Mitch Marsh averaged 10 with the bat and 59 with the ball in his last six Tests. Yet somehow he is a strong chance to replace batsman Matt Wade for the blockbuster fourth Ashes Test.
The maligned all-rounder was axed last summer, during Australia’s home series loss to India, after scores of 10, 9, 5, 13, 0, 12, 0, 4, 16, 5, 45 and 4 across his previous six matches.
While his bowling probably kept him in the side early in his career, making up for his lack of runs, in recent years Marsh has struggled badly with the ball, too.
Since the start of 2016, he has averaged 63 with the ball, taking a mere 14 wickets from 19 Tests. What’s more, he has neither offered a wicket-taking threat, nor been able to tie down an end, going at 3.5 runs per over.
When playing on a road of a pitch against a strong batting line-up like India, for example, then possessing a fifth bowling option is crucial – even if it had to be Marsh.
Right now, though, Marsh’s potential recall makes so little sense it boggles the mind.
Firstly, in the last three Tests at Old Trafford, seven times teams have been bowled out for scores between 152 and 243.
Secondly, England have an extremely weak batting line-up with, only Ben Stokes in form.
Thirdly, Australia already have a solid fifth bowling option in Marnus Labuschagne, who has taken 23 wickets at 36 in first-class cricket in the UK this season.
Which means Marsh’s bowling is surplus to requirements, while his leaden-footed batting is particularly unsuited to English conditions.
On flat pitches that offer minimal lateral movement, Marsh’s poor footwork is not fully exposed. Once the ball starts swinging or seaming, though, his technique falls apart like a soggy sandwich.
In England, South Africa and New Zealand, where quicks get decent assistance from the conditions, Marsh has averaged 15 with the bat from nine Tests.
Reportedly, part of the reason he is in contention for a recall is that he is a right-hander. Apparently the selectors believe that having four left-handers in their top seven is excessive, due to how well England’s quicks have bowled at them this series.
That is as flimsy a justification as you could imagine for recalling a player with such a poor recent record with the willow.
It also calls into question Australia’s decision not to pick a larger squad. If Wade is to be dropped – after five failures and a crucial ton in this series – it would have made far more sense to recall Joe Burns or even Kurtis Patterson, who made a wonderful start to his Test career last summer.
Australia have left themselves with unnecessarily limited batting options.
Marsh is not the answer. He wasn’t the answer last time. Or the time before that. Ten years into his first-class career, he’s unlikely to ever be the answer.