Sunday 17 December 2017 / 03:16 PM

NUMBERS NOT ADDING UP FOR SHAUN MARSH

Cricket is a numbers game, and the numbers do not add up for Australian batsman Shaun Marsh.

Shaun Marsh is an enigma. Is there an Australian player, save Shane Watson, who has polarised armchair critics more than the left-hander from WA? Regularly picked then just as frequently dropped due to inconsistent performances or injury, Australian Test selectors’ infatuation with the 33-year-old is beyond the realms of human understanding.

Marsh has answered the call of duty to don the baggy green 19 times and more often than not he has failed to do his job: scoring runs, and lots of them.

Die-hard fans demand success from those who hold the privileged position of representing Australia in one of the nation’s favourite past-times. There’s no denying the weight of expectation would crush many but Marsh is no new kid on the block, having made his Test debut in 2011 in a blaze of glory with 141 against Sri Lanka at Pallekele.

He has wielded the willow in 34 innings, yet only reached triple figures four times and the half-century mark on five occasions. An average of 40.15 for an opener or first or second drop hardly strikes fear into the hearts of opposition bowling attacks – particularly when he records a duck once in every five visits to the crease and has 11 scores of three or less.

Marsh’s display with the bat in the first Test against South Africa summed up the left-hander’s torrid run of results when playing with the Aussie coat of arms on his chest. Brilliant one day, fickle the next, Marsh showed glimpses of his potential when he made 63 in the first innings, only to come unstuck on 15 in his second knock when the team really needed him to dig in.

The Aussies will have to break a stack of fourth-innings records if they are to achieve an improbable victory against the Proteas at the WACA on Monday. But this is not the first time his results against South Africa have been chalk and cheese. Recalled for Australia’s tour abroad in 2014, he proved his worth with 148 at Centurion…only to be dropped soon after a pair at Port Elizabeth.

While perhaps not an accurate or fair gauge, his shortcomings are apparent when juxtaposed with Test batsmen of yesteryear.

Hayden was pugnacious, Gilchrist domineering, Steve Waugh was ruthless and his twin Mark oozed precision. Ponting and Clarke coupled brilliant talent with genuine grit.

As you would expect, all had higher Test averages than the current opener. In years to come, will Shaun Marsh be mentioned in the same breath of the names just listed? Probably not. Talent will only get you so far.

Perhaps I am missing something. The son of former opening test batsman Geoff, Shaun may have an undeniable dedication to training, respect of his peers within the inner sanctum and exemplary off-field behaviour.

But while those characteristics cannot be faulted, the fact remains that runs are far more important when you’re a top-five batsman in the Australian line-up.

Younger brother Mitch is having similar problems turning ability into big scores in his role as the Test side’s all-rounder – and it seems only reputation and a lack of genuine alternatives is keeping the esteemed family name on the team sheet.

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About the author

Dave McLenaghan

Dave is a respected sports journalist with more than a decade’s experience working for major sports media organisations, including, Channel 7, WIN News, the ARU and the Brumbies. He also worked in the US for several years with the sports network giant ESPN. Dave has a degree in Sports Media from the University of Canberra and is a keen sportsman in his own right, having played junior representative and grade rugby, and is a successful athletics coach. These days, in his spare time, he can be found on the fairways of Sunshine Coast's golf courses or paddling a surf ski at Mooloolaba.

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