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Eleven Australian batsmen given the flick for Shaun Marsh

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Roar Guru
10th May, 2019
18
2343 Reads

As the Australian cricket public celebrates another chance given to Shaun Marsh – both selection in the World Cup squad and a Cricket Australia contract – lets reflect on the 11 men who’ve made way for Marsh over the past decade.

I don’t hate Shaun Marsh – he’s played some wonderful innings, and it can’t be easy to face the pressure he does – but these batsmen are pretty good, too.

Would Australian cricket have been better served if the selectors gave one of them one fifth of the chances they extended to Shaun Marsh?

Brad Hodge
Hodge gets dropped from the Test team in 2006 for Damien Martyn, despite coming off a double century against South Africa.

When Martyn retires, the selectors go for Andy Symonds over Hodge, but Hodge gets back in the side during the 2008 tour of the West Indies.

Then, on the 2008 tour of India, Symonds gets injured… but Hodge is overlooked again in favour of Shane Watson.

When Phil Jacques is injured, the selectors have another chance to pick Hodge but decide to ignore him in favour of Shaun Marsh.

Marsh doesn’t make his Test debut until three years later. Hodge never plays Test cricket for Australia again, despite averaging over 60 for the next two seasons, ending with 17,084 first class runs at 48, and a Test average of 55.

Adelaide Strikers captain Brad Hodge tries to get his team over the line in the Big Bash

(AAP Image/David Mariuz)

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Verdict in hindsight?
Hodge’s omission is a shocking waste by an arrogant selection panel who assumed champion batsmen grew on Australian trees.

They soon found out in the 2010s that this wasn’t the case.

In fairness, Hodge usually lost out to Martyn and Symonds rather than Marsh but that India squad selection was a taste of things to come.

Simon Katich
Despite being one of Australia’s most consistent batsmen, a handy change bowler and a solid captaincy option, Katich is dumped at the end of the 2010/11 Ashes for no other reason than age.

Shaun Marsh is picked on the 2011 tour of Sri Lanka and South Africa, while Katich never plays cricket for Australia again, despite strong form until his retirement. During the 2013 English summer, for example, he averages 73.13 in first class cricket.

Katich ends his career with 20,926 first class runs at 52.84 (plus 107 wickets at 35.3) and 4188 Test runs at 45.03 and even Michael Clarke now agrees he was dropped far, far too early. Shaun Marsh goes on to be, well, Shaun Marsh.

Verdict in hindsight?
At the time, dropping Katich seemed like a dumb decision and it looks even worse now.

To rub it in, it’s clear now Katich is the great lost Australian Test cricket captain of the 2010s.

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To be fair, Clarke was pretty good too, but Katich would have been as good if not better, and less divisive off the field.

David Hussey
During the 2010/11 summer, David Hussey scores 468 first class runs at 46.8 and spots open up in the Test side but the selectors go for Phil Hughes, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja as new batsmen.

Marsh makes 414 first class runs that summer in four games at 59.14 and is picked in the Sri Lanka tour squad at the end of the summer.

Hussey – who has been a legitimate contender for a Test place since 2007, and plays ODIs for Australia – doesn’t even seem to be in the frame.

Marsh begins his in-out-in-out Test career. Hussey continues to be ignored, despite scoring first class averages over the following Australian summers of 54.5 (2011/12), 23.86 (2012/13), 52.09 (2013/14), and 66.5 (2014/15).

He retires with a first class average of 55 – 61.28 for Nottinghamshire but a still healthy 46.19 for Victoria.

And if scoring runs in England is so easy, could someone tell me why our batting kept collapsing in the David Hussey-free Ashes tours of 2009, 2013 and 2015?

Verdict in hindsight?
David Hussey had a real knack of not scoring runs whenever there were spots open in the Australian batting line-up, and being in good form when they weren’t.

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But his first class consistency meant it was outrageous he was never tried at all when so many chances were given to Marsh.

Cameron White
Both White and Marsh toured India in 2008. Only White played Tests – but as a bowler.

He never seems to get close to Test selection afterwards despite first class consistency similar to Marsh, being younger than Marsh, offering a bowling option and being a captaincy alternative.

When Australia blood a new generation of batting talent in 2011 – Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh – White doesn’t seem to be in the frame though the selectors like him in the short form of the game.

Cameron White of Australia

(AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Verdict in hindsight?
It was a mistake not to try White as a batsman in 2010/11. His batting figures are similar to Shaun Marsh’s but White bought extra things to the party, like bowling, better fielding, and captaincy nous.

White struggled to be consistent over the years and it’s not as outrageous as the dumping of Katich.

Andrew McDonald
McDonald is a surprise Test selection in the 2008/09 summer and does well as a bowling all-rounder even though at domestic level he’s more a batting all-rounder.

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But the selectors seem to want Shane Watson more than him all along, and McDonald is dropped after four Tests.

He is in electric form during the 2010/11 summer, scoring several Sheffield Shield centuries, only to fall injured when spots open up in the Test side.

However, he recovers well and is still in good form when the 2011 tour to South Africa and Sri Lanka is chosen. McDonald is overlooked and never plays another Test, and Shaun Marsh goes instead.

McDonald finishes his career with 4825 first class runs at 39.54 (an average just a little less than Shaun Marsh), and and 201 wickets at 28.73.

Verdict in hindsight?
McDonald did have a bad run of injuries but he was also prejudiced against because of his age and the belief in selecting only one all-rounder, which is silly because his batting alone was good enough for Australia’s top six.

He should’ve had another few Tests.

George Bailey
George Bailey represents Australia in five Tests during the 2013/14 Ashes without scoring a century.

He’s booted from the South African tour, on which Shaun Marsh is picked despite being in rotten form.

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To his credit, Marsh scores a match-winning century in the first Test, then fails in the second and is dropped for the third. But he goes on to receive several recalls to the Australian side.

Bailey never plays Test cricket for Australia again despite consistently averaging 40 at first class level, including making 761 first class runs at 47.56 in 2015/16 and 839 runs at 59.92 in 2016/17.

Verdict in hindsight?
You can make a case for Bailey’s omission from the Test team but it was worth persisting with him for at least the South Africa tour considering Australia was winning, he brought an extra leadership dimension, and the batsmen who replaced him weren’t that much better.

Bailey’s presence may have helped Australia overcome some of the maturity issues they had under Darren Lehmann.

Phil Hughes
Despite a marvellous debut in 2009, Phil Hughes struggles with consistency at Test level, just like Shaun Marsh.

When Darren Lehmann becomes Australia’s coach in the 2013 Ashes, he doesn’t seem particularly enamoured with Hughes, dropping him after two Tests.

Hughes does force his way back into the Test squad on the 2014 tour of South Africa but Marsh and Alex Doolan get the nod over him for Tests, despite Hughes having recently scored three first class hundreds in five games.

Hughes never returns to Test cricket before his death.

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Phil Hughes ducks under a bouncer

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

Verdict in hindsight?
How Hughes would have ultimately done at Test level is one of the great hypotheticals of Australian cricket.

His Test record matches Shaun Marsh’s for its inconsistency, but his first class figures were far superior.

My theory: once Chris Rogers retired Hughes would have gotten back in the side and made a great partnership with Dave Warner. But we’ll never know.

Michael Klinger
Like Shaun Marsh, Klinger has a rocky start to his first class career but gets better as he goes on.

Klinger scores 1046 first class runs in Australia in 2014/15 at 58.11 but is overlooked for the Ashes tour in favour of Shaun Marsh, who plays one Test and fails.

Klinger sustains that strong form in the 2015/16 summer – he would make 580 runs at 48.33, which sees him discussed for international selection.

Marsh gets the nod despite inferior record. Lehmann says: “At the end of the day Shaun Marsh is more recent in Test match cricket and has made a contribution, so that’s the way we decided to go.”

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Klinger ends his career with no Tests, but 11,320 first class runs at 39.3.

Verdict in hindsight?
This omission feels less outrageous, but it must sting Klinger to have never gotten one chance at the top level while Marsh received so many.

Hilton Cartwright
Cartwright’s first class batting average above 40 and ability to bowl a few overs sees him make the Australian Test side against Pakistan in 2017.

He gets one Test then is omitted from the Australian tour of India in favour of Shaun Marsh, who isn’t in particularly good form but is apparently strong in the subcontinent.

Marsh plays four Tests, helping save Australia draw the game in the third Test, but failing with the bat in the second and fourth Tests when a few runs could have won Australia the series.

Cartwright gets one more Test in Bangladesh, mostly on the strength of his bowling, then goes into a form slump that he still hasn’t gotten out of.

Verdict in hindsight?
Cartwright’s the one person on this list who I would – in hindsight – omit in favour of Shaun Marsh in a Test team.

It doesn’t change the fact that it was silly to pick him for one Test then drop him for the India tour.

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Glenn Maxwell
During the 2015/16 summer, Shaun Marsh is picked over Maxwell in the Test team despite Maxwell being in better batting form. The reason, according to Darren Lehmann, is that Maxwell’s bowling is too similar to Nathan Lyon’s.

Both Maxwell and Shaun Marsh are picked on the 2017 Indian tour, neither of them really deserving it on the back of first class form but both having had excellent IPL careers.

Glenn Maxwell Cricket Australia 2017

(AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Shaun Marsh plays four Tests, having some success, but is dropped for the tour of Bangladesh.

Maxwell is picked in the third Test, scoring a century. He fails to repeat this over the next three Tests, though he helped bat Australia to victory in the second Test against Bangladesh.

At the end of the series, coach Darren Lehmann publicly announces that Maxwell’s slot is up for grabs in the Ashes. Marsh gets Maxwell’s position on the basis of gut feel and also because Lehmann thought Maxwell should have scored 180 in a Shield game and he only scored a pair of 60s.

Marsh has a good Ashes, then goes on to fail in South Africa and the UAE, and then in the home summer, keeping his spot through a combination of strong Sheffield Shield form and instability caused by the banning of Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner.

Maxwell is not picked in any Tests. He still hasn’t played a Test since Bangladesh.

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Verdict in hindsight?
Not giving Maxwell a decent run at Test level has been an absurd mistake.

Maybe he wouldn’t live up to expectations – like, say, Marsh – but a powerful stroke-maker who averages 40, can bowl and is one of the best fielders in the world?

Wouldn’t we like to find out instead of sinking all this effort into the enigma that is Shaun Marsh?

Ed Cowan
Cowan has a decent run in the Australian side under coach Mickey Arthur but is punted by Darren Lehmann after one Test.

Cowan goes on to score steadily at first class level but never gets picked for Australia again.

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Shaun Marsh is in and out of the Australian team. Marsh is recalled to the Australian team for the 2017/18 Ashes.

Ed Cowan – whose first class record is as good as Marsh’s, who won the NSW player of the year award in 2016/17, and who is not much older than Marsh – is booted from NSW for being too old in favour of Dan Hughes.

Cowan resigns at the end of the season, while Dan Hughes is yet to play for Australia.

Verdict in hindsight?
Even at the time it felt unfair Cowan didn’t get at least one more Test to prove himself at No.3. And driving him away from the first class game was shortsighted and mean.

My conclusion from this?

Okay, again, I stress, I don’t hate Shaun Marsh. He’s played some great innings for Australia. When in good form he is divine. Everyone says he’s nice.

But look at that list of players.

Okay Klinger, Cartwright… I can get that.

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But he’s been picked over batsmen with far better first class records – Hodge, Katich, Hussey, Phil Hughes – as well as batsmen with similar records who can also captain (Bailey, White) or bowl (McDonald, Maxwell).

It’s unfair, it’s depressing and can it just stop please.