2018-12-24 by W.M.
Mitchell Marsh’s bowling makes him an ‘attractive commodity’ for Boxing Day Test
The nature of the MCG pitch has been a huge talking point ahead of the third Test, nearly a year after the ICC had rated it “poor” for the Ashes Test draw, and the suggestion it may once again be slow over the five days could tip the scales in favour of the support Marsh’s bowling could provide to Australia’s quicks.
“In a perfectly balanced side you have someone who can bowl some overs, so Mitch becomes an attractive commodity on a wicket, unlike Adelaide and Perth where we knew it would be an even contest, that although there’s some grass and moisture we also know the history of it,” coach Justin Langer said after Australia’s training session. “Our fast bowlers have been lucky, they have bowled less overs than the Indians at the moment, particularly [Jasprit] Bumrah, and the more we can look after those guys the better. It will come down to that decision.”
Handscomb was given a tough audition in the nets facing Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in quick succession but, while his strength batting against spin has often been a factor in his selection, Langer was quick to point out Marsh’s batting qualities. It’s an either-or situation that is overshadowing all thoughts of Christmas cheer.
“We weigh up all those things,” Langer said. “Pete’s a very good player of spin bowling, Mitch is a pretty good player of spin too.
“They are the hard decisions. You generally talk about one position and they are the ones that give you the most headaches. You have to tell someone they’re not playing which is tough and tell someone they are, it’s a nice Christmas present.
“I spend my life thinking about all those things, it’s a bit sad, not what Christmas presents I buy for my kids but who plays spin better, whether we play the extra bowler.”
Langer also acknowledged how difficult it can be for players like Handscomb and Marsh, who have both been the subject of widespread criticism, whether due to technique or form.
“We talked about that in our team meeting this morning,” Langer said. “There’s so much noise, so much opinion, but we have to keep trusting the path we are on whether it’s the individual players or the group.
“We know there’s lots of criticism, that’s okay, it’s hard but it’s part of the business. Takes great strength and courage to eliminate it and perform.”
Langer confirmed if Marsh plays he will definitely bat in the top six above Tim Paine, a decision made easier by the strength of Australia’s lower order. While Australia’s tail has made instrumental contributions with the bat and was particularly incisive with the ball in Perth, the coach believes they are yet to hit their straps with the ball.
“All of them would admit they haven’t quite nailed it this series, so that’s exciting,” Langer said. “We saw it in the Ashes last year that there were times they were all over England.
“Nathan Lyon is literally world class, he’s been so good. The other three, we’ve seen great signs, and there were times when they bowled worse and got more wickets but I’m really excited when those guys bowl as that unit – I can’t wait to see that.”