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September 5, 2011
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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