Shaun Marsh has previously struggled against quality swing bowling © Getty Images
Shaun Marsh has previously struggled against quality swing bowling © Getty Images

Australia have hit the ground running in the warm-up match against Kent. The tourists put up a total in excess of 500, with the top four contributing two centuries and two half centuries to their cause. While, it was an encouraging start to the tour, the century by Shaun Marsh may lull them into a false sense of complacency, especially about the left-hander’s ability to negotiate the swinging ball. Ankur Dhawan reckons Marsh’s faulty technique will be exposed to the bone when pitted against James Anderson and co.

The value of the opener has diminished in Test cricket. Change has been nagging the sport for over a decade. Pancake-like pitches, oversized bats, unbelievably quick outfields and the desperation to attract eyeballs, have all rendered the sport increasingly partisan. Except nothing can cap England’s long standing love affair with tradition.  Perhaps, the solitary destination where opening the batting is not a bypass to Ithaka. In fact, it’s more like dodging a rogue bludger (for context, read Harry Potter). ALSO READ: Australia will need Mitchells to fire to retain urn in England after 14 years

In England, the old school grinder earns his bread and butter. The likes of Mathew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, who revolutionised the opener’s role, were made to sweat for every run against the red Duke, the beauty of which is in its prominent seam and it’s proclivity to swing more prodigiously than its more benign Kookaburra cousin. So, despite the inherent character of pitches in England having changed, regardless of Australia’s clear dominance on paper, David Warner doesn’t have a partner in crime yet. Or perhaps he does, but Australia seem to want look past the most suitable candidate in Chris Rogers, attack being their predilection. Ignoring Rogers’ unparalleled experience of playing cricket in England, and thus his knowledge of conditions, may backfire on Australia like the recoil of a gun. READ: Sky Sports and ‘We didn’t start the fire’— What do the words mean?

With Schadenfreude taking effect, opportunity is likely to knock on Shaun Marsh’s door. Although Marsh didn’t make the most of his four outings in the Caribbean, concluding the tour with a half century kept him relevant. Marsh furthered his chances with a century against Kent at Canterbury in the first warm-up match.

While there is little doubt over the left-hander’s credentials as an ODI player, Test cricket has regularly exposed the chinks in his technique. His record thus far bears testimony to the same. More than just an unflattering average of 35, his only performances of note have come at Pallekele and Centurion, which were featherbeds for batsmen. Besides, Marsh batted in the middle order on both these instances.

Having grown up at the WACA, tackling pace and bounce is second nature to the older Marsh. He has also displayed his prowess against spin on his maiden Test tour to Sri Lanka, thereafter, in limited-overs cricket in places like India. But that’s where the story turns a page. Any hint of lateral movement, even the premonition of swing, transforms this elegant left-hander into a pitiful shadow of his usual self. READ: Ryan Harris confirms good base to launch his attack in Ashes

Marsh doesn’t lean into the ball much. He has an upright stance, and tends to hit through the line of the ball, trusting his eye and his bat manufacturer. Poor footwork combined with a penchant to hang the bat lazily at the swinging ball are a perfect concoction for disaster in England. In that respect, Marsh mirrors his former Kings XI Punjab teammate, Yuvraj Singh, who was troubled by similar glitches.

One can envisage James Anderson making a mockery of Marsh’s technique much like Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav had done on India’s 2011-12 tour of Australia. Marsh had failed to buy a run in six harrowing innings, with a highest score of 11 and an average of less than three. Although these appalling figures were notched at No 3, Australia had invariably lost an early wicket, which meant Marsh frequently faced the music with the new ball. Mind you, that was a Kookaburra, not a Duke. Espousers could argue that his horror run against the Indian attack transpired a long time ago, but these innate deficiencies are particularly hard to overcome once a batsman zooms past his formative years.

Hitherto, Marsh’s career graph has made it clear as day that the only suitable position for him to be accommodated in the Test line-up is somewhere in the middle order. So, should Australia indeed be swayed into drafting him as opener on the back of runs in practice matches, their No.3 will be on the edge of his seat every time Marsh faces up to Anderson, with odds stacked heavily in favour of the latter.

(AnkurDhawan, heavily influenced by dystopian novels, naturally has about 59 conspiracy theories for every moment in the game of cricket. On finding a direct link between his head and the tip of his fingers, he also writes about it.)