LONDON: Mitchell Marsh says he feels for Shane Watson, the man he replaced in the Australian team for the second Ashes Test, explaining that “the amount that he cops back home” made the sideshow around which all-rounder would play at Lord’s difficult to cope with.
The 23-year-old displaced Watson for the second time at international level this year, having taken his spot during the World Cup only for the more experienced player to be recalled for Australia’s very next game.
Barring injury the likelihood of that happening in this English summer does not appear great, particularly if Marsh can continue to perform with the ball as he did on Saturday, taking the key wickets of England captain Alastair Cook and all-rounder Ben Stokes, and contribute with the bat.
The fact that he was gunning for Watson’s spot in the Test side, however, does not make Marsh feel any more comfortable with how the much-maligned 34-year-old is spoken about by sections of the public.
He said the narrative about whether Watson would be dropped or not after the first Test in Cardiff had been challenging for him over the past week.
“It was quite tough to be honest because, for me, I’ve just got so much respect for Shane and he’s someone who I really enjoy working with and watching him do what he does,” Marsh said.
“Although sometimes he cops a bad rap he’s been a very good player for Australia over a number of years and to do what he’s done over 60 Test or however many he has played is a fantastic effort. And he’s always played a part in winning teams for Australia.
“To be honest it was really hard to see the amount that he cops back home. I just want to do well and hopefully I can keep contributing to this team.”
It’s not the first time Marsh has been caught up in a Watson selection saga. He had been brought into the XI for the World Cup group stage match against Afghanistan in Perth in March, a selection that was widely interpreted as a permanent one. But Watson won his place back days later against Sri Lanka in Sydney, with selectors explaining conditions were behind his recall, and remained in the side as they went all the way to collect the trophy.
“It was obviously very tough at the time to be left out at that stage of a World Cup,” Marsh said. “And at end of the day if I’m being honest it was probably the right decision to go with Shane with all his experience in one-day cricket.
“I got a medal around my neck and that’s all that mattered. I was a part of that (squad of) 15 just as much as anyone else in that team, or that’s what it felt like. I thought the right decisions were made throughout the World Cup.”
Watson’s more controlled bowling was said to have edged him over the line for selection in Cardiff after Marsh scored back-to-back hundreds in the pre-series tour games against Kent and Essex. Australia’s bowling coach Craig McDermott has described the West Australian’s bowling as a work in progress and Marsh is determined to ensure that side of his game squares up with his batting.
“I’ve always seen myself as a batter and my bowling has been a bonus but we know at this level if you want to be playing as an allrounder you need to be pretty equal,” Marsh said.
“I’ve said it many times before my bowling is something I’m working on and want to keep improving.”
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