posted on 2019-01-16 14:35:14
posted by Sahil Jain
Image Courtesy: AP
It’s been over a decade since Shaun Marsh made his international debut in a T20 game in the Caribbean. It was soon followed by an ODI debut and both of these came on the back of a terrific IPL where he finished as the highest run-getter of the tournament.
However, he’s played a mere 62 ODI matches in his 10-year long career. After 2010, he’s never featured in more than seven ODIs in a calendar year (he played seven ODIs in 2011 and 2018). But more importantly, in the last year or so, he’s become the backbone of this Australian batting line-up in the 50-over format.
In fact, since the start of 2018, the southpaw is Australia’s highest run-getter in ODI cricket. He’s played 9 games and has amassed 601 runs at an average of 66.77 which includes four hundreds and one fifty. He’s become Australia’s Mr consistent largely batting at 3 and 4. In these nine innings, he’s got out for a single-digit score just once and has got at least a start in every game (has crossed the 20-run mark in every other game). In fact, Marsh’s last nine innings read: 24, 131, 54, 106, 22, 8, 101, 24, 131 (latest).
However, all his four hundreds have come in a losing cause, with the latest coming in the second ODI against India in Adelaide. It’s come on the back of a poor Test series where he scored 183 runs in 7 innings. However, that has not affected his white-ball form. He’s continued from where he left off. In the first ODI, he struck a patient 54 putting Australia’s innings back on track after an initial wobble. But it was his ton at the Adelaide Oval that showed his class. He struck a wonderful 123-ball 131 as he helped Australia post 298 batting first.
Marsh came into bat in the 8th over and Australia were in some early trouble at 26/2. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami were excellent with the new ball. Hence, the Western Australian left-hander took his time early on. He was 9 off 21 balls at the end of the 13th over. But he got going with a couple of boundaries off debutant Mohammed Siraj in consecutive overs. He stitched a 56-run stand with Usman Khawaja before a Ravindra Jadeja special ran the latter out. Peter Handscomb then joined him and the duo stitched another fifty-plus stand and then another with Marcus Stoinis. However, wickets kept falling at one end, but Marsh held firm. He kept rotating the strike and found the odd boundary here and there.
He had brought up his half-century in 62 balls but as the innings wore on, he found the fence more often and got his next 50 runs in the next 46 balls. Bringing up his sixth ODI ton and fourth in the last 12 months, he had once again set the platform for the Aussies. His partnership with Glenn Maxwell a big push towards the end. The duo added 94 runs in 65 deliveries as the score inched towards 300. In his last 14 deliveries, Marsh scored 31 runs as he provided impetus to the innings towards the back end. However, the dismissal Marsh and Maxwell pushed the hosts back as they finished two runs short of 300.
It was still a competitive score and given India’s fragile middle-order, Australia would’ve fancied their chance once again. However, Virat Kohli’s magnificent ton (his 39th ODI hundred) and an MS Dhoni masterclass towards the end helped India level the series.
But the Aussies will be buoyed by Shaun Marsh’s form and the way he’s delivered in ODI cricket over the last 8-10 months. By far, he’s been Australia’s best batsmen and has taken up the responsibility in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner.
He was dropped last week from Australia’s Test squad that will play Sri Lanka later this month. But he’s responded beautifully and coach Just Langer is extremely happy about that fact. “I thought Shaun Marsh’s innings was absolutely brilliant. I’m also really proud of the way [he’s responded] after not being selected for the next Test series against Sri Lanka. With that pressure, a lot of guys can shrivel up, but he hasn’t, he’s stood tall. I’m really proud of Shaun,” Justin Langer said after Australia’s loss in the second ODI.
Marsh has never played a World Cup in his career. But going by his form, it seems to be that his will be one of the first names on the team sheet for that trip to England. With Smith and Warner expected to return for the mega event, Marsh can continue the role he’s playing now at No. 4 and control the innings. The other players can bat around him, just like they did in this innings.
For now, Marsh may have been dropped from the Test team, but he seems undroppable from the ODI set-up.