Mitchell Marsh has struck only 1 half-century in his 14 Tests so far for Australia © Getty Images
Mitchell Marsh has struck only 1 half-century in his 14 Tests so far for Australia © Getty Images

So far, so good. Ever since Australia started their rebuilding phase after their humiliation in England and the retirement of as many as six players, they have done a decent job. They have been making steady recovery, and their ascend close to the No. 1 spot certainly gets some backing when Australia produce performances such as the one they did against New Zealand in the first Test at Wellington. While the Australian progress graph has been on the rise, there still seems to be some dilemma surrounding Mitchell Marsh, whom they have been pushing as a specialist batsman of late, after keeping him in the bracket of all-rounders. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs Australia 2015-16, 2nd Test at Christchurch

During Ashes 2015, Marsh competed with Shane Watson for the all-rounder’s spot. While Marsh played the second, third and final Tests, he never really managed to cement a place in the side. Australia continued to get their selections wrong and Marsh, like the rest of the team, floundered on the chances he got.

The retirement of Watson post Ashes 2015 meant Marsh would get a longer run, he has still not made his mark yet in Test cricket. In his final ODI against India last month, the right-handed batsman struck his maiden century to display his hunger for runs, but what Australia has been seeking from him are runs, the way a specialist batsman scores. ALSO READ: Mitchell Marsh aims to gain local knowledge with IPL 2016 experience

Marsh has not been a grinder as a batsman as much as he has been known to strike the ball well. He did show pedigree in his maiden half-century in Test cricket — a 116-ball 87 against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi — but since then has not been able to get runs. Marsh has played many innings of significance in ODI cricket, but he is yet to repeat the same in Test cricket, which is what Australia have been sweating over.

First of all, Australia must determine what they seek from Marsh. If he is an all-rounder, it will be a bit unfair to expect runs from him in the magnitude of specialist batsmen. And most importantly, if the top-order has been doing the job for them, why are Australia pushing Marsh to turn into a regular batsman? His ascension in the batting order in the ODI series against India signalled this belief, and Marsh responded with his maiden century at SCG. ALSO READ: Mitchell Marsh scores maiden ODI hundred, during 5th ODI against India at Sydney

If Australia are pushing Marsh into becoming a specialist batsman (who can send down a few overs), they will have to calculate the risk of losing out on an all-rounder who can provide quick runs late in the batting order. The impact Marsh can create with his late-order hitting can be of significant value than yet another specialist batsman, if Marsh is being made to focus as a specialist batsman, the other aspects of his game — bowling — is likely to suffer.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)