India A vs Australia: Shaun Marsh embraces ‘land of opportunity’


MUMBAI: India seems to be a lucky hunting ground for Shaun Marsh, just like it was for his father Geoff, the former Australia opener. It is likely that left-hander Shaun is likely be preferred over Usman Khawaja for the first Test after he was included in the XI for the sole warm-up game, against India A at the Brabourne Stadium here. Khawaja, of course, is sitting out of this game.

Seizing the opportunity in his maiden first-class game in India, Marsh cracked 104, adding 156 for the third wicket with skipper Steve Smith, who too warmed up for the series with a century, before the duo decided to cool their heels in the dressing room. Almost nine years back, the man from Western Australia received a surprise call-up to open the batting for Kings XI Punjab in the inaugural IPL, and even though he missed the first four games, Marsh ended up being the top run-getter in the tournament with 616 runs in 11 games@68.44, with five fifties.

The fabulous performance didn’t go unnoticed back home, and Marsh was given a break in the Australian ODI and Twenty20 teams in July 2008. Since then, though, his career has been a roller-coaster ride. He has featured in 19 Tests, 53 ODIs and 15 T20 internationals, but many feel that with the talent he has, Marsh, who scored a hundred on his Test debut against Sri Lanka in Pallekele back in 2011, should have played more for Australia.

On the other hand, Marsh’s younger brother Mitchell is now a regular part of the Australian team as an allrounder. Time is now running out for the 33-year-old to do justice to his huge potential. As he’s no more considered for the opening slot in Tests, Marsh these days has to jostle for a berth in the Australian middle order with Khawaja, another talented left-hander.

In India, though, Marsh noses ahead of Khawaja in the race purely because of his better ability against spin, which was evident in the way he used his feet to smash India A’s left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem over long on. Apart from his IPL experience, Marsh has played three Tests in Sri Lanka, in which he has scored at 78.60, with two centuries.

In comparison, Khawaja has endured a poor record in Sri Lanka (115 runs@19.16), where the conditions are similar to those in India. It means that even though he’s coming off a wonderful run at home this season, which saw him scored 581 runs at 58.10 in six Tests against South Africa and Pakistan, Khawaja may have to wait for Marsh to fail to get a look-in in India.

Keen to put his struggles in the past for good, Marsh is now completely focused on the prospect of doing well again, though in a completely different format this time, in a country which seems to be close to his heart, just like it is for many Aussie greats. “It’s a place where I’ve always enjoyed coming and playing. I always find it a really good challenge. This series is going to be a really good challenge for us as well, coming up against a quality opposition. It’s going to be a great series for everyone,” felt Marsh.

The veteran bat still can’t explain why it’s the subcontinent that gets the best out of him. “It’s just a good place. It’s a really great challenge. I’ve played a lot of cricket over here, whether it is One-day cricket or the IPL or Test cricket in Sri Lanka. So, I feel comfortable out there. I know it’s going to be a good challenge, and I just want to enjoy it,” he says.

Playing in India, he feels, will naturally offer a different challenge than touring Lanka.

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