151 runs in 8 innings. That was Shaun Marsh’s final tally from Australia’s recently concluded tour of India. After a composed 66 in the first innings in Bengaluru and a match-saving 53 (197) in Ranchi, Australia would have been hoping for Marsh to kick on. However, familiarly low scores of 4 and 1 in the deciding Test in Dharamsala should logically seal the fate of someone who has 17 single-digit scores out of his 42 test innings.
Hold on. I just realized something. Shaun Marsh will complete 9 years in International cricket this June! It feels like just yesterday when he catapulted himself onto the radar of national selectors, finishing IPL 2008 as the highest run-getter with 616 runs in just 11 matches. Nobody else was even close. Marsh scored 5 fifties and a century and finished with 5 Man of the Match awards; far more than anyone else.
The IPL was new. It was obviously the best thing since sliced bread. Shaun Marsh was famous, perhaps even the King of T20. Including him in Australia’s limited overs plans was a no-brainer, for Australia had found their next powerful opener. Or middle-order batsman. Or number three. Or anywhere he wanted to bat.
It didn’t matter because he was the “chosen one.” The title of “Golden Boy” already belonged to Shane Watson, who stole the Man-of-the-tournament award from Marsh with an all-round IPL performance that I would argue has never been replicated in any edition since.
Along with a new generation of players, these two were meant to carry Australian cricket going forward, delivering Ashes wins, World Cups, T20 Glory, and more. Just like the good old days of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
But we’re in 2017 now. IPL 10 starts in just a few days and things could not be more different for Shaun Marsh. His T20I career has not taken off as Warner, Finch, Maxwell, and even Travis Head have been preferred as openers.
The same set of names has also been preferred in ODI cricket, where Marsh only strikes at 77.64, marginally higher than the much-maligned Jonathon Trott. In his defense, he averages 38.70 as an opener, which is more than acceptable for someone who only gets a game when the Australian selectors pick an offensively under-strength team. Concerns over Aaron Finch’s ability to build a one-day knock may open the door for him, although you would assume that Usman Khawaja’s drastically improved one-day game would be impossible for the selectors to ignore.
Hold on. Usman Khawaja. How did he miss out on the Australian Test XI? Oh, that’s right! He can’t play spin. 55 runs in 4 innings on the infamous 2016 tour of Sri Lanka led to a recall for Marsh, who cashed in immediately with 130, Australia’s highest score of the tour. When you combine that with 141 on Test debut in Pallekele in 2011, you cannot blame the selectors for siding with him, right?
Well, it gets complicated. Ever since he was a child going on tours with his father, Geoff, there was a feeling that a spot in the national team was reserved for Shaun. He grew up with nets in his backyard and on-demand access to the best coaches and players in Australia. Performing well in the Big Bash spoilt him even more as national selectors started rewarding players for their white-ball exploits. Ever heard of Mitchell Marsh?
Shaun Marsh was fortunate to get all four games on the India tour, especially as Australia continued with their strategy of playing 5 batsmen, brother Mitch at 6 and Wade at 7. Even in trying circumstances, 5 single digit scores in 8 innings is nothing short of horrendous.
Do not be fooled by a half-decent career average of 36.00. To understand why Shaun Marsh does not get bigger scores, all you have to do is to look at his last three dismissals, starting with his dismissal in Ranchi.
He had played an incredibly resolute, match-saving knock until he chipped an innocuous Ravi Jadeja ball straight into the hands of forward short leg. Then came his dismissal for 4 in the 1st innings in Dharamsala, where he was strangled down the leg-side by a misdirected Umesh Yadav bouncer. He could have left it. He could have tickled it for four. It barely bounced. Instead he lost his wicket at a crucial time in a series-deciding encounter. As if those two loose dismissals were not enough, he ended the tour by carelessly whipping a short-of-length Jadeja delivery out of the rough and into the hands of short leg.
In conclusion, Shaun Marsh has failed to make much of an impression in International cricket despite nearly a decade in the game. Regardless of his numerous injuries, he seems to have gotten a longer run than most players, at least on this tour of India. However, whether you look at his statistics, or the various ways in which he gets himself out, it is only logical to assume that his International (specially his Test) career should be coming to an end.
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