'Marsh definitely worth persevering with'
Shaun Marsh has been "tentative" in his first two Test appearances at home and needs to rediscover the decisive footwork and wise judgement of which balls to leave that made him look so accomplished overseas, Australia's head coach Mickey Arthur has said.
During his first three Tests in Sri Lanka and South Africa, Marsh appeared the most organised of Australia's batsmen, but convalescence due to a back problem and lack of first-class match preparation on recovery left him hesitant during three brief innings so far against India.
Each time Marsh's feet have not quite reached the place they needed to be to cover the line, length and movement of the bowling, and Arthur said that he and the batting coach Justin Langer would be putting "plenty of work" into Marsh ahead of the Perth match.
"The thing with Shaun is, when he's playing well, he leaves very well," Arthur said. "And I'm not talking behind his back because these are conversations we've had with him. He's probably been a little tentative, and that's natural when you come back into international cricket [after injury].
"It only takes one shot, one innings, batting for 25 minutes, getting through those first 20 balls that we are so pedantic about in our dressing-room for him to rediscover that touch and form, and get that confidence back. I'm not worried. Shaun is a fantastic player who is going to score a lot of runs for Australia."
In contrast to the cachet Michael Clarke has won as captain and batsman with his 329 not out in Sydney, Marsh's innings of 0, 3 and 0 in front of his home audience has caused many to doubt his capability in the No. 3 spot. His innings in Sri Lanka were not seen by nearly as many observers, and do not carry quite the same weight with the public or even the current selection panel who, aside from Clarke, were not in place at that time.
However Arthur said Marsh was a man who had been earmarked for a lengthy spell in the Australian top order, and would be persevered with.
"We've got to back that we've put our faith in, the right personnel," Arthur said. "Shaun's certainly a guy that we have got a lot of faith in. He's shown when he's played that he can do exceptionally well. He has been a little out of touch but form's temporary, class is permanent and Shaun certainly has a lot of class and is one that is definitely worth persevering with.
"We're comfortable that we've got the best top six available to us right at the minute. We'll get a lot more work into that top six before Perth."
Less certain of his place is Shane Watson, who was not considered for Perth due to his continuing leg muscle problems, and may yet miss the Adelaide Test also. Arthur said Watson needed more time to get his body right, and to have confidence in its ability to do the job.
"He's not yet fit ... we feel we've got to get a little bit more time into Shane. Hopefully it's Adelaide, maybe it's the one-day series. We'll just have to see how he progresses," Arthur said. "We like to think we've got eight real quality batters at the moment. Eight doesn't go into six, so we're always going to have two missing out. We feel we're developing a core, we're developing depth in each department, which is really exciting."
That depth extends to Australia's bowling options, which has allowed Ryan Harris to prepare carefully for a recall in Perth. Arthur said the extra week of training during the Sydney Test had been valuable for Harris, and gave the selectors extra assurance about choosing him.
"The value [of Harris' extended preparation] is we've got a proven Test quick bowler waiting in the wings, ready to go," Arthur said. "We've put a lot of work into Ryan over the last two weeks. He was close to getting a game here [in Sydney]. We felt he hadn't had enough work. We've put that work into him and we're satisfied that, if selected, he's ready to go in Perth."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo