Shaun Marsh needs to step up

Embattled Australia batsman Shaun Marsh will need a big score in the fourth Test against India or he risks being dropped from the side for the tour of the West Indies in March.

Marsh has made just 14 runs in three Tests against India this summer, a dramatic fall from grace after his debut Test century against Sri Lanka last August.

The 28-year-old is regarded as a long-term prospect at the top of the order, but his recent poor form has his Test career at a crossroads.

Fellow Test rookies David Warner and Ed Cowan secured their short-term futures with a 214-run opening stand in the third Test in Perth last week, while veterans Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting earnt themselves some time with hundreds in the second Test in Sydney.

With vice-captain Shane Watson certain to come back into the side when fit, Marsh is the logical option to make way should his run of low scores continue.

Next week’s Test in Adelaide is Australia’s last before the three-match series in theWest Indies, meaning it is Marsh’s final chance to prove himself.

“A lot will depend on this Test match, really,” said Mark Waugh

“If Marsh can make runs here then he’ll probably get back in front of Cowan, maybe.

“I think he’s a long-term player, I really do. But you’ve got to make runs. If you get given a chance, you’ve still got to make runs. Mickey Arthur says he wants him as a long-term player, but you can’t pick him if he doesn’t make runs.”

Arthur is an unabashed fan of Marsh, theAustralia coach launching a strong defence of his former state pupil after the third Test in Perth.

“As I’ve said to Shaun … I think form’s temporary and class is permanent and Shaun has definitely got class,” Arthur said on Sunday.

“I think Shaun is probably one of the best batters I’ve had the privilege of coaching.

“He’s got plenty of runs forAustraliain him … he’ll be back strong pretty soon I think.”

The speed with which Marsh has gone from a certain selection to having his career on a knife edge has stunned Waugh, who like Arthur is a big supporter of Marsh.

The son of former Test opener Geoff announced his arrival with a flawless 141 on debut against Sri Lanka in Kandy last year and followed it up with another polished innings of 81 inColombo.

He then made a gutsy 44 against South Africa on a seaming wicket in Cape Town in November, coming to the wicket at 3-40 and putting on a 103-run partnership with century-maker Michael Clarke.

He was then crippled by a back injury and didn’t play another first-class match until his return to the Test side for the Boxing Day Test last month.

Waugh said the way Marsh batted in Sri Lanka and South Africa proves he has what it takes to be a success at Test level.

“He looked our best player inSri Lankaby a long way, he looked or best player in Cape Town before he got out for 44 when Michael Clarke got a hundred,” Waugh said.

“He looked a lot better than Michael Clarke there.

“I can’t believe the way he’s batting, I really can’t. I think he’s such a good player. He just looks like he’s in a hurry, he wants to get to 50 or 20 before he’s ready. So I think he’s just got to calm down a bit and play each ball on its merits a bit more.”

Like Waugh, Damien Fleming is in no doubt that Marsh has the technical attributes to have a long Test career.

The former Test swing bowler says the key to Marsh turning his form around is between his ears.

“The hallmark of Marsh’s hundred and that fine innings in Cape Town … was how late he played the ball when a couple of our top order were going hard,” Fleming told Inside Cricket.

“Their hands were going in front of their pads and trying to hit on the up, he actually played behind his pads and let it go.

“It just shows what a mental game cricket is. He’s really battling at the moment mentally. Nothing’s changed physically or technically, he’s just low on confidence.”

Buford Balony says: I can’t believe the fuss about Shaun Marsh. His 1st class average is shit, he can’t make a score against India and I don’t know how all these so called experts think he’s a long term player. He’s 28 and he’s done nothing at shield level so I don’t know about all the hype. Watson will come straight in for him and I would play his younger brother Mitchell in Adelaide instead of him because he’s the future star.

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