Shaun Marsh: Just the man Australia need for next year's World Cup
35 year old Shaun Marsh must now surely be part of Australia’s scheme of things for next year’s Cricket World Cup. In the recently concluded ODI series in England, he scored 288 runs in and against England at an average of 57.60. If that isn’t good enough to get him on the flight to UK in less than a year’s time, god knows what is.
Marsh has always looked a compact player, rather than a dasher - despite having the ability to tee off. He has looked to accumulate runs, but still possesses a decent strike rate in ODIs. Unlike David Warner, he doesn’t promise to blow away the opposition within a powerplay. But he can anchor the innings to provide the team with a great platform. The funny part is that in his ten-year career, he has never been part of Australia's ODI World Cup squad.
A dream beginning
Shaun Marsh announced himself on the world stage with a stunning IPL debut in the tournament’s inaugural season, way back in 2008. He scored 616 runs in just 11 innings at an average touching 70 and a strike rate touching 140, almost taking his team Kings XI Punjab to the final.
That was followed by selection for the Australian national team, and he scored 81 on his ODI debut. The next season included four big fifties and a couple of 30-plus scores, in ten ODI innings. The next couple of seasons included decent scores as well, including a hundred on his maiden international tour to the subcontinent.
Too near, yet too far
Some average performances in the next season resulted in omission from Australia’s 2011 World Cup squad, but here’s the point. Australia went into the World Cup with no opening backup. They were fully dependent on Brad Haddin and Shane Watson - the closest opening option their squad consisted of was Tim Paine.
In spite of his hundred against England in their last ODI series before the World Cup, Australia were not keen on having a single left-handed opener, despite injuries to some of the players in the already-named squad.
Second time unlucky
Again in January 2014, he scored 177 runs in the ODI series against England at home at an average of 59. He even scored decently in the Tests that followed that year, but did not get to play a single ODI the whole year and the World Cup squad was named - with Shaun’s name again missing from the list yet again. Australia did not think of a third opener besides Finch and Warner, but the gamble played.
Can Australia really afford to leave Marsh out this time?
With David Warner and Steve Smith not being eligible to play for Australia before March-end next year, and with the World Cup to begin by May end, they would need someone who can tick both boxes (that of an opener and a no.3) just in case one of the two is unavailable or going through a slump. From a World Cup 2019 perspective, Shaun Marsh has scored 523 runs in 10 innings in the UK - the venue for the World Cup - at an average exceeding 58 and with 3 hundreds.
As a left-hander, Marsh provides the perfect balance to Australia’s batting lineup and can rotate the strike and hit the ball at will. The only reason I see him missing out on probably his only World Cup chance is a really bad run of form. Or perhaps, just another bad call by Australia’s selectors.