Shaun Marsh

'I've grown up'

Australia's next hot prospect talks about putting his head down and getting serious about his cricket

As with the bat, Shaun Marsh in person lacks loudness or brashness. This year he topped the lists of run-makers in the recently concluded IPL, and in Australia's domestic Twenty20 competition; he was also Western Australia's most prolific batsman in one-dayers last season. But when it comes to talking about himself and his cricket, Son of Swampy, as Marsh is nicknamed (his father Geoff, was Swampy to his mates) is reticent.

Marsh says it hasn't been easy. Not long ago, he said he was prepared to play in the IPL for free. Also not long ago, he was suspended from his state side for breaking curfew by the same coach, Tom Moody, who would bring him into the Punjab side in the IPL. Marsh realises he has wasted a lot of time not working hard enough, but he has made amends since. "I have become a better person, a better cricketer," he tells Cricinfo in this interview.

'I was a little bit closed, a little shy perhaps. Moody has opened me up a fair bit'© Getty Images

You said you were willing to play for free in the IPL. You ended up as the tournament's most valuable player. Were you surprised?
I just wanted to be here and be part of it. Obviously the money is good, but I wanted to come here for the experience. And it was worth it to play with the likes of Yuvraj [Singh], [Kumar] Sangakkara, Mahela [Jayawardene] and Irfan [Pathan]. It was a perfect opportunity before going to the West Indies. I tried to learn a lot from these guys, especially the way they train, and someone like Sanga is an ultimate professional. I was very lucky to have been able to play with these guys.

I knew I was good enough to be there. But if you had told me at the start of the tournament I would be taking the orange cap, I would have probably laughed.

How did you react to the star status?
The first four weeks, no one recognised me. Then all of a sudden I started scoring a few runs, and walking down to breakfast or anything I would be hassled for autographs and photos. But Indian people are fascinated by cricketers, and it was just an amazing and unbelievable experience for me. Being recognised means you are doing well, but nothing more.

What were your thoughts when you got the call?
I had to ring back twice to make sure if it wasn't one of my mates playing a joke on me. You dream about that phone call, and when it came, I was terribly shocked because I didn't expect it.

I had a pretty solid year for Western Australia and I was hoping to build on that in the next few years, and if I happened to be picked for Australia then it would be fantastic. It's a good opportunity for me now and I just have to grab it with both hands and get a chance a play and learn as much as possible from the likes of Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey. It is going to be good fun.

I always dreamed of playing for Australia. It is just starting to sink in now. It is just an amazing feeling. I just can't wait.

You had an interesting season: you were suspended for two one-dayers for indiscipline and then you ended up as the Player of the Year for Western Australia, winning the Lawrie Sawle medal. How did the transformation come about?
One of the main reasons is, I've grown up a little bit. I probably wasted a lot of years not working hard enough.

Having Tom Moody on board at the WACA has made a big difference to me as a player. He has made me a better cricketer, he has made me realise what an opportunity I have in front of me and made me work a lot harder. The IPL was the starting point.

What made Tom Moody suspend you and Luke Pomersbach?
We had a curfew while we were travelling to South Australia. Me and Luke stayed out past the curfew. Tom, who is pretty strict, wasn't too happy and he suspended both of us. It was more of a wake-up call in my career, and probably the turning point. I don't want to talk too much about what happened. It was a mistake and we moved on. It has made me a better person. It has made me a better cricketer.

I always wanted to be in the Australian change rooms when dad was playing and when he was coaching. From an early age I had a bit of an insight into what it was like to play for the country. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do in life, which was to play cricket for Australia

After I got suspended my work habits have changed. Me and Luke realised then and there that it was stupid. Ever since Tom told me that I wasn't travelling to South Australia to play the Shield game, I realised that my partying ways had to be stopped. It's not like you can't go out and have a good night, it's just about going at the right times.

Moody's name has come up frequently. Has he been a big influence?
He brings so much professionalism to every player. If Moods wasn't coaching Western Australia I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have played IPL. He has done so much for me and I owe him a lot. I was in and out of the state side the season before Moods came in. He gave me the confidence, backed me from ball one, and he has just been a real good mentor. He is a very good communicator. He tells me when I'm doing things wrong and when I'm doing things right.

Another thing Moods has done for me is, he has opened me a fair bit and made me more confident, which has helped me in expressing myself more, which has helped me in my game.

You made a good start to your career, but you only really got going last season.
When I first started playing I had come through the school and grade-cricket system, where I had dominated bowling attacks. But in first-class cricket I didn't work hard enough on my game and my fitness, and it took me quite a few years to know what I had to do to become a good cricketer. Probably in the last two years the improvement has happened. To work hard, focus on the on-field stuff, and not go out too much.

Was it frustrating playing seven years without making it to the top level?
I did get frustrated, but deep down I knew I was not working hard in my younger years. That's all in the past now, and I am finally doing what I'm supposed to. I have got so much more to learn to become a better cricketer. This is just the beginning.

What did you focus on before the last season started?
I worked hard in the last 12 months. During the last off-season I spent a lot of hours in the gym, which helped me to keep my mind occupied. Then I worked hard on batting technique, just tried to get myself a good base. The last year has been satisfying. Obviously getting picked for Australia, getting a contract, getting a chance and coming out and doing well in the IPL is a good reward all the hard work I put in in the last year. I now know what I need to do to get to the next level. It is tough, but it is worth it in the end. That is what I want to do in my life. I don't want to look back in ten years' time knowing I could've worked harder and should've worked harder. I don't want to have any regrets.

Son of Swampy plays a trademark square-drive © Getty Images

You're a steady batsman in first-class cricket, with a Pura Cup strike-rate in the forties, but a big-hitter in Twenty20. How did you go about changing your approach?
My game is different to the hard-hitters like Luke Ronchi and Pomersbach. In Twenty20 cricket I've tried to play normal cricket shots. The most important thing is to keep my head still at the time of the point of contact, and it has worked for me so far. That's pretty much how I bat in any form of the game. There are guys who can go out there and bash to all parts of the ground, but guys like me need a good base.

Pacing an innings in Twenty20 is very important. You seem pretty adept at that.
I never set any targets. I keep things really simple: if I get off to a quick start, that's good. If I don't, I know if I stay out there for long enough I'll be able to catch up later on in the innings. That's the basic philosophy for batting in Twenty20 cricket.

I try and keep it simple. I don't think about the game too much. As soon as I start thinking, I get myself into trouble. So I watch the ball, watch if my technique is right, and that's about it.

Do you enjoy opening?
I've always been a middle-order batsman, or a No. 3, but I got an opportunity to open the batting in the Twenty20 last year, and then a few one-dayers where I scored a hundred. I really enjoyed opening. Probably I will open in the four-day competition too for Western Australia this season, so we can move Pomersbach up to No. 3 with Justin Langer and Chris Rogers retiring.

There will be a vacancy in the Australian team once Matthew Hayden retires. Are you eyeing that slot?
I'm not even thinking about Test cricket at the moment. I've got a chance in the one-day team, and hopefully I'll get an opportunity in the West Indies. That's all I'm thinking about at the moment. Even if I don't play any games I will try to learn as much as possible, and it will be a good experience in making me a better cricketer.

You were in the Australian dressing room at the age of six at Lord's in 1989. What was touring with your dad like?
I always wanted to be in the Australian change rooms when dad was playing and when he was coaching. From an early age I had a bit of an insight into what it was like to play for the country. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do in life, which was to play cricket for Australia. So I was very lucky to travel with the team and mix with the big stars when dad was playing and coaching.

Did you ever have a favourite player?
Steve Waugh was my favourite. He was really nice to me each time I met him. He is a good bloke, always friendly. I played against him once, when I made my first first-class hundred. It was against New South Wales and Mark Waugh was there too. It was one of the highlights of my career. Steve said "well done". It was fantastic.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo