Mitchell Marsh shows Australia’s wait may still be worth it

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27th January 2010, Australia’s Under-19 team find themselves staring down the barrel against their Sri Lankan counterparts. Though the Aussies have restricted the Islanders to 205, they’ve slipped to 38/3 and then 93/5 in their run-chase.

Alarm bells start ringing in the Australian dressing room. The group of youngsters are starting to feel the pinch and Sri Lanka, despite the lack of runs on the board, are beginning to dream of a World Cup final.

In the midst of all the debris, a raw and powerful batter tries to impose himself on the game. He is the captain of Australia’s U-19 team and has quietly morphed into their most dependable batter too. Now, though, he has to do something that he hasn’t done so far at the tournament.

Not only does he have to drag Australia to victory, he has to do so while batting with the lower middle order. At first, there is a bit of indecisiveness to his batting. As the overs pass though, tentativeness gives way to incredible composure.

Remember, this lad is still in his teens. He is still trying to show to the rest of Australia what the hype around him is all about. He has to shoulder the burden of winning Australia a semi-final as well – a game that plenty have already assumed belongs to Sri Lanka.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and the entire Australian cricket-watching population is muttering in hushed tones – “Have you heard about this bustling lad named Mitchell Marsh? He is standing toe to toe with adversity and winning us a game of cricket, mate!”

Another fan chimes in – “Yeah, heard he is the younger brother of Shaun Marsh and the son of Geoff Marsh. Got to be a pretty good cricketer then, eh?!”

Cut to 2021.

Australia are embroiled in another titanic clash against New Zealand. This time, with a T20 World Cup crown at stake. Australia have never won this title. In fact, it is the only white-ball title that has eluded them so far. They have seen Kane Williamson produce a masterclass and are contemplating if runs on the board would’ve been a better option.

In the Power Play, they get off to a sedate start and then lose Aaron Finch. David Warner has also not been at his fluent best. Surely Australia can’t bank on Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade to produce the goods again?

Also Read: Matthew Wade transcends eras and timelines to stun Pakistan

As Finch makes the long walk back, a muscularly-built right-handed batter strides to the centre. He barely bats an eyelid on his journey to the middle and is practicing the kind of strokes that only a few people can dream of playing in a professional game of cricket, let alone the T20 World Cup final.

He takes guard and thumps his axe-like weapon on the ground – almost saying to the bowler that he is going to plunder him into submission. The first ball is bowled on a length on the pads. And Mitchell Marsh clatters it into the upper deck over deep square leg.

First ball of a T20 World Cup final, no less. In fact, such was the brashness of the stroke that Mitchell Marsh might’ve even questioned what all the fuss was about.

Nearly an hour and a half of bruising cricket later, Mitchell Marsh knew what all the fuss was about because, well, his Australian teammates were swarming over him. He had, after all, won Australia the world title they’d craved. And, he had done it just like he had guided Australia’s U-19 side nearly eleven years ago.

From that perspective, this was the Mitchell Marsh Australia had signed up for back in 2010. Yet, the all-rounder’s journey has been anything but straightforward. So much so that such effortless displays of hitting have been the exception to the norm.

Australia haven’t been able to unlock Mitchell Marsh’s full potential

Somewhere in between, his talent was perhaps a little lost on the Australian cricketing landscape too. Not just because he was walking into an enormous and already existing family shadow but also because his talent, rather astonishingly, failed to come to the fore regularly.

A large chunk of the blame has to be attributed to injuries – an element that has unfortunately hogged the limelight in Mitchell Marsh’s career. Whenever he has taken a step forward, it has usually been followed by a couple of steps in the other direction.

He has, however, been a part of tournaments where Australia have been very successful. A perfect case in point was perhaps the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup – an event Australia ultimately won.

Marsh has been plagued by several injuries
Marsh has been plagued by several injuries

Before the competition, there was plenty of debate around who Australia’s finishers were going to be. They attempted to mould Shane Watson into that role, placed their eggs in the Glenn Maxwell-shaped basket and even relied on James Faulkner to turn on the style once in a while.

The biggest relief, though, came when Mitchell Marsh made that spot his own on a tour to Zimbabwe – a tour that also included South Africa. During that series, Mitchell Marsh was imperious and seemed every bit the batter who had generated immense hype as a teenager. He took down the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, for goodness’ sake.

Yet, there was always a feeling that Mitchell Marsh would hit a stumbling block somewhere down the line. And, unfortunately for Mitchell Marsh, it arrived post the game against Afghanistan at Perth. In the process, Australia, who felt that the Mitchell Marsh era was finally upon them, had to wait a touch more – much like they had to over the past five years.

A couple of years later, with Australia still licking the wounds of their previous Ashes defeat (in 2015 in England), they fell upon Mitchell Marsh as their middle order enforcer. Again, he didn’t play the entirety of the series but when he did, he ensured that he did everything Australia asked of him.

As you may have guessed by now, that prolific period was succeeded by another spell on the sidelines. And, it wasn’t till Australia toured the Caribbean in 2021 that Mitchell Marsh began finding his feet. – at No.3 – a position he called home all those years ago at the U-19 level.

Talking about what Mitchell Marsh brings to the plate is immaterial because, well, this is a conversation that has raged in Australian cricketing circles for a better part of the last decade.

#Australia just too powerful. What a player Mitch Marsh has become. Hopefully his body becomes a partner in his future because he is too good to be playing as little he has. Brilliant today

Almost every cricket enthusiast in Australia knows what Mitchell Marsh is capable of. The problem, though, is that no one knows when it will materialize long enough to become a pattern.

For any other cricketer, aberrations such as the displays against New Zealand, or against England in the Ashes, or against South Africa in Zimbabwe would be good enough to define an entire career.

For Mitchell Marsh, though, that is hardly enough. Not because of what his other family members have done but because he always seems capable of so much more. That, by the way, isn’t a trait the general population is blessed with. So…the all-rounder is pretty special.

The worrying bit, at least so far, has been how long the Australian faithful have had to wait to see Mitchell Marsh in full flight. A T20 World Cup crown and a potential dynasty-inducing impact later, it seems that it could well be worth it.

Moreover, it seems that Australia might finally have cracked the Mitchell Marsh code – an achievement that somehow, seems even greater than their T20 World Cup triumph.

“Have you heard about that bustling lad named Mitchell Marsh, who stands toe to toe with adversity?”

Well, the entire world has, now!


Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule






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