Marsh skill warrants call-up
Shaun Marsh could be the modern version of his former WA teammate and coach Tom Moody if Australia bite the bullet by picking the fluent lefthander against Pakistan today.
Moody’s call-up for the fourth match of the 1999 World Cup was the catalyst that set Australia on the path to victory in the tournament.
There were clear parallels between the England campaigns of today and 20 years ago.
Like 2019, the Australian camp in the early stages of the 1999 World Cup was unsettled and unsure of its best line-up.
Shane Warne was disruptive after being dropped in the West Indies a month or so earlier.
He was threatening to quit international cricket and his relationship with captain Steve Waugh had soured.
And Australia could not work out their best combination. Enter Moody.
The WA all-rounder was picked for the fourth match of the tournament, against Bangladesh at Chester-le-Street, and his unbeaten half-century helped Australia to the solid win that sparked a turnaround in both form and attitude.
Marsh has been overlooked for the first three matches this time but Steve Smith’s successful elevation to No.3 against India, raising questions over Usman Khawaja’s value in the middle order, has opened the door for his return at Taunton.
Marsh has been Australia’s best-performed batsman at No.3 in Smith’s absence, averaging 54 at a strike rate of 94 in the past two years.
He has a strong case to return to that position in place of the misfiring Khawaja unless coach Justin Langer and his advisers decide that Smith’s ability to control the innings is best suited to coming in at one wicket down.
But while Marsh’s and Khawaja’s records show they are best suited to taking on the new ball, the West Australian’s greater flexibility makes him an ideal floater in the top order.
He returns 48 at No.4, and 50 in the past two years, and has had an impact as a late hitter in his occasional forays into the middle order.
Marsh has a run-a-ball century at No.6 and the fastest of his 22 scores above 50 came when he batted at No.5 at Lord’s on an earlier tour.
Australia have a brilliant but brittle batting line-up.
David Warner is batting more cautiously than at any stage of his career, match winners Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis produced second-ball ducks of a type that raised questions over their preparation and readiness to perform and Khawaja is searching for form.
Australia were in trouble in 1999 until a West Australian veteran helped ignite the team’s best cricket.
Maybe it is time for another one to get his chance.