Marsh given second bite at Test career

CRICKET

The script wasn't meant to go this way for Shaun Marsh.

By now he was supposed to have played in 30-odd Tests and scored half-a-dozen or so hundreds.

By now he was supposed to be firmly entrenched as Australia's No 3, the new Ricky Ponting.

They were the kind of expectations raised by a sparkling century on Test debut in Sri Lanka in September 2011.

A new Test star had been, belatedly, born.

If only the story had been that simple for Marsh.

Back in the Australian squad for next month's Test series against South Africa, he is unexpectedly again in the running to reclaim a top-order position.

He played the last of his seven Tests two years ago, the confidence of that 141 on debut utterly eroded with scores of 0, 0, 3, 0, 11, 3 and 0. While most of his Australian teammates were riding high with a 4-0 series win over India, Marsh was lost.

"I was in a pretty bad space to be honest with you," he said yesterday.

"It was a terrible series for me and I never thought I'd get back to where I am now at that stage. I had to go back to the basics, I had to start from scratch."

He did that with the guidance of Justin Langer, who was Australia's batting coach in Marsh's maiden Test series in Sri Lanka and who, a year later, took over a dysfunctional Western Australia where the left-hander was just part of a wider malaise.

A succession of alcohol-related episodes, the latest in late 2012 which saw Marsh relegated to grade cricket, threatened to destroy his prospects of a fruitful Test career for good.

"I had a few distractions away from cricket, which you just can't have when you're playing for Australia," he said.

"I knew I had to change my lifestyle. I knew what I was doing wasn't helping my cricket at all. I've been lucky now, I've got a great partner now who has been a real rock for me over the last two years and helped me out. I've got good people back home and obviously here with 'Boof' [Australian coach Darren Lehmann], who has been fantastic."

Marsh, 30, forged a bond with Lehmann while at Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League, where the Australian team mentor was coaching.

Lehmann and the other selectors clearly see something in Marsh beyond his numbers. With 675 first-class runs at an average of only 25 since he was dropped two years ago, there were other more appealing contenders for the South Africa tour.

"They [selectors] have obviously shown a huge amount of faith in me. It'd be nice to reward them with a few runs in South Africa if I get a chance to play," he said.

"When John [Inverarity] rang me on Saturday night I couldn't believe it, really. To get this opportunity again is amazing. I'm very grateful for it."

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