is there hope yet for Mitchell Marsh and his floundering test match career? Marsh was recalled for the fifth and final Ashes test. The punters were not happy. I wanted to investigate the question - How many chances do we give to players based on potential?
A look into the Mitch Marsh vitriol on social media
By Aaron Callaghan
“Yeah most of Australia hate me” - Mitch Marsh after taking 5 for in England on his recall to the test side. Marsh dug further into his comment;
One has to admire his Marsh’s outlook on life and his relationship with cricket revealed in those quotes, however it’s a sad situation when Marsh has to explain why his cricket and mental state went off the boil during 2018 to appease the lowest trolls - Facebook commenters.
The Unsportsmen have certainly been critical of Mitch Marsh in the past, never have we ever gone as far as suggesting that we hate Mitch Marsh. We have been guilty of words like “How many chances does this bloke get?” and “Great bring him in to bowl 12 overs across two innings”.
Hate is a strong word, yet there is this feeling of annoyance that lingers with Marsh’s selections, in that he gets or certainly had received every opportunity to succeed even if he was undeserving at the time. That is the tall poppy syndrome that is synonymous with sports commentary in this country and cutting down our athletes when they don’t dominate their chosen field or act as we’d like them to (read: Ben Simmons). The point is, Facebook comment sections and uninformed morons aside, the punters don’t hate Mitch Marsh, we all see the potential, we all understand Flintoff and Stokes are game winners for England and that is the blueprint for Marsh to tread. What we can’t get past is the numbers to date.
Marsh has played 32 test matches.
Marsh has batted 55 times, not out 5 times in amassing 1260 runs - averaging 25.20.
Marsh has bowled 47.5 overs conceding 3.41 - striking every 67 deliveries and 38.64 runs a piece.
The numbers don’t lie. They are damning and 32 tests is more than a big enough sample size to suggest there’s nothing here, however Marsh passes one important test, the eye-test, the most tried but not necessarily true method to evaluating sports people. Marsh bowls quick even surprising some English batsmen with his pace and had the Dukes ball swinging and his middle order hitting can be devastating, like Gilchrist, Flintoff or Stokes he *can* take the game away from an opposition in one session, we have seen it with his Ashes 181 in Sydney 2018.
Maybe the dead rubber test match 5-for meant nothing, maybe it meant everything to Marsh.
The all rounder blue print is there in plain sight for all to see and it strikes particularly close to home for Aussie cricket fans - Andrew Flintoff destroyed opposition bowling attacks and took wickets for 10 years, most notable taking the Ashes back in 2005. Now, Ben Stokes is plundering runs, winning test matches and bowling long accurate sustained spells of fast bowling.
So, to every punter out there it is really, really easy, just be Ben Stokes or Freddy Flintoff.
If we dive into a revisionist history of all rounders, we know it can take time for the player to mature, learn the nuance of their game and put the devastating package all together. Australia through the early to mid 2000's were persevering with an attempt to unearth a one-day specialist all rounder - Ian Harvey, Shane Lee and Andrew Symonds. History tells us Symonds prevailed, but not before the team endured low scores and poor bowling. Symonds famously established himself with an innings at the 2003 World Cup, coming to the crease with Australia in trouble and rescuing the innings ensuring a crucial victory over Pakistan. Symonds eventually grabbed the all rounder spot with both hands and ran with it forcing his way into the test team. Shane Watson, another Australian Flintoff 2005 proxy and in my opinion miscast as an opener his entire career was supposed to be the anointed all rounder however couldn’t stay healthy enough to have a lasting impact with the ball. Watson after 14 tests averaged 26.16 with the bat and after 59 tests only managed to nudge his average to 35.
Here comes the smoking gun, the comparison that should make every punter reading this refrain from rolling their eyes every time Mitch Marsh is given another chance. Please suspend your disbelief for just five minutes.
Steve Roger Waugh burst onto the international scene after only 10 first class matches, his first test match he scored 13 and 5 and took 2/36 in the first innings. Sound familiar? Marsh in his first test match scored 27, 5 and went wicket less with the ball on a dead United Arab Emirates surface. Heading into the 1989 Ashes series Waugh averaged 30.52 in his 26 test matches before crushing a breakthrough century at Leeds, piling on 177 and 152 in the second test at Lords. It took 27 test matches for one of our greatest ever test players to finally figure out the game of cricket at the international level and despite a few stumbles and form slumps including being omitted from the test team in the early 90’s Waugh never looked back. Waugh was an accurate swing bowler, with an efficient run up and tidy economy rate, he only relinquished bowling duties to injuries and eventually the rigours of the captaincy role. Marsh is slightly different in his bowling approach, quicker than Waugh and pounds in off a longer run but Marsh found plenty of swing with the Dukes ball in the fifth Ashes test of 2019 - a very promising sign.
To hammer home a point, Waugh was averaging 30.5 after 26 tests and was dropped a few more times after that.
Am I suggesting suggest Mitch Marsh will go on to play 168 test matches and 325 one-dayers? Almost certainly not, however the comparisons of both players at at very similar stages in their international careers are striking. We, as cricket pundits, morons Facebook commenters and pub experts alike have been too reactionary and a prisoner of the the moment in assessing Marsh as a member of the Australian cricket team. Marsh obviously has a long way to go with his cricket and an exceptionally long way to go to match the great Steven Roger Waugh. There is evidence of a great all-rounder come batsman floundering in his first 30 test matches before coming good. Really good.
The last bastion of Steve Waugh comparisons would be for Mitch to be dropped for his brother, Shaun, to be recalled and bash a century, the indignity or delight or perhaps melancholy that Steve experienced when Mark ‘Junior’ Waugh was called into the team for the Adelaide test match versus England in 1991 and bombed 138 runs.