Shield cricket Shaun Marsh's 'path' to WI - Arthur
Shaun Marsh's 79 in the Shield game against Queensland has pleased national coach Mickey Arthur, but Marsh will need sustained performance in first-class cricket if he is to make it to the West Indies trip, Arthur said. At the same time, the national team is keen to give Peter Forrest a few games in the triangular ODI series to test another option. Also, Shane Watson begins playing grade cricket this week, and if he recovers well he could provide more competition for Marsh's slot as there is a fair chance Watson might be allowed to bat lower down the order when does come back.
"I was very pleased for Shaun," Arthur said. "Shaun has been through some really tough times over the last two months. His confidence took a little bit of a knock. I spoke to him last night and it's really good to hear that he was a lot chirpier and a lot more upbeat. Amazing what a couple of runs do for you."
Arthur said Marsh's way back was through Shield cricket and not ODIs. "That would be his path for the West Indies," Arthur said. "He will have to keep knocking the door with the weight of shield runs. Confident he is going to do that, and I am hoping he does.
"Shield is a really good breeding ground for young players. And Shaun needs to get his runs and get his form and his confidence back in the Shield. We will see how things unfolds later in the one-day series, but for now we are content to see him get runs in the Shield consistently and doing it day after day and putting himself in the frame for West Indies."
Arthur also wants to have a look at Forrest before West Indies. "We do need to see Peter Forrest at some stage," he said. "We haven't given it too much thought; that's tomorrow's problem. Likely Peter Forrest might get a go. We still got to have a lot of discussion around that. I am not sure where he fits in, but we will have some discussion leading up to the game."
It is heartening for Australia that Watson is making a comeback to fitness. "It's been frustrating for us and frustrating for Shane, it really has," Arthur said. "I speak to Shane weekly and just keep track of where he is, and I guess it would be true to say that we thought we would have Shane back a lot earlier. We haven't. But it's really good because he has built his body up to where it needs to be, and hopefully we can get sustainable performance from Shane once he gets back in. So hope it goes well for him in grade cricket this week, and we can reassess where we think he is and hopefully we can get him back into the one-day competition."
Australia are happy to wait for Watson to get back to full fitness, to a stage where he can both bowl and bat. "I don't think we can put a timeframe on that [comeback]," Arthur said. "We've got to be happy, and he's got to be happy. He's got to be happy that his body can sustain batting and bowling. I'm not sure. As long as we're all happy and he fits the bill, then I'm sure we'll consider bringing him back in."
Arthur indicated Watson might not be needed to open in Tests again once he does come back. "He can bat anywhere," Arthur said. "I think ultimately he'll bat down the order and bowl at some stage. We need to have that discussion. We've broached it once or twice before but [there's been] nothing definite. It's where best he fits for us and where best it fits for him. He's going to be doing some bowling and Michael [Clarke] has used him wisely through the period that he had him before this summer. It's how he can sustain that bowling and open the batting that's going to be the question."
Fitness-wise, Australia have more good news around the corner. They are expecting James Pattinson back towards the final stage of the ODI triangular, and Pat Cummins is on his way back too. "Pattinson bowled at us [in the nets] in Melbourne, so he's coming back," Arthur said. "Pattinson we could see at the back end of the one-day series. Cummins we probably won't see until West Indies time. If we're comfortable that he's done everything possible, we're comfortable to select him…"
Arthur didn't rule out Brad Haddin's comeback into the side despite Matthew Wade's promising start to his international career. Haddin could possibly play a few ODIs in the middle stages of the ODI series. "I couldn't commit to that just yet," Arthur said. "There's been talk for it, yes, but again it will be results-driven and how everyone's going at that time. Brad is certainly nowhere near out of the equation. We still regard Brad very highly.
"I thought he was okay, he did the job through the Indian series. He would have liked a little bit more runs but didn't get that much opportunity to get massive scores because our top order generally did the job. Good to see Wadey pushing him. It's likely we'll take two keepers to the West Indies anyway, so it will be a nice little internal battle going on and I look forward to seeing who comes up trumps out of that."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo