Despite his presence in and around state and international cricket for nearly four decades, Shaun Marsh leaves the game that was literally his life as something of an enigma.
Marsh, who today announced his immediate retirement from first class and one-day cricket four months shy of his 40th birthday, will rightly be remembered as a West Australian legend for having been the all-time leading runs scorer of any format of the state has taken the lead from his former teammate and coach Justin Langer.
But the prolific left-hander is also remembered for his roller-coaster ride through international ranks, where form failures and loss of fitness prevented him from making any long-term presence on Australian teams.
Few of his peers could claim to hit the ball through the ceiling or onto the floor more smoothly, but Marsh’s timing — whether it be a series of soft-tissue injuries or simply circumstance — was otherwise staggeringly absent.
As a result, some might see his return of 38 Tests (34.31 average) and 88 limited-overs for Australia as underperforming for a player of such undisputed quality and enduring longevity.
But the quiet-spoken father of three — as publicly shy as his younger brother Mitchell is gregarious — was loved by teammates for his steely resolve and feared by opponents, who found him in brutal full flight.
Seemingly destined for a baggy green cap since birth in 1983, Marsh is the first son of former Australian promoted Geoff ‘Swampy’ Marsh (and his wife Michelle), who spent many of his early years in the national team dressing rooms and with his Father.
His earliest cricket memory was watching his father at work as a five-year-old during the 1989 Ashes series in Britain, where Australia reclaimed the ballot box for the first time in a decade.
At the age of 16, the son of Swampy (known simply as ‘SoS’) was chosen as Ed Cowan’s opening partner for Australia at the 2000 U19 World Cup in Sri Lanka, in a team that included future test players Nathan Hauritz (captain) Shane included Watson, Mitchell Johnson and current men’s team coach Andrew McDonald.
Just under a year later, Marsh became the youngest player in almost 50 years to represent WA at Sheffield Shield level when he made his debut at the WACA Ground against South Australia aged 17 years and 236 days.
His captain in that game was Tom Moody, who had played for WA and Australia alongside Shaun’s father, while the rival skipper was Darren Lehmann, who later mentored Marsh as Australia manager.
Despite his pedigree, Marsh struggled to make a name for himself on a star-studded WA team until the summer of 2007-08, when he fought an undefeated 166 against Queensland for almost eight hours and finished the season with a 60-plus average.
He made his ODI debut for Australia a few months later against the West Indies in Jamaica, where his 81 ball from 97 earned him the Player of the Match award, but it would be another four years before he earned a Test call-up.
It came as ex-skipper Ricky Ponting returned home during the 2011 series in Sri Lanka and after being thrown to the crucial number three batting position in his first Test, Marsh scored a memorable 141 to become the 14th Australian men’s player who’s gone a century in their first innings.
But the 12 months that followed became something of a miniature sketch of the rest of Marsh’s international career.
After retaining his spot (at the expense of Usman Khawaja) when Ponting returned for the final Test of the season, Marsh improved his standing to 81 in Colombo only to find himself off the team two games later.
In what would become a pattern in subsequent years, Marsh succumbed to injury at a crucial time when a back problem prevented him from playing in his number three role during the disastrous 47-all-out loss to South Africa in Cape Town.
It began a downward spiral for Marsh, who was recalled for the four Test home series against India in 2011-12, where his return of 17 carries (2.83 average) from six innings saw his tenure end and mark his card from skeptics who doubted his credentials.
A few off-field errors coupled with diminishing on-field returns saw the then 29-year-old dropped from WA’s red and white-ball teams and his cricket life on the line until Langer died Rein at WACA took over at the end of 2012.
After taking over as coach, Langer’s first business appointment was a visit to the Marsh family home, where he bluntly told Shaun – in front of his former team-mate and Australian coach Geoff – that his future as a WA player could not be guaranteed.
“I spoke to his parents and his manager (Stephen Atkinson) and just told him because I’ve known Shaun since he was a year old,” Langer said cricket.com.au in 2014.
“I said to him, ‘I will continue to love you, I will continue to hug you, but you can no longer be in the organization if you continue down this path’.”
Langer’s words were heard and his faith rewarded as Marsh not only reclaimed his spot in WA’s starting XI but was recalled to Australia’s ODI team at the end of the Ashes summer of 2013/14 and then included in the Test squad for the subsequent tour of South Africa .
The calf injury (which would become a recurring problem) meant he was cruelly sidelined when the South Africa tour group embarked, but when Watson was ruled out of the first Test, Marsh was skimmed and two days later he posted a game high of 148 on a brutally sharp Centurion pitch.
It was the kind of knock fewer careers were sustained on, but Marsh returned a pair of ducks in the next Test and was off the team by the end of the series.
From then until his final Test against India at SCG in January 2019, Marsh’s total of 29 out of a possible 52 Tests played by Australia underscored his troubled tenure within the team.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this dizzying selection problem better than his record-breaking 449-run quarter wicket streak with Adam Voges against the West Indies at Hobart in 2015, from which Marsh contributed 182 balls from 266 balls.
By the time the starting line-up for the next Test against the same opponent at MCG was set a fortnight later, Marsh had lost his place to Khawaja, whose hamstring strain had opened the door for his fellow left-hander earlier in the summer.
It was to be eight months and seven Tests before Marsh was recalled – again in place of Khawaja – and he duly scored Australia’s first individual century of his impoverished 2016 Sri Lanka tour, only to be eliminated with a broken finger two games later.
He finally looked to have secured a place after centuries of scoring in Adelaide (126) and Sydney (156) during the Ashes triumph in Australia in 2017-18, but a series of mediocre results in South Africa and then the United Arab Emirates (after Langer took the lead). national coaching position) put him in danger again.
Although Marsh made his last Test in 2019 and was pushed out of Australia’s ODI team for the last time after breaking his arm at the World Cup that same year, Marsh has remained a force in domestic cricket.
He was voted Hometown Men’s Player of the Year by his peers at the Australian Cricket Awards for 2019–20 and 2020–21.
And last summer he realized a burning career dream by leading WA to their first Marsh Sheffield Shield title since 1998-99 and celebrating the first such triumph of his senior season in Perth.
“It was quite emotional,” he said after his team’s tie final against Victoria at WACA last year, which broke Shield’s 23-year drought.
“I shed a few tears and I think the reality of what was going to happen was beginning to sink in.”
At the age of 38 and after winning the Shield-One Day Cup doubles with WA, Marsh openly considered retiring but ultimately decided to extend his contract by a year after discussions with current coach Voges.
However, recovery from off-season knee surgery meant a late start to the season, which was further delayed when he suffered a calf strain that prevented him from playing until January this year, and then a thigh strain after his first appearances in the BBL| 12.
Marsh showed just how destructive he can be despite his advanced years and a frail physique when he hit an unbeaten 82-of-53 in the final game of the summer for the Melbourne Renegades, with whom he remains under contract for another season.
But in what would be the last of his 183 top-flight games over 22 years, he suffered another broken finger trying to catch a low slip against South Australia in Adelaide last month and was sacked for one and 16 as WA slumped a rare shield loss.
Given that he’s faced bigger and steeper vicissitudes than most in his lifelong cricket journey, perhaps it was destined to end this way.
https://www.cricket.com.au/news/shaun-marsh-retirement-western-australia-first-class-one-day-cricket/2023-03-10 WA Great Marsh is calling time for a roller coaster ride