Why Polarizing Mitchell Marsh Should Be Australia’s Next Captain In White Ball Cricket

Last month, Mitchell Marsh was supposed to be in Dallas helping headline Major League Cricket’s launch in the U.S. as the star player for Seattle Orcas.

Instead, the 31-year-old unexpectedly was called upon mid-series as Australia attempted to win the Ashes outright in the U.K. for the first time in 22 years.

In a surprise to many, Marsh, who once famously stated that “most of Australia hate me”, made the most of an injury to fellow West Australian Cameron Green to plunder a scintillating century on day one of the third Test.

Such the devastation of his innings, where he provided England with a taste of their own ‘Bazball’ medicine, Marsh retained his position as Australia’s allrounder – eventually at the expense of the much-touted 24-year-old Green.

Marsh ended the series as Australia’s preferred No.6 and should have the inside running to keep his position for the home summer. No one could have predicted this for Marsh, whose resurrection continued after he was named as Australia’s T20 skipper for their upcoming tour of South Africa.

After the retirement of T20 World Cup winning skipper Aaron Finch, Australia has a dearth of leadership options in white ball cricket but the vacuum could be filled by the charismatic Marsh, who has long polarized fans.

His appointment for the South Africa tour appears an audition for next year’s T20 World Cup in the U.S. and Caribbean and potentially the ODI team with current 50-over skipper Pat Cummins possibly set to relinquish the reins after the upcoming World Cup.

Marsh seems the right choice for both roles having become a regular white-ball player in recent years. He can help transition the team between eras as they start moving away from the likes of veteran David Warner and possibly several aging quicks.

Apart from an intoxicating all-round skill-set, his muscular batting can change a game within minutes and his towering frame conjures handy seam bowling, Marsh’s popularity and upbeat demeanour makes him a beloved dressing room figure.

In the docuseries The Test, chronicling Australia’s 2019 tour of England where he critiqued the unkind sentiments of his compatriots, Marsh had a scene stealing performance complete with air guitar and an unmistakable humility underlined by organizing coffee runs.

It’s little wonder his teammates enjoy having him around. Those characteristics are why in 2017 Justin Langer backed the then 25-year-old Marsh as captain of Western Australia.

The elevation had been panned by some given Marsh experienced some off-field trouble in his early years and struggled to fulfil his enormous potential. But Langer’s gut instinct proved correct.

Marsh’s composed leadership made an immediate impact and he inspired WA to a domestic 50-over title in 2017. “I’m a pretty relaxed person,” he told me at the time. “I like to remain positive and see a positive in every situation, certainly when we’re in the field.”

He’s been a favorite too for reporters, who have often been left baffled by Marsh’s dire public standing given his natural charisma in front of the camera, where he always sports a disarming smile.

But, perhaps Shane Watson aside, there hasn’t been a more mocked Australian player than him. It might well to do with – much like Watson a decade earlier – Marsh being hailed at a young age as Australia’s all-rounder saviour.

Even well before his First-Class career started, giddiness swirled around Perth about this teenaged prodigy who smashed a double ton against hardened adult cricketers in the local league.

He was bred from WA cricket royalty – his dad Geoff was a former Test opener and national team coach, while older brother Shaun made his Shield debut at 17 and long hyped as the next big thing.

All eyes were on Marsh when he arrived on the state scene with new WA coach Mickey Arthur doing little to temper the excitement.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself when I say it but I can only think of Jacques Kallis,” ex-South Africa coach Arthur beamed of Marsh in 2010, comparing him to legendary all-rounder Kallis.

Marsh was probably on a hiding to nothing from there and he inevitably didn’t live up to that standard although injuries didn’t help.

He became a well-worn punching bag – much like Shaun – for critics viewed Marsh as an underachiever whose only true talent seemed to lie in clinging to his spot in the Australian team because of nepotism.

But Marsh hasn’t let all of that weigh him down and eventually things started to turn as he entered his peak years.

Defying his critics who thought he was merely fool’s gold, Mitchell Marsh might just make them look rather foolish if he is entrusted with leading Australia’s white ball teams into a new era.