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5 July 2021
The 1-4 drubbing at the hands of a powerful West Indies side was just the reality check Australia needed ahead of the T20 World Cup slated to be played in UAE later this year. While there were several first-choice players who missed out on the tour, Australia were thoroughly outplayed in every department of the game with whatever options were available to them.
Despite the batting debacles and the bowlers coming under the pump on most occasions, the one thing that Australia can be happy about is the resurgence of their highly-rated Mitchell Marsh; a player whose career has been marred with recurrent injuries and the talk about his ceiling as a player. He was by far the best Australian player on display and not only did he justify the faith shown in him by the team management who promoted him to No 3, but he was also Australia’s best bowler of the series bagging 8.
Ahead of the series against the Caribbeans, skipper Aaron Finch had hinted at some tough decisions for the showpiece event later this year. Finch had said that if the fringe players grab the opportunities in the series against West Indies and Bangladesh, it will be difficult to leave them out for the T20 World Cup.
Current form and match practice always augur well especially in this format but with Australia's below-par performance in the series, the team management might be forced to bring back their main players for the showpiece event despite showing disappointment at their decision to withdraw from these two tours.
Marsh or Smith? Who will be Australia No 3 in the T20 World Cup?
Mitchell Marsh has been always rated highly as a batsman but before the start of the recently concluded series against West Indies, he never got an opportunity to bat at the top order. However head coach Justin Langer definitely saw traits of a top-order batsman from Marsh and entrusted him with the responsibility of batting at No 3 against West Indies and he didn’t disappoint.
Marsh started off with back to back half-centuries in the first two matches and some of his shots oozed class. Regarded as more of a slogger in the death overs in the early part of his career, Marsh showed immense responsibility at a crucial No 3 position and it never seemed that he was batting in this particular position for the first time in his career.
Australia’s only victory in the series was largely possible due to a sensational innings of 75 from Marsh. He played very late and never allowed the skilful set of Windies bowlers to get under his skin. What was heartening to see was the way he planned his innings. He played proper cricketing shots and never looked to slog or do anything uncharacteristic. He understood his role in the team and played it perfectly.
Now does Marsh retain his No 3 position when Steve Smith makes himself available? Marsh will get five more matches against Bangladesh to solidify his case for that position. However, given Smith’s experience and ability to play different roles, the team management might be tempted to bring him back. No one in Australia can manipulate the field better than Smith in the middle overs and can also use the long handle to perfection in the death overs.
Marcus Stoinis is also expected to return to the Australian squad and where does he fit in the playing XI is going to be a topic of debate in the coming months? David Warner and skipper Aaron Finch in all likelihood will take up the mantle of opening duties in the showpiece event so where will Stoinis bat then? With Marsh and Stoinis being like-for-like players, the middle order woes could come back to haunt the Aussies which makes Smith a good option at No 3.
It all boils down to the team management and the skipper and we could witness a broader picture once the series against Bangladesh concludes. If Marsh manages to come up with consistent performances at No 3 again, it will be very difficult for Finch and Langer to demote him down the order.
T20I records: Mitchell Marsh is different gravy at NO 3
Marsh's career has been under scrutiny for so long that it does not take much to realise that the T20I series vs WI has been his best display so far. Not only is his average during the five-match series way better than his career average, his strike rate also looks way superior to his career strike rate. However, as mentioned earlier, it will be difficult to demote him down the order if he proves his mettle and consistency at No 3 even during the series against Bangladesh.
All-round roles in the Australian team
Coming into the five-match T20I series against Australia, Mitchell Marsh needed to come out of the shell and perform. Right from Game 1, Marsh grabbed the opportunity with both hands and made a strong case for himself with the T20 World Cup around the corner.
Batting at No 3 is never an easy job especially for someone who has never played at that position before. However, Marsh took it as a challenge and went on to finish the series as the best Australian player by a distance. All through his career so far, Marsh was always treated as someone who can smash the long handle and contribute a few important overs with the ball in hand.
However, in the recently concluded series, Marsh’s role changed drastically and he was up for the challenge. Technically he was the best Australian batsman on display as he was hardly troubled by the West Indies bowling line-up. The shot selection in particular was better than any of the Australian batters as he thrived in the opportunity to bat at the top of the order.
Mitchell Marsh enjoying his new role
Coming into the series, Marsh had never batted at No 3 but the faith shown in him by Justin Langer has reaped rewards for the Australian team and he makes a strong case for himself to book his ticket for the T20 World Cup later this year. Following his match-winning knock in the 4th T20I against the Windies, Marsh relished the opportunity to bat at the top of the order.
“It's big having the responsibility of batting in the top three. It was a great partnership with Finch tonight. I thought the new ball came on well tonight, and it was fun to play with freedom, “Marsh had said.
Marsh has never managed to seal his place in the national team but coming into the series against the Caribbeans, Marsh was very well prepared and it reflected in his performance all through the series.
"I'm certainly loving the opportunity to bat up the top of the order and as we've seen, batting against the new ball is the time to really get after it and the time to get ahead of the game. I'm really enjoying the role but it is purely based – and we speak about it as a team, with the World Cup coming up – on playing a role,” Marsh had said following the conclusion of the series.
"I'm 29 now, I've had a lot of experiences both good and bad in international cricket. I came to this tour really well prepared and had a great break. I feel in great physical shape and mentally feeling really good,” Marsh had added.