Langer goes in to bat for Marsh
CRICKET: He's one of the most maligned players in Australian cricket history but Shaun Marsh has one very influential backer in his corner as he seeks to earn a shock Ashes recall.
Marsh had endured a rollercoaster Test career, having been dropped and recalled numerous times without ever really cementing a regular spot at the top of the batting order or lower down.
He averages a modest 36 from 23 Tests with four centuries and seven 50s and a high score of 182.
At age 34, time is not on his side. But Justin Langer, his Sheffield Shield coach with Western Australia, argues that Marsh is well equipped to succeed if given one more shot at the big time.
"He's an outstanding talent, there's no doubt about that,” Langer told SEN's The Run Home.
"One of the best things that have happened to him, just recently, he played for Yorkshire and in his last game of the county season he watched Kumar Sangakarra, who's one of the all-time great players, get a hundred. And Kumar got 10 or 11 hundreds in county cricket this year, it's absolutely freakish. And he came back and said, 'Mate, the best thing about it was how relaxed he was. He was so relaxed'. And he hit every ball in the middle of the bat. And he said, 'When I went out to bat that innings I wanted to be like Kumar'.
"And he actually scored 140 and 70 in the match. So he came back realising that if you're tense and uptight and worried about what could happen it doesn't necessarily work, but when he's relaxed - and I'll say this sincerely, I've seen him bat since he was a little kid as well - and I haven't seen him batting as well as he has at the moment.
"Whether that gets him a gig with the Australian team only time will tell, but he's certainly batting as well as I've seen him bat.”
Langer also sang the praises of Hilton Cartwright to fill Australia's troublesome No.6 spot for the five-Test series against England which starts on November 24.
"Hilton Cartwright should be a shoo-in for that No. 6 spot,” Langer said. "He averages 50 in first-class cricket.
"He bowls OK, he's very handy. He opens the bowling in club cricket, he's a work in progress ... he's a talented bowler, no doubt about that.
"But he averages 50 in first-class cricket whereas the other ones they talk about, (Kurtis) Patterson from NSW averages 41 and the rest of them average under 40. Hilton Cartwright is a very good player and he certainly will be putting his hand up for that No.6 position.”
Asked how Marsh and Cartwright could fit into the team if, as expected, Usman Khawaja earns a recall to slot in at No.3, Langer said that's a call the selectors will have to make.
"Khawaja at No.3, definitely. No doubt. He's a brilliant player,” Langer said.
"Shaun Marsh, he could open, he could bat No.6. I'm not sure who they're going to select. I'm just saying those two guys (Marsh and Cartwright) certainly have to be putting their hand up.”
It wasn't just Western Australian players who earned the backing of Langer. He'd also retain incumbent wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who is under serious pressure to keep his spot.
"I love continuity, to be honest. Unless Matthew Wade has had an absolute howler then I think they should stick with him,” Langer said.
"I don't like all this chopping and changing. There used to be a saying in Australian cricket: 'It's harder to get into the team then to get out of it'. And people saw that as a weakness, I saw it as a great strength because you had to be so good to get into the team and there wasn't much chopping or changing.
"I don't like all this chopping and changing. I think Matthew Wade, unless he's really done something wrong, then I'd like them to stick with him.
"If he is not selected then I think Peter Nevill is the obvious one. He got dropped, probably harshly, and then he went away and had a brilliant season with the gloves and the bat last year.
"There's a bit of talk about Alex Carey. I think he's a ripping kid, super fit, really nice kid but the truth is he averages 25 or less in first-class cricket so I'm not sure how that adds up.”
Langer, who has taken control of the Australian limited-overs team when Darren Lehmann has been rested, is enjoying the build-up to the Ashes and hopes the cricketing public is too.
"It's great theatre, great drama,” he said. "At the end of October or the start of November, they'll start talking about the Aussie sledging. Then England will come back and (say) we're not intimidated by the sledging and will sledge them back.
"It's just all a part of the theatre and drama. The players should enjoy it, they should embrace it. At the end of the day, the public shouldn't take it too seriously either.
"They'll play hard on the field but they're all pretty good mates off the field, and that's exactly how great Test cricket should be played.”