The Marsh brothers will be back on home turf. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
The Marsh brothers will be back on home turf. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

West still believes in Marshes

IF you want to know what West Australian cricket folk think of the Marsh family you don't have to stop the man in the street.

Just go to Gate 8 at the WACA, turn left and you will see 52 photos lined up along the boundary wall featuring all of West Australia's Test players, from pioneer John Rutherford to recent inclusion Cam Bancroft and the likes of Dennis Lillee in between.

But before the walk of fame you get to the much more prominent walk of the Marshes, a giant billboard fastened along the side of the entrance where, under the banner "Creating history. Inspiring champions'' there are three massive action photos of Geoff Marsh and sons Mitchell and Shaun.

It was put there a couple of years ago and during that time the boys' careers have gone up, down, around the Cape of Good Hope, and back again.

At times the billboard seemed a bit grandiose but not to the locals who never said they admired the Marsh family in a Lillee-Adam Gilchrist sort of way. Just that they enjoyed their rough and tumble journey and the way they just keep battling away against frequent setback and relentless criticism.

There's always been the hope, however, the billboard could be prophetic and the boys would truly nail their international careers. Locals are hoping that day has arrived with Shaun and, in all likelihood Mitchell, to play in the third Ashes Test.

Shaun Marsh ahead of the last WACA test. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Shaun Marsh ahead of the last WACA test. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Steve Smith's declaration that Mitchell will return to Test cricket with softer hands than he left it is significant for he was often felt he used to be a batting Bam Bam who might use a sledgehammer to swat a mosquito. It's a key improvement.

Plenty of us (my hand's in the air) have criticised the Marshes over the years for failing to fulfil their substantial potential but there is another level of abjectly vicious criticism on social media normally reserved for the game's bad boys or true villains of which they are neither.

In many ways they are the most uncontroversial, controversial players. Shaun is so bashful that in early media interviews he could barely look the world in the eye.

Mitchell is the polar opposite, the playful extravert who bounces his way through life and all of its challenges with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

Mitchell Marsh has not quite lived up to expectation. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Mitchell Marsh has not quite lived up to expectation. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Mitchell's significant potential has teased Australia. When he captained Australia to an under-19 World Cup title his name had a gold star beside it.

He was the boy with a bullet and within a year or two he was tipped as the man who could captain Australia after Michael Clarke. But injuries, poor form and the occasional disciplinary lapse saw him slip from favour.

His fast-medium pace is more than presentable at Test level but Australia has always worried that when his young body pushed the speedometer past 140kph it was in danger of blowing a fuse.

A Test batting average of 21 was never quite up to it at No.6 but he now has the chance to spruce up those numbers.

So what's a pass mark for Mitchell Marsh? If he can average early 30s with the bat and take a wicket and half a Test then it could be happy days.

Australia is not chasing the new Keith Miller or Jacques Kallis.

Just because he's on the poster, Mitchell does not have to be a poster boy. A serviceable career could be a very precious one for Australia.



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