Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
As far as injury stoppages go, Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh has racked up quite the number during his international career. Since his ODI debut in 2011, Marsh has played in a combined 90 matches across formats for Australia, far fewer than might have been expected from someone who, even seven years on, is considered one of Australia's most talented players. As of Saturday, on the eve of Australia A's first unofficial Test against India A in Bengaluru, their captain has missed five months of professional cricket with an ankle injury.
This lay-off might have been especially frustrating for Marsh who, in the few months leading up to it, had finally begun to find his feet as a Test batsman. During Australia's 4-0 thrashing of England in the last Ashes series, Marsh had returned from shoulder issues to make two hundreds in winning causes, on either side of a grind at Melbourne, where he batted more than three hours in Steven Smith's company for an unbeaten 29 to draw the Test. Not long after, Marsh made an impressive 96 while batting with the lower order to set up Australia's only win in a controversial Test series against South Africa.
"Yeah I've had my fair share of injures to come back from," Marsh said with a smile. "In that scenario you just lean on your past experiences, get your rehab done and get back as soon as possible. It's been a long lay-off, five months. Fortunately for Australia, we haven't had that much cricket compared to what we usually have, so I haven't missed a lot of cricket."
While that is true to the extent that Australia haven't played any Tests since South Africa, the biggest miss for Marsh was a scheduled county stint with Surrey, where he was set for a full season as an overseas professional after opting out of IPL 2018.
"[Surrey] was an awesome opportunity for me that I was really looking forward to. Playing cricket over in England through the whole summer would've been awesome. Bowling and batting with the Duke ball, having the experience outside the cricket to live in a place other than Perth - which is a pretty small place - I was really looking forward to that opportunity. But as they say, injuries happen."
Marsh didn't take part in the quadrangular one-day series that concluded earlier this week, with India B beating Australia A in the final, and only flew in a couple of days after it had ended. So, while he's "bowling full tilt" and suffered no setbacks during rehab, he won't be rolling his arm over till the second Test, which begins on September 8.
With an away series against Pakistan coming up in October, Marsh is among many in the Australia A side who are looking to impress the selectors, particularly with an extra spot opening up for the first match, thanks to Matt Renshaw missing out due to a mini hamstring strain.
"Apart from Renners [Renshaw] who'll be out with a hamstring injury and be back next game, we've sort of got our 12 and we'll make up our minds tomorrow.
"It's a great vibe around this group, you get a sense everybody's hungry to perform. There's plenty of opportunities in Australian cricket at the moment. As a team, we've got a focus that we want to win this little mini-series and start something as a group."
Among the many opportunities that Marsh speaks of is the leadership situation, where both in limited-overs cricket and in Tests, Australia are in a state of flux following the bans of Smith and David Warner. And with the situation as it is, Western Australia coach Justin Langer's call to include Marsh in the Perth Test during the Ashes might have had a level of prescience. Langer had described Marsh as a future captain when he said he was "needed" for the Perth Test - where he made 181 - and while Langer couldn't possibly have meant this early, Marsh could genuinely have an outside chance of being a national team captain some time soon. As Western Australia's captain during their JLT Cup triumph last year, he has the experience.
"It's not something I think about too deeply. If the opportunity arrives I'll grab it with both hands but ultimately that's out of my hands. At the moment I'm really looking forward to captain in these conditions, which I don't experience much playing at the WACA every second week. It's going to be a whole new experience for me and it's something to look forward to.
"First things first is to get back playing some cricket and just enjoy being back playing, being back at work. Obviously in the Australia A series there's a lot of time to solely focus on yourself and [try to] score runs, but ultimately, we want to create a culture in this team that we want to come here to win. Just trying to do my best to make sure that happens. For me it's about trying to spend time out in the middle with the bat, but we want to win for Australia."