“Test Cricket, that’s my main goal”, these were the words of Steve Smith, Australia’s premier batsman when he was asked regarding his participation in the World T20 to be held later this year.
He had withdrawn from his side’s white-ball tours to West Indies and Bangladesh. Even though he didn’t rule out the possibility of playing in the World Cup, he made his priority clear between the T20Is and Test cricket.
His withdrawal from tours meant that the Australian team were left devoid of their reliable No.3 batsman. As a result of some more withdrawals, options for a No.3 batsman were limited to the likes of Matthew Wade, Alex Carey, Josh Philippe, Ben McDermott and Mitchell Marsh. And Australia went with the most unlikeliest of a pick in the form of Mitchell Marsh.
Many were wondering, whether the 29-year old will excel as a No.3 batsman, a position which demands both aggression and calmness in equal proportion, or not ?
Australia’s T20 series against the Windies began. In the very first game, Marsh gave a statement-filled performance, carrying his side’s batting in a 146 runs’ chase. Although the game was won by the Windies quite single-handedly, the lone effort of Marsh was lauded by many.
He followed it up with another fighting fifty. His subsequent scores in the T20I series read 9, 75 and 30, also picking up 8 wickets, making it a rare instance of a player finishing as the highest run scorer and highest wicket taker at the same time. He batted at No.3 in the ODI series as well.
Next came the tour of Bangladesh on those typical sluggish wickets, where the visitors were faced with a morale-sapping 4-1 loss in the T20I series and were subjected to much criticism even from their fans. However, even in the one-sided series loss, what stood out was the way Marsh batted on those tough wickets. He again finished as the series’ highest run getter, scoring 156 runs.
Although, his strike rate(98.73) did garner some criticism but if the temperament is anything to go by, then Marsh is definitely a batsman Australia would like to have in their first eleven for the coming World T20, even when all of the star players return.
If somehow Steve Smith misses out or skips the marquee event, then Marsh has done enough to be the first choice for the vacant No.3 spot. From being the most unlikely choice to the first choice, this one month holds a great significance in the redemption of him as a top order batting all-rounder.