Mitch Marsh: he’s a bit shit, isn’t he?
Fans of our Twitter account will have reached the above conclusion long before we found yet another clever way to phrase exactly the same thing. Said Twitter account is generally run these days by Aussie Matt, as the only one with a) the time and b) a memory of the password. But do his views actually represent the 51allout collective? Usually not. But there was one way to find out: set him and Nichael Bluth up to debate the two sides of the Mitch Marsh conundrum. On one side, a man who wants to hunt Mitch down and kill him; on the other a man who is too busy playing Pocket Card Jockey on the 3DS to care about such trivialities.
And so, with the battle lines drawn we removed the Blind Date-esque screen and let our two fighters loose, ready to tear one another limb from limb. Or at least that was the plan. What actually happened was they nodded politely at each other, poured themselves a gin and tonic and sat down for a quiet sensible discussion.
Nichael Bluth: Right, let’s get this underway. Aussie Matt, you have 100 words – and not a single one more – to tell us what’s so bad about Mitch Marsh.
Aussie Matt: That he sometimes makes me think that Shane Watson wasn’t so bad after all.
Because at least Watson (much as I hate to admit it) had genuine potential. Albeit potential he never fulfilled. Marsh, however, has always been shit, even since his days for Pune in the IPL. He’s just not a very good cricketer, and has never shown any suggestion that he could be a Test class all-rounder. So what I really hate about Marsh is that this might actually be as good as it now gets for Australia. That its future is filled with mediocre rubbish like him.
NB: That is exactly 100 words, as if there was ever any doubt.
For me, potential is exactly what Mitch Marsh does have. He can bat, albeit it in a ‘see ball hit ball’ type way, he can bowl and he can field. He’s very much a modern T20 cricketer. And therein lies the issue with having him bat at number six in Test cricket. He just isn’t skilled in building an innings over a long period of time. He has very hard hands and a fairly loose defensive technique. But I don’t think that makes him a bad player per se, just one who is being misused.
Australia have been obsessed with the idea of having a genuine all-rounder ever since Freddie Flintoff was doing his thing back in 2005. Since then it’s mainly been Andrew Symonds and Watto (with the odd dash of Maxwell or Henriques for the lolz) filling that role with, erm, mixed results. But now there’s not really much competition, hence Marsh getting an extended run. Can you even name another genuine all-rounder in Australian domestic cricket?
NB: If Australia really want to have Mitchell Marsh in the side, I think he’d make more sense batting at number seven and being a fifth bowler. In order to balance the side, the only ways I can think of to make it work is to either have a spin-bowling all-rounder at six (Maxwell) and push Peter Nevill down to eight or – perhaps more realistically – to change the keeper for one who can genuinely bat at six, even if he can’t catch for toffee. Matt Wade anyone?
AM: There is only one all-rounder of genuine promise in Australian cricket, everybody’s favourite player: Glenn James Maxwell. At least he, unlike Marsh, has walked the walk and has consistently dismantled domestic attacks in Shield cricket for three seasons now, averaging near 50. Not to mention his exploits internationally. Marsh, meanwhile, has played two Shield games in the past two seasons. Maxwell also has a more well-developed defensive game, probably on account of the fact that Marsh never plays any bloody First Class cricket. A “fairly loose defensive technique” is a polite way of describing Marsh’s complete inability to block and anyway a pretty damning indictment of a supposed Test level batsman.
The problem, as you say, is that the selectors are convinced the team has to have an all-rounder to function, and so have structured the team around such a player, before determining whether or not one was actually available. Which is why they have now stuck with Marsh for so long. They need him to work, not only because otherwise they would look really stupid, but to drop him would require drastically restructuring the setup of the entire team. To fit Maxwell in, outside of Asia at least, the only real option would be to make the unpalatable decision of dropping Lyon. And that probably wouldn’t go down too well.
Honestly, I don’t see Australia doing away with Marsh unless the wheels drop off entirely (i.e. more than they already are after four Test losses in a row). In which case, Lehmann, and most of the selectors, are likely to beat him out the door.
NB: If all the Aussie fast bowlers weren’t made out of biscuits, they could probably go back to a four man attack and just have another batsman at six. But that’s not going to happen. So what do you see as the future for Mitch Marsh? Will he still be in the side in a week? In a year? In ten years?
AM: Lehmann’s contract has been renewed until the 2019 Ashes I believe. Given how much power he currently wields, barring a massive collapse in Australia’s fortunes, akin to losing both home series this summer, I don’t think there is any appetite within Cricket Australia to remove him. Which means Marsh is also there for the long haul, because, admittedly, whilst his batting sucks, his bowling remains useful.
So you can still look forward to many more articles (and millions of tweets) yet complaining about him. Because nothing brings Aussies together more than complaining endlessly about one of their own.
NB: Now that is the most depressing thing I’ve heard in quite some time.