ACA Player of the month - January March 9, 2013

Shaun Marsh's dizzying rollercoaster

The last year and a half have brought him plenty of ups and downs, and he's determined to learn from experience

Only three Australian tourists currently in India have scored Test centuries on the subcontinent. Australian fans will be a wishing there was a fourth. But as the disastrous tour unfolds, Shaun Marsh, with that debut Test century in Sri Lanka replaying in his mind, sits quietly in a Perth coffee shop. His right knee is still tattooed in black marker pen, pointing to the bandage protecting the sewn-up incision, from the procedure to fix his recently torn hamstring tendon.

"Obviously the boys have had a tough start but they're a good bunch of guys and good cricketers, so they'll bounce back," Marsh said. "When you do watch Test cricket you do want to be a part of it and you do want to get back there."

There are few rollercoasters in the world that could match the highs and lows of Marsh's last 18 months. In September 2011 he became the 19th Australian to score a Test century on debut, and the second only since Bill Ponsford to do it from No. 3. It was thought Ricky Ponting's replacement had been found. But a back injury flared and forced Marsh out for six weeks, making him miss three Tests in the process. One stunning Big Bash knock, in his only match during that time, was enough to see him return on Boxing Day for the first Test against India. But the high point of Michael Clarke's captaincy era corresponded with a low-point in Marsh's career. A 4-0 series whitewash for Australia matched the West Australian's batting average for the series. His stocks, which had soared so high in Sri Lanka, suddenly plummeted so low he was dropped from the national set-up.

"From the start I had against Sri Lanka to three months after that, with the series against India, it was one extreme to the other," Marsh said. "I certainly learnt a lot of things from that. You can't take things for granted. Especially at that level. It's a tough industry. I learnt the hard way."

But just as the rollercoaster seemed to level off, a sickening, sudden descent explored deeper depths. An off-field indiscretion at the Champions League in South Africa in October 2012 saw Marsh dropped from the Perth Scorchers, and subsequently the WA team.

The Lindisfarne Oval* in Hobart hosted a Futures League match in November which he was asked to start his redemption.

"It was a bit of a shock I guess. Obviously playing Test cricket only 11 months before that to finding out I wasn't playing for WA was a bit of a shock to me. I was struggling mentally at that time. I knew I had to just get away and score runs again."

A full and frank discussion with new WA coach Justin Langer helped facilitate the rollercoaster's upward curve.

"He laid down the laws for me. It was a good chat. I knew exactly where I stood with him, and I went away with a new belief, in terms of where I wanted to head. It gave me a lot of confidence to know that if I went back and scored runs in grade cricket and 2nd XI, I could get back into the team straight away."

Runs came, both in that game and with the immediate change of format. The start of the BBL was perfectly timed for Marsh, who has flourished in T20 cricket for both his home state and Kings XI Punjab in the IPL. It is a format that simplifies both his mind and his technique and allows his rare gifts to be showcased uninhibited.

"That's one of the good things about it and it's probably why I've had so much success with it. I just try to keep my game plan as simple as I can. I can just go out there and play with a bit of freedom from ball one. It's a format that I really enjoy.

"Obviously with all the things that happened in South Africa, I made a conscious effort that I wanted to play really well for the Scorchers in this year's Big Bash. I was really pleased with the way I went and the boys played really well and we've got to another Champions League. We've got some unfinished business there. I'm looking forward to that later on in the year."

Marsh was integral to the Scorchers reaching the BBL final. He finished the tournament as the leading run scorer, making five half-centuries in nine innings. It led to a recall to the Australian side for the T20s against Sri Lanka.

He then continued his form on his return to WA ranks. He bludgeoned an unbeaten 155 in a one-day game against Queensland, and backed that up with 84 in the second innings of a remarkable come-from-behind Sheffield Shield win at the Gabba.

"I tinkered with my technique a little bit with JL before the Big Bash and it seemed to work really well. Hopefully I just play with a little bit more freedom in the longer formats of the game now. It's one thing to try and take that Big Bash into one-day cricket and four-day cricket.

"In the second innings of the Shield game up in Brisbane, JL had a chat to me and said, 'Just go out and play with freedom as you've got nothing to lose'. I did that. I played my shots and it's certainly something I'm going to try and do lot of more of in the coming years." Marsh said.

The rollercoaster had almost climbed back to its highest peak again. Named by his peers as the Australian Cricketers' Association player of January, he was called up for ODI duty against West Indies. National selector John Inverarity indicated the importance of Marsh's resurgence.

"With Shaun we'll just take one step at a time," Inverarity said. "His form in the BBL has been absolutely compelling. He's batted brilliantly and we all know how well he can play when he's in a good space, and he seems to be in a very good space at the moment."

But just when Marsh thought the ride was over, that rollercoaster dipped again. At Bellerive of all venues, seeking his 100th run of all things, against the England Lions of all teams, his hamstring tendon gave way. Given the ills of the Australian Test team right now, the surgery and two-month recovery could not have come at a worse time.

"Yeah it's obviously been really hard over the last couple of weeks. Especially given that I've got myself back into the WA team now and playing well," Marsh said. "It was one of the toughest periods of my life. It certainly only makes you stronger and it only drives you to be a better player.

"I probably read too much stuff and looking back on it now, if I had my time again I probably wouldn't read anything at all. It only puts doubts in your mind. If I get another opportunity I'll definitely learn from the mistakes I made."

Marsh is hoping to be fit for the IPL. Given his return in the Big Bash, Kings XI Punjab would be keen to have him at full fitness.

"I love playing the IPL. I've been very fortunate that I've been a part of that now for all six years. It's a great place to play cricket. It's a great place to travel. Hopefully I can get the injury right before season starts and hopefully I can help the Kings XI boys play finals this year."

Marsh has no intention of playing county cricket in a bid to be in England for the Ashes mid-year. He will instead target the Caribbean Premier League as a springboard for the Champions League, as a trophy with either Scorchers or WA is becoming a major priority for him.

"It's really good down there at the moment. It's a great feel, the team spirit is definitely there, trying to build that culture of winning success. Justin has certainly been at the forefront of that and the boys have taken on everything he's said. It's exciting times I think."

As far as Marsh's personal ambitions go, he is keeping it simple.

"I think the key thing for me is working hard, putting in the extra sessions outside of the cricket team. Having the extra hits, which is something I probably wasn't doing at the start of the year. When I went away and did all that stuff, things started to turn around for me. I think also just having that belief, to know I'm good enough to play at state level and at national level. I've performed there before. I just need to keep that belief that I can do it again. There is a lot of cricket coming up in the next 12 months and I just want to be a part of it."

No doubt he will be hoping that rollercoaster stops so he can play a major part again.

* March 10 1.45pm GMT The venue of the Futures League match has been corrected

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Garry on March 13, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    It's just the way cricket is sometimes. My favourite players I've loved to watch have great FC records but average lower in Test Cricket. Does it mean they suck? Not at all. Is a great FC average a guarantee that you'll be a success in Test cricket. Not necessarily but there is a good chance. Blewett, Kim Hughes & Mark Waugh were players I loved to watch and played some important innings but their test average doesn't show the true talent they have. Shaun Marsh should be considered for short form cricket, Test cricket is a while off yet (need some good domestic tons), I'd never write any player off especially when they are 29, some come good later than others. Phil Hughes has an amazing FC record (which does give me confidence he'll be a successful player for Australia, hope he still gets picked for the Ashes) but has a Test average in the low 30's. @Hyclass it would be in the high twenties if it wasn't for the average boosting SL series you keep referencing. More than just averages.

  • Christopher on March 12, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    Marsh's record is the epitomey of mediocrity and has long reflected an equivalent attitude that has seen him disciplined for infractions that have also been reflected by his brother's behaviour. Every single prediction I've made about his career over the last 3 years has been fulfilled, including results and games between injury, simply be observing his career in detail. It would be a travesty to compare his Test century debut in SL with playing in India. With the exception of the disgraceful first Test wicket in Galle which was sanctioned by the ICC for being almost unplayable from the first ball, the wickets in SL were and have been roads that have witnessed huge totals. The exceptionally flat pitches have been accompanied by small, lightning-fast outfields. The SL team were at that time, the statistically weakest Test attack in the world-a fact borne out in their results at that point. My sympathies are with @handyandy and guys like Chris Rogers who CA abandoned without opportunity.

  • Andrew on March 11, 2013, 0:54 GMT

    @handyandy on (March 9, 2013, 20:32 GMT) - ahh when you put it that way! @HatsforBats on (March 10, 2013, 10:18 GMT)- not quite the same but I would say David Hookes.That guy should of had a Test average of 50+ (even in the WIndies era).

  • Sam on March 10, 2013, 23:21 GMT

    WE neeed him at 4 and his brother at 8 with his brother bowling first change

  • Dummy4 on March 10, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    Interesting article with one inaccurate detail; that 2nd XI match was not at Bellerive Oval. It was at Lindisfarne and i can tell you Shaun Marsh looked good from 22yards away! He gloved a ball which did not carry to gully before he eas ten so the ressurgance had a liitle bit of luck attched to it but he dserves every succes as he is a nice bloke and a great talent. It was one of those innings which, as an umpire, you really do have the best seat in the house!

  • kieran on March 10, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    I'm trying to think of a greater waste of one comes to mind. Such a beautiful batsman to watch, its a shame his mental weaknesses have prevented him from fulfilling his potential.

  • Ross on March 10, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    Marsh has done great in the shorter formats but needs to work harder in the longer formats where he has averaged 19 in shield. I do predict that he will be in form in all 3 formats next season as he is a very talented player and a great bloke off the field. Hard to imagine Marsh in the side when he is averaging 19 in shield. Khawaja should be there as should be Johnson. And the lack of planning from CA is a worry. It was obvious to most folks that Ponting was not going to make the Ashes series given that his only successful series was against the weaker Indian pace attack. We should have got a bloke such as Khawaja in earlier given he is one of the better number 3s around but we never planned properly. Hussey's retirement did throw me away alot. And for this tesw series we have picked guys to a bits and pieces role. Your top 6 in the order should be your top 6 batsmen in the country Your best wicketkeeper and your 4 best bowlers.

  • Garry on March 9, 2013, 22:20 GMT

    Great article on one of my favourite players to watch. Hope he can recover and be considered for the Champions Trophy. There have been plenty of players that have had the talent but haven't the stats to back it up. Marsh should be considered in the shorter formats for Australia as soon as he's fit again but for Tests needs a really good FC season next year. He's only 29, what does it matter if he averages 36 so far, if he has a good season or two building on the back half of this one he'd be in my side in the next 18 months. He admits himself he has to do a lot of work so see what happens. Chris Rogers as mentioned by a few would be a good choice for the Ashes with his experience, we need to win tests not use them for the 'future'. Do that on with other formats or A tours. Pick your top 6 bats then your best 4 bowlers and a keeper. Sounds simple.. The A tour for UK before Ashes hopefully includes Marsh brothers, Agar, Burns, McDermott, Sayers, Butterworth, Cummins, Ferguson, Doolan.

  • Philip on March 9, 2013, 21:49 GMT

    In that respect - player-of-the-month is a fair achievement - to know that a patch of his form's actually lasted that long (four whole weeks).

  • Philip on March 9, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    I remember a Shaun Marsh innings years ago. He top-scored but his side didn't win. He didn't look the best bat in the game, that was Brad Hodge. He didn't look the most likely to improve - that was probably Rob Quiney. And he didn't look the unluckiest that day - that was definitely Chris Rogers. But he did look much the same as he does today - a player that, on his day, makes runs. Only, such days aren't all that common. Australia hasn't wasted Shaun Marsh's obvious talent. He seems to have managed that largely by himself. It's a rollercoaster with the Marsh blueprint all over it. The highest points have, I think, come right at the start of his FC career & at the start of his Test career & everything else has been largely spent on the downhill. Sometimes it is better to have some lows early, so that the highs, when they eventually come, last longer than a flash-in-the-pan. That's a term that sums Marsh up - a gun bat that produced lots of colour and noise but that never really fired.

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