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How Mitchell Marsh turned hate into love

by Rohit Sankar 4 minute read

Mitchell Marsh’s starring role in the final of the T20 World Cup is a redemption tale like few others, but it didn’t come out of the blue, writes Rohit Sankar.

There’s nothing sports fans love more than a good ol’ cliche-ridden redemption tale. Two years ago, smiling end-to-end in a press conference shortly after picking up a five-wicket haul in an Ashes Test, Mitchell Marsh quipped, “Yeah, most of Australia hate me.

“Australians are very passionate, they love their cricket, they want people to do well. There’s no doubt I’ve had a lot of opportunity at Test level and I haven’t quite nailed it, but hopefully they can respect me for the fact I keep coming back and I love playing for Australia. Hopefully I’ll win them over one day.”


Two years on, in the searing heat of Dubai, Marsh played a defining knock in a T20 World Cup final to take Australia to a title in the shortest format of the game.

It wasn’t a bolt from the blue that no one saw coming, though. Ask Glenn Maxwell, his partner in those last few moments of the final, who before the start of the World ACup declared that “Mitch Marsh is going to have a massive tournament”. Maxwell added that “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone hit the ball better, ever”.

Justin Langer and Australia were playing with fire when they promoted Marsh to No.3 right before the T20 World Cup on the tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh. Marsh produced two stellar series, returning as the top run-getter in both even as his teammates struggled to put bat on ball.

While those two series had several missing senior players, Marsh continued in the No.3 role even as they returned for the marquee tournament, shoving someone of the stature of Steve Smith into the middle-order. It was a huge gamble, one that even Australia weren’t too sure of apparently.

Two games into the tournament, Marsh was dropped for the match against arch-rivals England, but a thumping loss there possibly put the team on course correction mode and Marsh was back at No.3 against Bangladesh. Walking in at 58-1 in a run chase of 74 with Australia looking to up their net run rate, Marsh muscled a pull for four off Shoriful Islam first ball.

Surely not the most important boundary of the World Cup, but that intent wasn’t a one-off that was spurred by the low target or the requirement to boost the net run rate. Marsh’s role in the side was well-defined: he had to cut loose against pace in the powerplay and wade through spin, his weakness.

In the final, chasing 173, Marsh walked in to face Adam Milne’s scorching pace. The first three balls disappeared for six, four and four and the run-chase was well and truly kicking. Against Anrich Nortje, in Australia’s first game of the tournament, Marsh walked in to face high pace, flashed at one and missed first up, but smashed the next 146 kph full ball through the leg-side with a delicate flick.

Marsh’s biggest challenge came in the game against West Indies when he got no pace on the ball with Akeal Hosein, Dwayne Bravo and Hayden Walsh bowling in tandem. Spin was a perennial headache for Marsh – he strikes at a rate of 105.7 against spin and 142.8 against pace in T20s – but he has steadily showed signs of improvement.

The all-rounder has religiously worked on his game against spin so much so that Adam Zampa, a tense watcher from the dressing room that the cameras often pan on, confessed before the tournament that he was now comfortable watching Marsh bat against spin.

His extraordinary intent separated him from the rest of the batting line-up. “To be brutally honest, I have just practiced hitting sixes,” Marsh said after he slammed a hundred in the opening game of the Marsh Cup back home two months ago, going on to state that he would continue practicing to hit sixes in training before the tournament in UAE.

No one batting from No.3 to No.7 has made more T20I runs (627 runs at 36.9 and a strike-rate of 130) this year than Marsh. He benefits from having played 21 matches, but that is a testament to the trust Australia now have in Marsh in this format. Having made his T20I in 2011, the following nine years had only seen him make 15 appearances.

Australia’s management now have faith, and so should the side’s fans. He’s surely won them over now.

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