Shaun Marsh’s start to the Sheffield Shield season has been solid with a century against Victoria on Sunday and an 85 against Tasmania in the first game, but Australia should not select him for Test cricket this summer.
With six Test hundreds and ten fifties Marsh’s career has had many promising moments, however he has only managed a Test batting average of 34.
Marsh’s issue has always been his inconsistency of scores at Test level and right now, Australia needs stability in the middle order.
Last summer was arguably Marsh’s best opportunity to cement his spot in the Australian side, with the team needing experienced players to guide them with Steve Smith and David Warner being absent due to their ball tampering bans.
With scores of 2, 60, 45, 5, 19, 44 and 8 against India last summer, Marsh failed to capitalise on his starts and convert them into big scores.
Marsh’s inconsistency isn’t the main reason why I wouldn’t pick him – but his age is why I wouldn’t pick him.
At the age of 36, Marsh’s best cricket is most likely behind him and – considering Australia’s opponents over the next 24 months are India, South Africa and England – the Australian selectors must look to the future and not the past.
Given that Marsh will be 38 by the time we play India, South Africa and England it is unlikely he will still be playing then, so Aussie selectors should look at youth now. The selectors are currently blessed with young batsmen in the runs after the first round of the Sheffield Shield which gives them plenty of options.
Will Pucovski has had a brilliant start to his Sheffield Shield summer and – with a first-class batting average of 46 – he is at the front of the queue to play for Australia this summer.
If Kurtis Patterson can regain the form he made in the second half of last summer, he should also make his way back into the side. Patterson is currently under an injury cloud after re-injuring his quadriceps muscle in New South Wales’s Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania.
Travis Head could find his way back into the Australian Test side after being dropped from the fifth Ashes Test. Head made 51 in South Australia’s first shield game against Victoria last week.
Head’s disappointing Ashes series – which featured a high score of 42 over the four Test he played in – means that he needs some big scores to get back into the side.
Nic Maddinson’s superb double hundred against South Australia has catapulted him back into the conversation of the Australian Test side – less than 12 months after not having a state contract and having to earn one with Victoria.
Maddinson’s time with Victoria has seen him rejuvenated by making 563 runs at an average of 80 across last summer’s Sheffield Shield, which included three hundreds and a fifty in only five matches.
In a short time Maddinson has come a long way from his disastrous introduction to Test cricket, where he averaged less than seven with the bat from his three Test matches and is now back in the conversation.
The selectors could select Marsh and play safe with an experienced veteran who is approaching the twilight of his career – or they could look to the future and build on Australia’s quest to become the number one ranked Test side again.
I would go for youth and – given that many players are putting their hand up by scoring bags of runs – I’d be selecting both Pucovski and Maddinson this summer, but if Marsh continues his strong start it will be a very difficult decision for the selectors to make.