Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele September 5, 2011

Shaun Marsh bats for respect


Shaun Marsh is aware of the criticisms pointed in his direction as he contemplates a Test debut against Sri Lanka. Unfulfilled talent. Not enough hundreds. Lazy of mind and body. A first-class average of 37. Not enough application.

After Ricky Ponting's departure from the tour party for the second Test opened up a spot in the XI that won so handsomely in Galle, Marsh, 28, faced up to the barbs. He is happy to admit it is only recently he began to take on some of the qualities he needed to be a genuine success.

For the firm hand he needed, Marsh credited the former coach of Sri Lanka and Western Australia, Tom Moody, who gave the young batsman an ultimatum upon his arrival to coach the Warriors in mid-2007. That season Marsh and Luke Pomersbach were suspended for breaking a curfew, but Marsh eventually won his coach over and followed Moody to the IPL, where he topped the run-scorers in the tournament's first edition.

"I started poorly at first-class cricket and that was due to me not working hard enough," Marsh said. "I guess when Tom Moody came on board to WA that was a turning point in my career. I could have gone one way but I wanted to play cricket and I wanted to play for Australia. That's where it all started for me. I really turned things around then.

"I remember when he first came and took the reins as coach, I had a meeting with him and we sort of sat down and he panned out things for me. He pretty much said 'You can stay with me and work hard and do things my way and I'll make you a better cricketer or you can walk out the door'. I owe Tom a great deal for that and I've certainly turned things when he took over.

"[Before that] I was just not training hard enough, not giving cricket 100%. I wanted to play cricket, I wanted to have that as my job and I worked bloody hard to turn things around and I'm happy that I did."

In Marsh's ear too, of course, was his father Geoff Marsh, formerly a fiercely determined Test opener and later Australia's coach. Shaun Marsh grew up among Australian teams and tours, and was at Lord's when Australia won an Ashes Test during the triumphant 1989 tour.

"It made me know what I wanted to do from a young age," Marsh said. "I've always had a cricket bat in my hand. To be around those sort of players was fantastic and going to training with dad, going on tours with him was great. What I did pretty much 24-7 was cricket."

Of course a father's advice is not always readily listened to by impetuous youth, and it has taken time for some of Geoff's words to sink in for Shaun.

"I struggled with it early doors, when I first started playing first-class cricket," Marsh said of the family mantle. "But I've had to just learn to deal with it. In the last five or six years I've always felt that it's been a good thing. I've always had him there for advice.

"Since I've started playing in the Australian team in the last three or four years he's been fantastic. I enjoy what he has to say and I listen to it with both ears.

"To be honest he doesn't say too much. But the things that he does say are pretty crucial. He's always been a big believer in going out there and enjoying your cricket. He always had really good work ethic and he's tried to instil that into me. I've sort of realised that in the past four or five years.

"It takes a lot of hard work to get to this sort of level. I've certainly taken that advice on board. Dad's always taught me what a baggy green is all about. Once I get confirmation I'm in he'll be the first person I call."

Now the prospect of a Test debut is so close, Marsh said he wanted the chance to earn respect by performing at the ultimate level. He knows he will have to be concentrating, and is very aware of the need to convert more of his starts into significant scores. To that end he has spent plenty of time on tour with Ponting, but also Usman Khawaja, a contemporary with a reputation for intelligence and application.

"The last three or four years have been an improvement in first-class cricket. The one thing I'm still lacking is converting starts to big scores," Marsh said. "I feel as though I've improved there definitely but I've got to get those big hundreds.

"I'm just looking forward to that challenge. It's a dream to play Test cricket. Test cricket's the pinnacle. I want the respect from my peers and the cricketing world as a Test cricketer. I'm looking forward to that challenge if I get picked."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 7, 2011, 11:51 GMT

    @bodge and scgboy - hyclass has basically said it - in 5 matches on this tour he his averaging a paltry 17, so you can't say he's in any sort of form really. @onlinegamer55 - completely agree re Hughes. Yes he hasn't played too well in his last few games for Australia, but he has one of the best first-class averages in the country and is very young.There's obviously talent there - not many batsmen hit South Africans all around the park too often these days. He needs a proper run like you say. @Bone101 - I'd also like to see the last time we picked bowlers with FC averages of 50 prior to the recent spin shenanigans. Seems like mediocrity was being rewarded under the previous selection panel and hope things change with the Argus findings.

  • Christopher on September 7, 2011, 3:21 GMT

    @bodge.You might be right.Marsh MIGHT be at the top of his game.It just means far less,than for other players.His international experience is IPL,which is irrelevent to Tests.His T20I average for Australia is 11 at a S/R 98.He made 414 runs last season.His big game,in which he scored more than half his runs,was on the notoriously flat Adelaide oval pitch against an anonymous SA attack, George,Cassell,Duval,O'Brien,Christian. Ferguson,Finch and North all made centuries in a high scoring draw. In Dec,Marsh played his last 2 shield games of the season,making 20,5 and 50-75 runs at 25 from 225 balls at a S/R of 33. He also played 3 List A games in Dec, making,0,0 and 52-52 runs at 17. Six innings in Dec 2010 for 127 runs at 21. His ODI this year are: 110,6,1,16,70,2-205 runs at 34. His tour of SL is: 4,0,70,2,12-88 runs at 17. He made 12 in his last 1st class game-his only1st class innings in 2011.His total runs since Dec1,2010, for state and country are 345 at 23.He'd better be way better

  • Online on September 7, 2011, 1:16 GMT

    @Winsome You write "his [Hughes'] record at international level stinks the place up". Sure, he averages 25. However, I wonder what your record would be like if you were 20 years old and were dropped every second test after doing hardly anything wrong. I think he's got a good head on his shoulders, has Phillip Hughes, and he is very confident to bounce back from the selectors' poor decisions. However, his form in recent times has been outstanding and he deserves an extended run in the test side; at least a year, I would say. Look at Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting; their records at test level were even poorer than Hughes after 10 and Ponting had major drinking problems. You can use statistics to show every player is bad; e.g., when Katich was axed from the contract list, Coverdale argued that the axing was justified since Katich's average is the last six months was 25 but that isn't clearly the full story since the Ashes was all he had played in that six month period (and he was injured)!

  • Ned on September 7, 2011, 0:22 GMT

    @Bodge. Right indeed sir.picking on form and with one eye top the future is the hall mark of a good selection.

  • Andrew on September 6, 2011, 23:47 GMT

    @MinusZero - yes Ferguson's FC stats are worse than Marsh, the big difference is that Ferguson has proven himself to be far & away better than Marsh at International level (ODIs). BTW - on the topic of someone who killed it in the Shield last year - Cosgrove. @Winsome - in more recent times i.e since 1980, larger plays like Inzi, Boonie, Gooch, Gatting & (cough, cough, splutter) Ranatunga & Tubby Taylor & Fat Cat Ritchie, all scored runs at respectable averages. I would only say weight is an issue in ODIs & T20, otherwise as Cosgrove has great FC statistics it would appear that he is fit enough to carry the extra weight. @bodge - I don't believe they were competing for different positoins as Marsh was going to be selected @#6 until Khawaja outplayed him in the tour match. I believe the selectors (rightly or wrongly), want Marsh in the XI no matter what.

  • Adrian on September 6, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    I think this is a good move from the selectors- picking a player who is in form and proven in internationals. In the last Shield season, Marsh averaged 59- I think that's actually pretty handy. Compared to other players mentioned in this post: McDonald 75- no doubt he had an unbelievable season but is competing for a different spot in the team; Cosgrove 53, Ferguson 48, Jacques 33 and Hussey 40. I'm sure any of those players would warrant selection but Marsh is at the top of his game, the right age and has plenty of international experience.

  • Tim on September 6, 2011, 8:12 GMT

    I would love to know when Australia last picked a specialist batsmen with a first class average of 37...

  • Lou on September 6, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    Can't believe that people think Ferguson would be a better choice than Marsh. Neither of them appear up to playing test match innings, but at least Marsh has tons in international cricket. In an ideal world, Cossie would have lost at least 10 kilos but that isn't going to happen so we are stuck with some limited choices for now. I don't expect Marsh to do well, he'll be too nervous but you can only wish him luck. It won't hurt Phil Hughes to have some pressure on him from the other newbies, his record since his tons at international level stinks the place up.

  • Andrew on September 6, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    @ dsig3 - throw in Lynn (ave 48), Cosgrove (ave 44), Rogers (av 51), & Warner (ave 50+). I think we already have some batsmen (on top of D Hussey & Ferguson) to make the step up. Add a couple of rising stars in Maddinson, Burns & Beaton, we'll do pretty well.

  • Philip on September 6, 2011, 6:01 GMT

    Have to agree with hyclass on this one. Everyone he lists - Cosgrove, Hussey.D, Macdonald, Katich, Rogers & Hodge have been permanently shelved or pigeon-holed... all except Hughes who has recently been unshelved. I'd also ask why a few others (not just Ferguson but the likes of Cowan & Jacques, if fit) would not be in the mix? Or even North - at least he can bowl. As for what position Marsh will fill, it shouldn't be numbers one to three, and the team is already chockers of lower-middle-order bats as it is. I, for one, do not see this selection as a rejuvenation, just more short-termism. The spin-cycle looked horribly like throwing enough players in one-by-one till someone stuck. Maybe Lyon will stick (I thought him worth a decent go), but so too is O'Keefe. Pick young with good technique and solid mindset or older with good results. Does this selection geniunely fit either category?

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