The Marsh Brothers – Shaun and Mitchell. For years, the two siblings have felt the wrath of the Australian public. Whenever the brothers have been amongst a now (almost) inevitable Australian middle order collapse, they have been the scapegoats.
And for the most part, certain levels of criticism are warranted for their performance. Shaun, for example, has averaged in the single digits across his last 8 innings – a stat that is never a positive sign for a man with so much talent.
His brother Mitchell, left his breakthrough innings for the Australian public a lengthy four years after his debut, albeit, a very good 181 in last year’s Ashes. Regardless, both players have shown incredible amounts of talent as many times as they have disappointment.
Australia’s recent ball-tampering debacle in South Africa has opened up a nine to twelve month hole in Australia’s top order, with all three of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft suspended for their law-breaking actions.
Such an episode opened a new door for Shaun and Mitchell to cement their spots in the team, and have them as walk-ins for the 2018-19 summer. However, their diminishing form since the Ashes last summer has left some serious doubt over their form; or at least that is the most popular view.
History however, would suggest an unheralded trend is likely to continue again this summer. Regularly, the Marsh brothers have found themselves out of favour with the Australian public in the build-up to an upcoming home summer of cricket.
This is often due to a lack of form on the subcontinent, or a poor form patch in places most recently in the UAE. Yet it appears that every summer, either of them will find themselves back in the Test arena playing for their country.
The most intriguing thing to note from all this is the reason for their constant selection. With Mitch, and in particular Shaun, they have year after year scored mountains of runs in Sheffield Shield cricket and found themselves statistically a field above their competition in the domestic arena.
Shaun averages over 40 with the bat in the four-day format for Western Australia; an average rarer than most think. Mitch, being the all-rounder he is, averages a tick under 32 with the bat, and 30 with the ball; respectable figures for a versatile cricketer.
Remembering that these numbers are actually combined with their Test stats (Test matches are also counted as first-class matches), their batting averages are actually higher than shown on paper, and lower in Mitchell’s case with the ball. With all this said, it is fair to come to the conclusion that they are indeed well-rounded cricketers with the talent to prove it.
It is undoubtable though with all this said, that their inability to perform consistently on the big stage is what frustrates the Australian public the most. When Shaun is in form and smoking his trademark cover drive, it is inhumane to not froth over his talent.
Likewise, when Mitch is spanking bowlers all over the WACA and taking poles – it amazes people how he isn’t doing this also on an international level. Which leads to the elephant in the room, where to next for the Marsh brothers?
The Australian domestic fixture in line with international test matches this summer is unique to previous years, with several rounds of shield cricket taking place before the Aussies kick off their Test summer campaign against India in December.
However, multiple one-day matches against South Africa before hitting the Test arena make it hard for both brothers to find form with a red ball before December. This is due to their likely call-up into the ODI team, with both batsmen arguably worthy of their spots in the team given their recent white ball form.
Australian coach Justin Langer has made it blatantly clear that runs are a form of currency under him, and that their existence in any form of cricket can translate to selection in any format.
From this statement alone, it seems that if they can find form in the South African one-day series, they are all but certain in a spot against India come December 6 in Adelaide. Playing in familiar conditions, it should logically be easier for the two of them to retain their spot in the starting XI.
The message is simple for Shaun and Mitch; runs in the upcoming ODI series against South Africa will give them first crack at India in December ahead of other candidates.
For Mitch, wickets will be seen as a bonus, but not essential. His bowling is often only used to give his fellow fast bowling teammates at international level a break, and seen more as a changeup allrounder – opposed to genuine allrounders like Jacques Kallis and Sir Garfield Sobers.
The door is open for both Marsh brothers, but the Australian public have just about had enough of their inconsistency on the big stage. It’s likely this summer could be Shaun’s last to cement his spot in the team, and at 35, time is seemingly not on his side. Mitchell, on the other hand, is still only 27, but will do his international career the world of good with some match-winning performances this summer against both South Africa, and subsequently India in the test arena.