If, by some terrible misfortune, you happen to find yourself in the city of Perth (the one in Australia, not that place in Scotland which is probably much nicer), there are really only two things to do to make the experience slightly less nightmarish. The first is to head down to Chicken Treat for a tasty fried poultry snack. The second is to head out and watch the Perth Scorchers play in the Big Bash. There you might be in for a surprise. No, not the decaying corpse of Brad Hogg propped up in the outfield in a Weekend at Bernie’s scenario gone terribly wrong, but a stylish, technically adroit Aussie opening the batting for the locals. You might wonder, as he effortlessly takes attacks apart, why such a fine specimen of batting excellence isn’t part of the national setup, especially given some of the dross that currently is, instead of wasting away in the most isolated city in the world. Then you’ll notice the name on the back of the shirt and all will become clear. Let’s explore the cautionary tale that is the career of one:
The current Australian number three (at the time of writing anyway, by the time you read this it’ll probably be someone new) is Phil Hughes. This is a state of affairs that absolutely nobody outside of the National Selection Panel can be satisfied with. But in truth there’s little else that could be done in the circumstances. Back when Andrew Hilditch was running things there was a file called “Australia’s Number Three Batting Options”. And in it there was one name. Shaun Marsh. The future was all about the eldest son of former Test opener Geoff Marsh being the rock in the Australian lineup for years to come.
As such the selectors were extraordinarily patient with Marsh. After making his ODI debut in 2008, where he performed well, a succession of injuries prevented him stepping up to the Test team till mid-2011. He eventually came into the team as an injury replacement for Ricky Ponting on the tour of Sri Lanka, and scored a century on his début at Pallekele. With Ponting’s future clearly further down the order, the position was his for as long as he wanted. As it turns out, he didn’t really want it for all that long. He had better things to do.
Marsh was highlighted as being a future Test prospect from an early age. However there was always one drawback: the fact that he is a complete dickhead. Now, it’s not like us to throw such inflammatory statements around, we admit, but in Marsh’s case it’s clearly justified. Wherever Marsh has gone, trouble has followed. It’s clearly not the case of Marsh getting himself into bad company, he is the bad company, and clearly a terrible influence on pretty much everyone around him.
His record reads as one long list of idiotic misdemeanours, the latest being the shenanigans on the Perth Scorchers’ recent Champions League campaign in South Africa. His behaviour on that trip saw him kicked out of State cricket altogether, forced to cool his heels in local grade cricket, while Judo Black Belt holder Justin Langer was called in to take control and start kicking heads in Western Australian cricket. Of course the national team had already turned its back on Marsh. Within six months he’d gone from the being the poster boy of the new Australian batting lineup to persona non grata. On this occasion it was probably the worst run of form seen by any Test batsmen in living memory that was the culprit; he scored a total of 17 runs in six innings against India in the last Australian summer, at an average of 2.83.
The problem is that when Marsh was playing well, his behaviour could be somewhat tolerated, which is pretty much the story of his entire career in the West Australian setup. When his performances go south, however, he can be seen only as a liability. That means the door is now firmly closed on one of the most promising Australian cricketers of this generation. He’s like the Aussie Jesse Ryder really, without the terrible boxing bouts. All the while Marsh is still probably the best T20 batsman in the country, and one of the better ODI players as well.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Marsh could eventually return to the Australian setup. An international T20 reprise next year is not entirely unlikely, nor is an ODI return, especially considering how shit Australia are at the format these days. Test cricket, though, seems beyond him now. He has too many black marks against his name, and the Simon Katich Law dictates that he should give up on that idea now, if indeed he hasn’t already. There’s an outside chance that Justin Langer could succesfully belt the dickhead element out of him, but at 29 we think it might be a bit late for that. A player who was once marked as the key ingredient in Australia’s new Test middle order can give up on the idea of Ashes tours and instead start planning that next trip down to Chicken Treat.