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The Return of Mitchell Marsh


Mitchell_Marsh_Australia_Cricket_Test“His cricketing maturity is at least five years ahead of the date of birth printed on his passport. I don’t have any plans to give up the captaincy yet – there’s plenty more cricket left in me – but I genuinely see Mitch as future leadership material. When he sets fields, you can see that he is thinking not from the bowler’s perspective, but the batsman’s.”

Many young players yearn to impress their captains and cricketing stalwarts with their batting and bowling performances early on in their career, but very few can impress the captain of the national side before they have even played a game for the squad in the longer formats of the game.


Way back in 2014, Michael Clarke was effusive in his praise of 23-year-old Mitchell Marsh, touting him as not only a future superstar of the Australian cricketing circuit but also a leader who could understand the nuances of the match situation and the rival’s weakness better than most. Clarke had highlighted on Marsh’s ability to turn into a great team player and assess the situations to perfection, whilst possessing the skill to lead the team from the front when thrust with the responsibility of captaining a side.


Coming from the then-captain Clarke, the words held great weight and young Mitch started off his Test career with large amounts of pressure and expectations – made worse by the cricketing lineage that he came from. His father Geoff Marsh had represented Australia and his brother Shaun was going strong in the national set-up. Clarke’s comments, though meant as a huge compliment, soon started weighing down the young lad.

Though he was immensely talented, the flaws in the all-rounder’s technique soon came to the fore. He averaged a paltry 21.74 in 21 Tests before a shoulder injury ruled him out of the India tour last year. An inconsistent run with the bat, in which he had just two half centuries, meant that the injury popped up at the wrong moment, with many even fearing for his career. The only saving grace had been his bowling till then, but with his shoulder injured, even that was threatened.

But while many cricketers would rue the timing and the luck, Marsh preferred not to keep his fitness hanging by the thread with every game and took the opportunity to address his flaws – mental and otherwise. Under the tutelage of Justin Langer, he saw the period away from the game as a chance to understand his own game and return an improved and a more stable player.


He worked on his defence and started picking up the length of the balls better. While he was always a strong player off the front foot, he was weak on his backfoot, which stopped him from cutting and pulling the ball convincingly. With a negative head position on the front foot, he was unable to convert his off-side successes to the on-side. He had troubles shifting his weight from the left to the right foot with ease. All these flaws threatened to stall his road to glory.


But his passion for wearing the Baggy Green is such that at 26, when cricketers his age are prioritising the shortest format over the longer ones, Marsh surprised one and all by opting out of the eleventh edition of the IPL to focus on elongating his Test career. He will now be seen playing for Surrey in county cricket instead of chasing the big bucks that are available in India’s T20 league.

The first glimpse of his renewed self was visible in the Sheffield Shield last year, when people saw vast improvements in his defence. He started leaving the good balls alone, read the deliveries off their length and made more effective use of the backfoot, and consequently, of the crease. As soon as he was promoted to the position of captain for Western Australia, Marsh could feel his game change.


“I think it’s had a positive impact on my cricket, when you go out to play and you’ve got to worry about 10 other guys and getting the best out of the team, it takes a lot of the heat off yourself. I think having the added responsibility of making sure that I’m leading from the front on the field has really helped me. It’s had a positive impact on my cricket.”


His 141 against Queensland at the WACA coincided with Peter Handscomb’s dip in form and Marsh was selected in the Ashes side, a few months after cynics had doubted his return. However, he had to justify his selection, which he did very well with a blazing 181 at his home-ground in Perth. In the Boxing Day game, he helped the hosts eke out a draw and in the following game at Sydney, with yet another century, he marked himself as a cricketer who did not merely just have potential, but one who could translate it to performances on the big stage as well.

If any further proof of his talent was needed, it was on fine display on the sluggish track in Durban against the South Africans in the first innings of the first Test, where he gritted it out for a well-deserved 96. He mastered conventional as well as reverse swing and looked at ease against the menace of Keshav Maharaj. Since his return to the international fold, he has scored runs at an average of 84.4 – 422 runs in 4 matches. That his rich form coincided with captaincy duties for his state has hardly escaped the experts.

The latest to join the admiration club is Simon Katich, who believes that Marsh has become the front-runner to take over the reins of the national side, ahead of Pat Cummins, after Steven Smith departs. With a shrewd cricketing brain and a strong presence in the dressing room aiding his recent run of form, Marsh Junior will be hoping to repeat his recent success so that he can etch out a memorable chapter in Australian cricket.


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