Shaun Marsh and Peter Hanscomb have their eyes on the one spot in the World Cup squad. Photo: Brett Costello
Shaun Marsh and Peter Hanscomb have their eyes on the one spot in the World Cup squad. Photo: Brett Costello

The big question Aussie selectors have to answer

"WE know categorically there are going to be one or two guys brutally unlucky not to get selected," said Justin Langer on conclusion of Australia's first overseas ODI whitewash win in a decade, "because they're all going so well."

With success comes such headaches. The welcome ones. Those of 'the good kind'.

For one of Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb, however, that headache will become a punch in the guts.

The return of David Warner and Steve Smith, along with the renaissance in the form of Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch has created a logjam at the top of the order.

With two batsmen needing to make way for the returning former captain and vice-captain, Ashton Turner's fate appears to have already been decided. Even despite his stunning show in Ranchi which kickstarted Australia's recent revival.

If his shallow experience went against him, his lack of game time in Pakistan has made clear the selectors' view. Turner's time will undoubtedly come. But it is not to be this winter.

That leaves one additional batsman in the current squad needed to step aside. Marsh and Handscomb are now, in all probability, an either-or proposition.

\Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh are rivals for a place in Australia’s World Cup squad.
\Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh are rivals for a place in Australia’s World Cup squad.

Marsh's hold on his place seems most perilous. In the ODI team's abruptly arrested 'wilderness years', Marsh was at times a buttress against total humiliation.

As all around him floundered Marsh - on occasion at least - stood tall. Four centuries in the last year, including two in England, ought to have made him a lock for the World Cup.

But that sudden overcrowding of the top order - with one of the three opening options in Warner, Finch and Khawaja likely to drop to three, and Smith pencilled in for four - leaves Marsh as a specialist in a role in which Australia boast a strong suit.

He picked a bad time to post a few low scores, too, failing to reach 20 in his three knocks against India. His critics will point to that lack of consistency, despite his abundant talents, as a perennial asterisk he has never been truly able to remove from his name.

A solid if unspectacular 91no in the first match of the Pakistan series, part of a 172 run partnership with Finch, reminded selectors of his ability. As did a timely 61 off 68 balls as the whitewash was completed.

Mitchell Marsh could well miss out.
Mitchell Marsh could well miss out.

But the ongoing search for team balance and the demand for those more suited to acceleration than consolidation works against him.

Handscomb has a shallower body of work on which to make his own case.

He was perceived as a Test specialist as recently as 12 months ago. But since that time has won the JLT One Day Cup with Victoria and played his part in Melbourne Star's run to the BBL final.

His most compelling audition for a World Cup spot came with his contribution to Australia's comeback series win over India.

Proactive against spin, effectively using the sweep - and at times clever chips - he was able to keep the scoreboard ticking via boundaries and hard running.

Handscomb and Marsh have enjoyed success together at Test level in the past.
Handscomb and Marsh have enjoyed success together at Test level in the past.

He followed up a match defining 117 - his maiden ODI ton, in an Australian record run chase - with a breezy half century in the series levelling win in Mohali when promoted to first drop, after Marsh was left out.

His form in Pakistan has been less decisive. An unbeaten 30 to guide the team home in the first match and 47 off 43 in the third were valuable contributions. Though underwhelming single figure scores in the last two matches might have sowed seeds of doubt at a crucial time in selectors' deliberations.

Also likely to be discussed when his name is raised, and a genuine asset, is his ability to act as back-up wicketkeeper should something happen to Alex Carey.

With neither man realistically slated for a starting position in the XI with a fully fit group to chose from, Marsh could yet be viewed as a more reliable back up should one of the big guns fail.

Though with Finch and Khawaja in rude health and Warner, in particular, looking like he hasn't missed a beat on returning from his ban, that may be an unnecessary consideration.

Marsh has done little wrong, but circumstances appear to conspiring against him.

News Corp Australia


150 gather to celebrate Gympie family reunion

premium_icon 150 gather to celebrate Gympie family reunion

Family share fascinating history of their ancestors

What to do if you think you’ve been underpaid

premium_icon What to do if you think you’ve been underpaid

One in five workers are being underpaid

Vulnerable Gympie dental patients are being forced to travel

premium_icon Vulnerable Gympie dental patients are being forced to travel

Private Hospital closure leaves local dentists without theatre