To watch Shaun Marsh assemble his majestic innings yesterday was to wonder about the qualifications of Australia's selectors.
All summer long their batsmen have struggled in international cricket, all summer long and for many summers before that, they had been told that Marsh might be their man.
He is not in their World Cup squad, he has never played a Test match. Yet last night, recalled to the limited-overs side only because of injury to his fellow Western Australian Mike Hussey, he produced a quite delightful innings in unpropitious circumstances.
Australia were 33 for 4 and virtually out of the second one-day international when he went to the wicket. The chief asset of his innings spanning 114 balls was that he was never flustered, always in control. The quietly spoken left-hander said: "I never worry about selection. I was disappointed not to be in the World Cup squad but I just want to take this opportunity."
His captain, Michael Clarke, rightly lauded it as a quite outstanding innings, a model of how to play under pressure and said that Marsh would certainly feature in the rest of the Commonwealth Bank Series and probably go up the order.
Marsh, of course, has cricket in his blood. He is the son of Geoff Marsh, the former Australia opening batsman and national team coach, and learned all about international cricket dressing rooms from a young age travelling around as he did with his father.
He first sprang to a kind of prominence by taking the inaugural version of the Indian Premier League by storm, scoring 616 runs for Kings XI Punjab at 68.44. It made Australia's selectors sit up and take notice, though they have never chosen to do so for long since.
Marsh was not quite so spectacular last season in the IPL but he is returning to Kings XI for this year's version at what may prove to be a knockdown $400,000. He has had a solid Sheffield Shield season for Western Australia with a century and three fifties in his seven innings and an average approaching 60, and his returns in one-day cricket have also been strong with a century and a fifty in his five matches.
All this plus the testimonies of pundits all over the country has fallen on deaf ears in the selection room. Ignored for the Ashes, he seemed a natural choice for the World Cup in the subcontinent not least for his prodigious efforts there in the IPL.
What was particularly extraordinary about his innings last night was the unfamiliarity of his position. Almost all his previous one-day cricket for Australia has been played as an opening batsman where the rhythms are much different. It was another reason that Clarke was so effusive in his praise.
"It shows we have a lot of talent in first-class cricket in this country," said Clarke. "There are players who can come in and show what they can do as Shaun has. That has been questioned this summer but I am 100 per cent sure the talent is out there."
The way he put it, that might have been a coded message to the selectors, none of whom hails from anywhere near Western Australia, that they should have picked him before now. Still only 27, Marsh has a proper method based on old-fashioned verities and it seemed perverse that the selectors had decreed that another left-handed batsman of much looser skills, Philip Hughes, was the answer to their opening batting problems in Test cricket this winter.
Marsh did not win last night's game single-handedly as Shane Watson had in Melbourne last weekend. He needed a little help from Cameron White with whom he shared a stand of 100 and later on from Doug Bollinger, with whom he put on 88. But it was his authority and acceleration towards the end – he reached his second one-day century with a six – that gave Australia a total worth trying to defend.Reuse content