September 10, 2011

Australia in Sri Lanka 2011

Tensions of a doting dad

Daniel Brettig
Shaun Marsh was the 19th Australian to score a century on Test debut, Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 3rd day, September 10, 2011
Shaun Marsh went past his father's highest Test score on debut  © Associated Press
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As a Test opener, Geoff Marsh stood squarely in the sights of fast-bowling terrors such as Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Patrick Patterson, Wasim Akram and Imran Khan. Yet their bullets were nothing next to those sweated by Marsh as he watched his son Shaun fight his way to a Test century on debut for Australia against Sri Lanka in Pallekele.

Shaun Marsh was composure itself for the 420 minutes and 315 balls he spent crafting 141, but Geoff Marsh endured every moment with all the anxiety of a doting dad. Sitting in the enclosure at the pavilion end for the players' families, Marsh senior's every grimace, clap, interview and, when the debut century arrived, fist pump, was captured by cameras - fatherhood as a spectator sport.

"Sitting here watching is bloody nerve-wracking, but that's got to be the highlight of my life, watching Shaun get a hundred on Test debut," Geoff Marsh said. "I'm more nervous when he's in his 90s [than when I was], a lot more nervous."

In addition to being a father, Geoff Marsh is also a coach, and may yet become Sri Lanka's new national team mentor. His critique of the century was warm but fair-minded: Shaun Marsh walked out to bat at No. 3 in place of the absent Ricky Ponting, and produced the kind of performance neither Ponting nor the captain Michael Clarke have been able to for 22 innings each.

"He's played nice and straight and waited for the bad ball, and he's played a really good No. 3 innings," Geoff Marsh said. "Big shoes to fill when you take over from Ricky. He just knew he had a big job to do and he set about doing it. I think that's the way he's batted.

"Because he's played at the WACA, I think that always helps, being able to let the ball go. When you want to build a big innings, there's days you get out there and get away to a good start, you feel good, they bowl you a couple of half volleys, but he didn't get that yesterday, so he just had to be patient and build a partnership and that's exactly what he did."

Patience has not always been in evidence from the younger Marsh. A blazing century for Western Australia against New South Wales as a teenager had seemed to indicate that things would come easily for a batsman more obviously talented than his father. But it took more than eight years for that promise to be realised, time Marsh senior felt was integral to his son's maturation.

"Definitely, it's a hard road," Geoff Marsh said. "Because for three or four years there, you couldn't get into the Australian side, no matter how many runs you were making, they were such a good side. It's been a long journey and sometimes you are a better cricketer when you've got to go through the hard times and then you come out the other end a better cricketer.

"Shaun's done that, he's had to work hard, but the one thing he's always said he's dreamed of is to get the baggy green. When he's playing for Australia in T20 and one-dayers, his dream was to win a baggy green and I think he hung in there."

Shaun Marsh has been among family, friends and mentors this week, as his former coach Tom Moody watched from the commentary box and his longtime West Australia team-mate Michael Hussey was at the other end throughout a partnership of 258 to bat Sri Lanka out of the Test. Geoff Marsh presented his son's first Test cap, a moment rich with emotion.

"I've got to say just being asked to do the cap [presentation] was a real honour. You think of every father whose son is playing cricket in Australia, it'd be a dream to give your kid the baggy green, and it was just fantastic," he said. "He rang me last night and I just said well done and the same old dad thing, 'play straight, hit the bad ball'."

As Allan Border's loyal vice-captain while the Australian team was regenerated from 1987 to 1992, Marsh was perhaps the most team-oriented of cricketers. He sold his wicket dearly, and a Test batting average of 33.18 scarcely does justice to the job he did blunting many of the aforementioned speedsters. Marsh did not seem as concerned with his own success anywhere near as much as the development of the team, and that old trait was raised again the moment that his son passed his highest score.

As Shaun punched through straight midwicket for the boundary that took him past his father's 138 against England at Trent Bridge in 1989, Geoff Marsh wondered aloud. "Yeah he would know what it is, has he gone past it? I couldn't remember..."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Ska on (October 31, 2011, 17:20 GMT)

@A. Harrision: I know this article is about the Marshes but I couldn't believe when I read Ian Bell averages 50. I checked his stats, you're right but still can't believe it. He's got to be one of the most underrated ones, how else can one explain that?

Posted by A. Harrison on (September 14, 2011, 12:13 GMT)

To think that Geoff Marsh, who was a good player, averaged only 33, whereas the likes of Collingwood these days average 40, Bell 50, Sangakara, etc more than fifty. Shows how much easier batting has got in the last twenty years.

Posted by shabbir Ahmed on (September 14, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

First greetings to Geoff Marsh and then to Shaun Marh for his tremendous effort to score on test debut. For geoff I would only say that keep supporting your son beacuse he is a lad with immense tallent and temprament.

Hats on to u.

Posted by Ilanks on (September 12, 2011, 20:15 GMT)

Was a big fan of Geoff while I was growing up. I love building an innings with singles and twos and the occasional cover drive when presented with the opportunity, as opposed to playing a flashy knock without substance. Thus, Geoff's patience (even when he was booed by his own home crowd during 1992 WC) was something I admired. Nice to see his son doing well.

Posted by Haris on (September 10, 2011, 20:37 GMT)

really proud moment, Hopefully inshallah i will do something to make my dad proud one day inshallah

Posted by Ravi Sharma on (September 10, 2011, 14:56 GMT)

Imran Khan and Akram were excellent bowlers but don't belong in the list with Marshal, Abmrose etc.

Imran and Akran were not bowling terrors - granted they were world class and excellent.

Posted by Muhammad Aftab on (September 10, 2011, 13:05 GMT)

No doubt. This is really wonderful innges played by Shuan. It is unforgettable moment for Geoff that his son is getting 100 on debut. I am really happy that Australian team is coming back is on track. This hundred has more value because the batting condition is always very tough in Sri Lanka. Come on Father don’t be geleus. your son have more individual score then you. enjoy and congratulation to whole family of marsh. I have suggestion Shaun marsh should give an opportunity as opener. He can be very dominate

Posted by Mahinda Wijesinghe on (September 10, 2011, 12:53 GMT)

As a cricketing father who also wore the baggy green (a) to have had the honour of presenting the cap to his son on foreign soil and (b) to be present and watch his son make a debut Test century and finally (c) while eyeing the coaching job of that foreign nation

Can anybody wish for a more fantastic 'hat-trick'?

Posted by Raj on (September 10, 2011, 12:25 GMT)

Very touching!

Posted by Hot Rod Henry on (September 10, 2011, 10:41 GMT)

Marsh senior made 28 in his first Test in Melbourne and everyone was deeply impressed with his temperament and commitment. Over 300 in a day with Mark Taylor (I hope I have my facts right) at the Oval is another abiding memory of Geoff Marsh. One of those type of players you will always want in your team. Like father like son, long may Shaun represent his country in the same spirit!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Brettig
Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.

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