Mitchell Marsh: Are we seeing the next big superstar in the making?
Marsh is the third highest scorer and the second leading wicket-taker for Australia this year.
As Shane Watson stepped into his retirement there was this prevalent feeling floating all around, that this was a talent unfulfilled. Watson was a divisive figure, a bloke who could draw lines between two factions. One moment the flamboyant stroke-maker would take the breath away, the other moment an insipid shot will force sighs of disappointment. Yet, a fit and raring Shane Watson was always a must in the team, more so because of the stability he brought. Hence, when he called it a day, there was a common consensus that he could have been a legend, an all-rounder who could have scaled the levels of an Imran Khan, or a Kapil Dev, or for that matter even a Garry Sobers.
Watson epitomised the value of all-rounders in the team. And yet today the term is tossed about too much, any bits and pieces player is dubbed an all-rounder, which is nothing but demeaning the rare breed of cricketers. For some the term all-rounder is synonymous with players who can render balance to the team, bowl few overs and then chip in with few runs. For others, for people who have watched the worth of Sobers, Kapil, Imran, Hadlee, Botham, Flintoff and Kallis, it means a player who merits selection into the team with the bat or/and with the ball, whatever be the scenario and demands. They are rare, they are worth their weight in gold, they are match-winners.
And thus, when Australia were celebrating their win in the tri-series, when they were dancing about with another piece of silverware to don their cabinets, the importance and impact of one Mitchell Marsh suddenly struck, and it will be no exaggeration to say that this tri-series was perhaps the coming of age of the junior Marsh from Western Australia.
Mitchell Marsh was always earmarked to attain great things in cricket, and he was always lurking around in the background, owing to the presence of Shane Watson. Thus, now when he has got his due place in the team and is certain of a long run, the promise is being realised. With the bounty reserves at their disposal, Australia dropped an out of form James Faulkner and heaped their trust on Mitchell Marsh. This was not any random shot in the darkness, but a well-calculated move.
Faulkner was not quite the same bowler he was last year. He lost the zip with the ball and was no longer the 'finisher' Australia wanted lower down the order. In stepped Mitchell Marsh, who was slotted higher in the order at number 5 and showed that he has the game required to be successful in the highest format.
Mitchell Marsh in the tri-series
Twice in two matches, Marsh displayed his worth and justified every punt that had been taken on him. In the 'eliminator', when Australia faced hosts West Indies in a must-win clash, the youngest member of the Marsh clan came into bat at a precarious position of 99/3. Australia was chasing a formidable score of 283, and they needed a partnership to assume a position of solidity. He had his captain Steven Smith for company and he did what was expected of him. A naturally attacking player, he played a composed innings of 79 and made sure that saw his team through. This was certainly giving a glimpse of the different games he possesses. At number 5, a player needs to be attacking, but should also be able to curb his instincts it the situation so demands.
However, the 'all-rounder' reserved his best for the final. West Indies were chasing a target of 270 and were relatively in a good position when Marsh was introduced into the attack in the 12th over. He went for a solitary run in his first two overs. Smith swapped his ends, and Marsh picked up 3 wickets in 3 overs to break the back of West Indies. And then wickets were of Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Johnson Charles. He kept hitting the surface and occasionally bowling it full and extracted movement out of the surface.
This year has been a fruitful one of for him. With 428 runs so far, he is behind only Steven Smith and David Warner. And then he has also picked up 14 wickets, which makes him the second highest wicket-taker for Australia this year. No wonder Justin Langer believes that he can easily bat at number 4 or 5 in every format.
This year has been in many ways a year of realisation for Mitchell Marsh. However, he has a fragile body, and in spite of the many benefits of being an all-rounder, one of the biggest hurdles is managing the workload. One just hopes, that the massive potential of Mitchell Marsh is not hindered by his body. If injuries are kept at bay, there is every possibility that a stellar career is taking shape.