Amid all the announcements made by Cricket Australia earlier this week, the player with the biggest fall from grace was probably Mitchell Marsh who finds himself without a central contract six months after being named Test vice-captain. This is a look back over a rollercoaster 18 months for the allrounder
Marsh was recalled midway through the 2017-18 Ashes for his hometown Test in Perth, returning in style with a maiden Test hundred which he pushed to 181. He followed that with another ton in Sydney, brought up in emotional scenes with his brother alongside him at the crease. Had things clicked for Mitchell?
Fades in South Africa
The runs continued in the first Test in Durban, his 96 the top score in Australia’s first innings and helping them set up victory. He fought hard for 45 in the second innings in Port Elizabeth, chipping in with wickets as well, but South Africa levelled the series and the tour quickly turned sour from a personal and team perspective. As the ball-tampering controversy erupted, Marsh’s runs dried up with 25 runs in the last four innings
As Australia tried to pick up the pieces of their Test side six months later in the UAE, Marsh was promoted to joint vice-captain alongside Josh Hazlewood – who missed the series against Pakistan – in support of new captain Tim Paine. “I’ve certainly grown as a leader in the past 12 months for WA, found out about myself and about my leadership,” Marsh said. “But I absolutely love captaining WA, probably my biggest strength is that hasn’t changed me as a person, and I certainly don’t see the vice-captaincy role changing me as a person.”
The two Tests against Pakistan proved difficult for Marsh as he made 30 runs across four innings having initially been promoted to No. 4. He was trapped lbw three times in four innings by Mohammad Abbas who tormented the Australia batsmen, particularly in the second Test where he claimed ten wickets in a crushing 373-run victory.
Australia reverted to six frotnline batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers at the start of the home series against India which meant Marsh was surplus to requirements in Adelaide and Perth. He was recalled for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, when Australia wanted bowling reinforcements, and with the ball Marsh did a good holding role. Things went badly with the bat, however, as he failed twice with India claiming victory, dismissed by Ravindra Jadeja in both innings.
Marsh was dropped for the final Test in Sydney and a few days later was ditched from the Test set-up altogether when he wasn’t selected for the Sri Lanka series. His slip down the pecking order was reinforced when Marcus Stoinis was briefly called into the squad ahead of the second Test in Canberra, indicating he was the allrounder of choice. To compound things for Marsh, illness meant he didn’t play the one-day series against India.
Solid in the Shield
He was left to focus on the latter half of the domestic season, firstly with Perth Scorchers in the BBL and then Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield. BBL runs were tough to come by until an unbeaten half-century in the Scorchers final match of a wooden-spoon season, but the last couple of rounds of the Shield provided some encouragement – after recovering from a nasty injury – as WA made a late push for the final. He claimed six wickets in victory over Tasmania then scored a century against Queensland although WA were ultimately pipped to the final by New South Wales.
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However, that all-round showing wasn’t enough for him to retain his CA contract when the 20-man list for 2019-2020 was announced. “It’s really hard because he’s like my little brother,” head coach Justin Langer said. “And his dad, Swampy [Geoff], who is one of the really good guys of Australian cricket, he’s been like my old man or one of my best mates. Again, it’s tough, but it’s not the end of the road. The message I guess there for him, or all the players, is there’s great competition in Australian cricket now and you’ve got to be on top of your game all the time.”
Glimmer of hope?
Perhaps there is already a route back for Marsh. Despite losing his contract he was named in both Australia A squads to tour England which runs concurrent to the World Cup and Ashes build-up. It has been made clear from the selectors that strong performances in the four-day portion will play a key role in Ashes selection. “We know how quickly it can change and we also know he’s such a talented player, he’s not far off,” Langer said.