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Shaun Marsh - all about injuries, inconsistency and elegance

Last updated on 18 Jan 2024 | 10:44 AM
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Shaun Marsh - all about injuries, inconsistency and elegance

The left-hander from Western Australia was probably the most talented fringe player for Australia in the 2010s

“Now we know who Shaun Marsh is,” said Yuvraj Singh, Kings XI Punjab’s (now Punjab Kings) skipper, after Match 19 in IPL 2008. 

It was Marsh’s debut in IPL. Batting through in a successful run chase, he h̶a̶m̶m̶e̶r̶e̶d̶  caressed his way to an eye-pleasing 84 not out from 62 balls. And Yuvraj spoke for all of us in the post-match presentation where Marsh was awarded the player-of-the-match. No one knew who he was. 

Only 24 years old, he had played only 11 T20 matches before, 10 for Western Australia and one for Australia A. For all you know, Tom Moody, a Western Australia veteran and the head coach of Punjab then, would have taken the call to include Marsh as a backup player. 

He was, by a distance, one of the least experienced players and known faces in the tournament. 

Marsh cake-walked through Deccan Chargers' bowling. He had missed the first four games of Punjab’s campaign but later emerged as the first Orange Cap winner in the tournament’s history, scoring 616 runs (average 68.4, strike rate of 139.7). 

Apart from his heavy appetite for runs, the manner of his run-scoring got him readily accepted among the Indian fans. Marsh was brimming with elegance, whether driving down the ground, pulling the ball or cutting it away to the fence. He became the breakout star in the blink of an eye. 

Things were not different back in Australia as well. Aged 19 in 2003, Marsh notched up his maiden first-class ton, scoring 119 against a strong New South Wales side. He was drafted into Australia’s white-ball side right after the blockbuster IPL season in 2008. In Tests, he was perceived as the natural heir to Ricky Ponting’s number three slot. When Ponting was unavailable for the second Test versus Sri Lanka in 2011, Marsh, replacing him, scored a hundred on debut. 

Fast forward to today, the left-hander has announced his retirement from professional cricket. Aged 40 now, Marsh was still scoring runs and pleasing to eyes. He missed half of the ongoing Big Bash season but is the second-highest run-scorer for his team, Melbourne Renegades. He has scored 181 runs in five innings (45.3 average, 138.2 strike rate). It speaks about both Marsh’s brilliance and the Renegades’ poor season. 


But what about the in-between phase? Despite possessing all the finesse, Marsh will be remembered as one of those unfulfilled talents at the highest level. There were 38 Tests, 73 ODIs and 15 T20Is in over a decade, scoring 5,293 international runs. He was probably the most talented fringe player for Australia in the 2010s.

In Tests, Marsh made more comebacks than the hundreds he scored (6). After a 141 on debut in Sri Lanka, which should have set the tone for his Test career, he was dropped after the home series against India, where he managed only 17 runs in six innings. It was also a period where he was dropped from the Western Australia side. 

Marsh had to wait two years for a comeback. Returning for the series in South Africa, he kicked off with a 148 against the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, but a pair in the next Test saw him out of the side again. 2015 was a strange year where he played six Tests against five different oppositions. The only occasion of him scoring back-to-back hundreds was also spaced nine months apart - 182 vs West Indies in Hobart in December 2015 and 130 vs Sri Lanka in Colombo in August 2016. 

While Marsh scored two hundreds in Sri Lanka, his four Tests in India (all in 2017) saw him register five single-digit scores and another snub, this time for the two Tests in Bangladesh. 

His longest stretch came at the back end of his career. Recalled for the home Ashes in 2017/18, Marsh notched up two tons, hinting that the left-hander will finally materialise his potential at this level. However, he slipped into another unproductive series, failing to cross the 50-run mark even once in his eight innings in South Africa. The aftermath of the Sandpaper Gate left Australia craving for experience and knocking on Marsh’s door again. He scored only one fifty in these six Tests before being dropped for good. Marsh scored 786 runs in these 15 Tests, with his average of 31.6 a shade under his career average of 34.3. 

In white-ball, Marsh accrued seven hundreds in 73 matches. But his best came in franchise T20s. In a team that had Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Yuvraj Singh, Marsh was the first cult hero of the Punjab franchise. The team chopped and changed continuously but the Western Australian stayed with the side until 2017, when a trophyless streak persuaded the franchise to cut ties with him. 

He was always a consistent top-order batter for Perth Scorchers and scored 63 and 73* in the final of the back-to-back title wins for the franchise in BBL 3 and BBL 4. 


Right from the start of his career, injuries troubled Marsh as much as his inconsistency. At 18, he missed first-class matches due to a strained hamstring that unsettled his career progress. That hamstring is the same reason he missed the first half of the ongoing BBL season at 40. 

Marsh missed IPL 2009 due to a lower back injury. The first time he missed a test - the Jo’burg Test in 2012 - was for the same reason. Earlier in 2023, his final Sheffield Shield season for Western Australia was limited to only one game due to a fractured finger. Marsh’s only World Cup campaign - in 2019 - was limited to two games when a Pat Cummins delivery broke his forearm. 

Such a stop-start career due to injuries, especially lower back and legs, is associated with fast bowlers. In that regard, Marsh draws parallels with Kane Williamson. Unfortunately, recurrent injuries are the only commonality between Marsh and Williamson. 


Marsh has had a long career. He shared the dressing room with Australia’s all-rounder of the 90s, Tom Moody, and Australia’s all-rounder of the 2020s, Cameron Green. He didn’t get a richly deserved farewell game as the final league fixture of BBL 13, between Renegades and Sydney Thunder, was abandoned due to rain. In his final professional match, he scored an unbeaten 64 to guide Renegades to only their second win of the season. 

In his last two first-class seasons, he fulfilled his dreams of winning the Shield trophy, one as captain of the side in the final. He thus added another silverware to the trophy cabinet at home. Between him, his brother Mitchell Marsh and the father Geoff Marsh, the trio has clinched three ODI World Cups, one T20 World Cup, one U19 World Cup (as captain for Mitch), another ODI World Cup for Geoff as coach of the Australian team, multiple Ashes wins and various domestic cricket titles from Shield trophy to the BBL. 

Shaun’s contribution here is limited to the T20 league honours. In terms of accolades, injuries and inconsistency have left him behind, but by what we saw in these 23 years of Shaun Marsh, he will be remembered as the most elegant batter in the family. 

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