'I'm flexible in the batting order' - Marsh
When you think of Shaun Marsh and one-day cricket, you think of an opening batsman, a man who builds the platform and might bat deep into the innings. It was as an opener that Marsh emerged in the ODI side five years ago. It was as an opener that Marsh last played for Australia in England this year. And it was as an opener that he made 47, 54, 84 and 119 in his only Ryobi Cup games this summer. But it may not be as an opener that he returns to the side.
The World Cup is just over a year away and finding the right opening combination looms as one of the major tasks for Australia's selectors. Over the past year Australia have used 10 different opening combinations in 23 one-day internationals: Aaron Finch and Phillip Hughes, Hughes and David Warner, Matthew Wade and Warner, Finch and Glenn Maxwell, Finch and Usman Khawaja, Finch and Shane Watson, Warner and Watson, Wade and Watson, Hughes and Watson, Finch and Marsh.
They are not short on options; in fact, there are so many top-order possibilities that Hughes, a prolific ODI scorer over the past year, was squeezed out of the squad to take on England in the series that begins in Melbourne on Sunday. Perhaps the most likely scenario is for Finch and Warner to walk out first; Marsh said he had not yet been told where he would slot in, but was confident he was adaptable enough to bat lower down if asked.
"I'm pretty flexible in the batting order," Marsh said in Melbourne on Friday. "I can bat down the order if that's the role they want me to play. Over the next few days I'll get an understanding of whether I'm in the team or what sort of role they want me to play. It's another good opportunity for me to play well and try to cement my place in the team ... there's lots to play for."
There certainly is much for Marsh to play for, given that he has managed only six ODIs in the past two years. One of those brought a mammoth innings of 151, albeit against the minnows of Scotland in September, but a hamstring injury prevented him from keeping his place for the tour of India. Now he has the chance to make himself an incumbent in the side with a possible maiden World Cup in sight after he was overlooked for the 2011 World Cup.
"I did spend a fair bit of time out of the team. I had to get a lot of runs in one-day cricket over the last 12 months to get an opportunity again," he said. "I feel like my one-day form has been pretty good. I've just got to carry that into the team now and put scores on the board if I get my chance.
"I've performed well at stages when I've played for Australia so that gives me confidence as well. I've just got to be a bit more consistent. If I do get an opportunity, I've just got to grab it with both hands. There's a lot of good players around Australia at the moment who are scoring runs and applying pressure on us guys who are in the team. It's important to take your opportunities and hopefully I can do that over the next three games."
Although Marsh believes he remains a long way from the Test team given his struggle for Sheffield Shield runs this season, he knows that at 30 he still has plenty of time to resume his Test career, given the success of older men like Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin over the past year.
"Oh definitely," Marsh said when asked if his best might still be ahead of him. "You look at a lot of the players now who are playing international cricket, they are all over 30 and they're playing really well. We've got a lot of players in our team as well who are world-class players over 30 so there's still lots of time. But I guess you've just got to take your opportunities when you are this sort of age. There's lot of younger good players coming through."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here