Mitchell Marsh’s fledgling Test career has had more speed-breakers than milestones. Now back to full fitness after having sat out for nearly five months, he looks ready for his international comeback.
A little over nine months ago, Marsh was the apple of Australia’s eyes. A herculean maiden Test hundred (181) on comeback at his home ground in Perth in December last year helped him repay the faith selectors had shown in the all-rounder’s ability and another Ashes century in Sydney (101) at the beginning of this year was the icing on the cake.
Marsh carried this form to South Africa as well, where he starred with a 96 in the first Test in Durban – Australia’s only victory on that tour. Although his returns fizzled out towards the end of the tour, the 26-year-old seemed to be coming of age with the bat.
However, an ankle injury after the South Africa series kept him out of action for the next five months, also resulting in him missing Australia’s tour of Zimbabwe. Having successfully undergone a surgery and rehab thereafter, Marsh is now in India to lead Australia A in two four-day games against India A in Bengaluru.
“I have had my fair share of injuries to come back from, so you just depend on your past experiences on the day and get on with your job, get the rehab done as soon as you possibly can,” Marsh told reporters on Saturday, September 1, adding that he was “glad to be back” playing cricket.
“It (his return to the middle) has been a long way off – five months – [but] fortunately for Australia, we haven’t had that much cricket compared to what we usually have, and I haven’t missed a lot of cricket.”
Being out of competitive cricket since March, is Marsh rusty? He doesn’t think so. “I am pretty much bowling full tooth,” he said. “Hopefully I will bowl a few overs in the second four-day game here. I have no potential setbacks throughout the injury process, so I am really wrapped.”
The five-month layoff not only kept the all-rounder out of Australia duties, but he also missed out on playing county cricket with Surrey, with whom he had signed up as an overseas player in October last year. “That was an awesome opportunity for me and I was really looking forward to [that],” Marsh said about of the lost opportunity.
“I was still playing cricket over in England in their conditions for half summer and it would have been awesome getting used to batting and bowling with the Dukes ball.
“Having the experience of outside cricket, living in a place other than Perth, which is a pretty small place. But yeah, injuries happen and I find myself fit again and ready to go.”
Next up after the A series will be the tour to the United Arab Emirates where Australia take on Pakistan in two Tests and three T20Is. If selected for that tour, Marsh will have come back to the place where it had all begun for him four years ago in 2014, when he made his Test debut in Dubai as a 22-year-old.
How is he planning to use the A series as a preparatory ground for the UAE tour? “By spending time in the middle,” he said.
“First things first – [I’m happy to] to get back to playing some cricket and just enjoy being back playing and being back to work,” Marsh said. “In an Australia A series, a lot of time you can solely focus on yourself, trying to score runs and [gain] form, but ultimately we want to create a culture in this team that we want to come here and play to win and as captain I will do the best to make sure that [happens].
“For me, I would want to spend some time in the middle to bat.”
Marsh has already captained Western Australia and with the leadership opportunity coming his way for the A series, his name has come up again as a potential captaincy candidate for Australia in Steve Smith and David Warner’s absence, who are both serving their year-long bans for ball tampering.
“I have had some captaincy experience with Western Australia back home,” Marsh said when queried about his captaincy ambitions. “It’s not saying that I tend to think about it too deeply [but] if the opportunity arose, I’ll grab it with both hands.”
But Marsh knows it’s something beyond his control. “But ultimately, that’s out of my hands and I’ll just try to be the best captain I can be here, and [I’m] really looking forward to captaining in these conditions, which is something I don’t experience much playing at the WACA every second week. It’s going to be a whole new experience for me.”