A common brain-teaser, if you ever cared to remember from your school-days might have been the following.
How do you make an already existing line on a sheet of paper shorter without even touching it at all?
The answer did indeed puzzle a few and may have given you some food for thought.
It was albeit simple. You simply made another line longer than the already existing one to make it look short.
Well, in Australian cricket, Shaun Marsh is that line that can self elongate.
And the question reads like this.
How do you make Shaun Marsh score important runs, without touching his place in the team?
Well, just make Shaun Marsh play more cricket without firing him.
The Shaun Marsh that appeared at Adelaide- and let’s face it- didn’t really seem a man whose place was threatened in the side.
All this while, it seemed, he was surely minus the midhas touch that he finally exhibited at Adelaide.
His form entering the ODIs was anything but exemplary even as he had a few weighty starts in the Tests, apart from a solitary fifty he made at Adelaide.
Before Marsh entered the Second ODI, he had struck his 13th fifty, a gritty 54 and had flopped courtesy a knock of 8 at the Sydney Test, scored 19 and 44 at Melbourne, and struck 45 and 5 at Perth.
That he reached two knocks in the forties in Tests and had all the time (or chance) in the world to score what could’ve easily been 2 fifties but weren’t spoke of his anxiousness to score, apart from his inability to convert starts into something sizeable.
On top of it, the manner of Shaun Marsh’s dismissals in Tests underline his failure at not reflecting on the fact that nearly everyone holding a cricketing opinion Down Under wanted him to go then.
But surely, these very people who may have seen his flourishing 131 off 123 at Adelaide would want to eat their words. And probably if not, then let’s admit it, Australians are good at dieting even if they may not be great at taking their words back.
But let’s not make this any serious an issue than what it already might seem like. Marsh made a great hundred, unfortunately not a match-winning one.
His role was no longer to defend and block like it was in Tests. It was much about bringing a solidity and fluidity to the Australian scorecard, particularly in the absence of shining names.
Therefore, it suffices to say, in the absence of senior marksmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, clearly, Marsh’s task, alongside Usman Khwaja was to battle it out.
And so he did.
In fact, even before he arrived at Adelaide, he had shown a glimpse of his form at Syndey courtesy a dependable 54. His fifty run stand with Khwaja was a valuable instance of someone constructing a concrete fortification of grit, by putting a brick after another into a concrete barricade.
In the end, India weren’t able to breach past Australia’s total
But those who may still not be happy about Shaun Marsh need to reflect on a hard-fact behind his Test series against Kohli’s India.
That as clearly seen in the 7 innings he contested in during the Tests, where he was able to last for 440 deliveries, didn’t seem to show that Shaun Marsh had forgotten how to bat.
Staying on the crease, was very much the forte for Marsh when he’d bust on the scene and it’s something that remains unbent even today.
His batting may not possess the usual flair and artistic virtuosity one would have grown accustomed to seeing from a Brian Lara or Kumar Sangakkara.
Yet, Marsh’s ability to stay head-buried when he’s out there, stick around especially when the chips are down- at Sydney ODI he came to stitch a vital stand with Khwaja, and in the next game, struck a dogged hundred out of the blue- marks him as a workhorse style of batsman who can also score briskly by changing gears.
At best, he appears akin to a Shivnarine Chanderpaul-style repairer of an inning, one with a broader range of strokes but minus the lack of a leftie’s extended flourish.
He can hang in there, see off the difficult overs and then, launch himself all of a sudden to up the ante of scoring.
If not for anything, Marsh, who’s been getting off to starts and yet been failing to go the distance, has earned himself some more time before someone finally either decides to remind him of his innate potential or that scoring infrequently won’t take him anywhere.
Yet, one may wonder, what if, he were as prolific as a Chanderpaul and at a time where Australia could easily make do with a lot more runs?
The equation is simple, the existential crisis everywhere.
One doesn’t quite know if Aaron Finch is going to score or even return to doing something extraordinary.
Travis Friend isn’t really around.
Handscomb is talented but inexperienced.
Marsh, 36 in July, is Oz’ best bet to fend off Kuldeep, defy Shami and take the attack even to Jadeja as his very pleasing, utterly commendable Adelaide ton showed.
A question that now remains is whether Marsh can grow into being a consistent scorer down the middle order? The stimulus for him is the fact that he’d want to be recognized as a mainstay for Australia especially when they’re missing Steve Smith the most.
What should ring a bell in Marsh’s mind is that should he not be able to make most of his natural strength- that of being the able workhorse; tiring out bowlers, converting ones into twos when the big blows don’t come- he’d at best, be another Carl Hooper or say, a Mark Ramprakash meets Graeme Thorpe.
That none of these guys lacked talent made them interesting. But that none of them overachieved vis-a-vis their potential may just be the case for Shaun Marsh, who’s ODI average of 34 barely respects the craft he unleashed against India and previously, against England during the summers of 2018.