues this summer. He is 11 months older than Marsh who has been given an international reprieve.

    The selectors could have also opted for generational change.

    Twenty-five-year-old Jake Lehmann has been in good form for the Redbacks with 249 Sheffield Shield runs this season at 49.8 on the back of averaging over 40 last summer. His South Australian teammate 23-year-old Jake Weatherald caned the Warriors attack in the last round of Shield matches with innings of 152 and 143 to go with a knock of 71 in the opening round.

    Both Lehmann and Weatherald are far more experienced than Matt Renshaw was when he made his Test debut last season.

    It was back in January 2003 that then Test skipper, Steve Waugh witnessed first-hand a young Shaun Marsh. He scored his maiden first-class century in a Sheffield Shield match at Newcastle.

    Waugh was effusive in his praise, saying, “It is the best innings I have seen from a 19-year-old. He looks an outstanding talent. The quality of stroke play was superb.”

    Such praise from a legend of the sport did not go unnoticed. Big things were expected from Marsh. Sadly, despite abundant natural talent and a solid work ethic, he has underperformed through his 16 years in first-class ranks.

    He has scored 21 centuries in that time. That equates to 1.3 centuries a calendar year throughout his entire career. Once again the selectors have placed their faith in him.

    He is likely to bat at number six as a direct swap for Maxwell with his uncapped West Australian teammate Cameron Bancroft expected to open in place of Renshaw.

    Surely this will be his last chance to grab an ongoing place in Australia’s Test line-up.
    For the sake of himself, the team, the selectors and the fans he has make the most of his ninth life.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (150)

    • November 18th 2017 @ 7:19am
      Michael Levinsohn said | November 18th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      How many times have we said “surely Marsh is on his last chance”?

      He is the cockroach of the Australian Test team. He cannot be killed off.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 18th 2017 @ 12:07pm
        Bunney said | November 18th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

        Agreed – I’m fairly certain when he was picked for India the same was said of him.

        But he’s back…

      • November 18th 2017 @ 1:38pm
        Summer of cricket said | November 18th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

        I think his middle name might be Watson

    • November 18th 2017 @ 7:44am
      Rob JM said | November 18th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      Yes but Marsh scored against against NSW and in the one day Tournament while Maxwell Didn’t. Of course Maxwell hasn’t played against NSW this season and was in India for the one day tournament, so it hardly surprizing the selectors don’t know of his existence.

      • November 18th 2017 @ 8:18am
        jamesb said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        These NSW conspiracies are so boring….

        • November 18th 2017 @ 8:49am
          Rob JM said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

          How is it a NSW Conspiracy, NSW has both the Australian Bowling Line up and Smith who likes picking players that have impressed him in matches he has seen. A good score against NSW as Marsh did should count for a bit more, but its hard to judge two players who have not played the same games. The issue is players not being afforded the same opportunity to impress. Maxwell was directly impacted by CA decision to override the Tas Declaration to give Paine the opportunity to bat meaning Maxwell lost the opportunity to secure his position. If he had gone on to score 100 then he would have been batting at 6. Instead he was 20no overnight and had to restart his innings the next day. If he had been 70no when the selectors sat down for dinner he would have been on the same footing as Marsh with 3 50s apiece.
          CA’s intervention in the TAS vs Vic game was disgraceful.

          • Roar Guru

            November 18th 2017 @ 9:09am
            Edward L'Orange said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

            I don’t really want to get involved in the ol’ NSW thing, but the issue with your argument here is that Smith is not a selector.

            But I totally agree the CA overruling a state team’s declaration is disgusting, if it did indeed happened. Besides being a total rout of the rules, and possibly costing Tas a much needed win, it sends the message that Shield cricket isn’t even important.

            • November 19th 2017 @ 11:13am
              Felix said | November 19th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

              Smith has widely gone on record admitting a few ‘captains picks’ in the past, especially Wade.

          • November 18th 2017 @ 2:28pm
            Peter said | November 18th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

            I think NSW should have it’s own Test side. I reckon they’d beat the rest of Australia.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 4:27pm
          Mitcher said | November 18th 2017 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

          Cmon James, look back at all those stacked selection panels full of new south Welshman… oh wait, that’s not true.

    • November 18th 2017 @ 7:54am
      Hammertime said | November 18th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      “If Shaun Marsh is the answer, you have to wonder what the question was”.

      I know this…

      WTF ?

    • November 18th 2017 @ 7:56am
      bigbaz said | November 18th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Maxwell should sue the selectors for restraint of trade, Marsh better put bigger brown paper bags under the Xmas tree for the selectors.

    • November 18th 2017 @ 7:59am
      Perry Bridge said | November 18th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      One thing for sure – the selections were made and then there was an attempt to craft some form of justification after the fact.

      I’d much rather the selectors just come out and say for example “Maxwell and Wade were always antagonising each other which was bad for morale…..so we dropped both of them – it took us 4 test to realise what was in front of our face in the ODI format all this time……we’re a bit slow”

    • November 18th 2017 @ 8:10am
      George said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      So, 35 is too old to play Shield but 34 is fine for an undeserving Test recall.

      Can’t fathom the selectors’ thought process here, beyond blantant bias towards their favourites. Will Marsh be dropped for Australia/WA next year, even if he averages 73 this season? Of course he won’t.

      Rather than picking teams on merit, it’s as though a sick game is being played to punish those not inside the boys’ club. I have zero respect for CA or any of the individual selectors.

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 8:41am
        Ryan H said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        This is the aspect I don’t understand – Cowan/Klinger/White all basically banished from their Shield teams despite still playing well, because of age, and yet the selectors go down the path of an almost 33 yo and a 34 yo

        • November 18th 2017 @ 10:03am
          George said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          And i suspect if Bailey questioned the inept coach/selector and his boys’ club, then Tas would be told to drop him.

      • November 18th 2017 @ 10:55am
        beepee said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Well said, George. And taking your thoughts a step further, why aren’t our selectors subject to some kind of accountability, like most of us are in our occupations? All I can think of is that the boys club reaches all the way to the top in CA.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 2:28pm
          George said | November 18th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

          I suspect it does. They don’t seem to have any plan – just pick their favourites off the cuff. Still, keeps the blowtorch off of $utherland placing T20 above all other forms.

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