Mitchell Marsh is hitting the ball “better than anyone” ahead of the T20 World Cup and looms as the X-factor that could lift Australia to a maiden trophy and keep run machine Steve Smith sidelined in Saturday’s tournament opener against South Africa.
Teammates have been left in awe of the all-rounder’s power hitting in training ahead of the World Cup having grabbed his chance while starring at No.3 in the batting order on white-ball tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh.
The No.3 spot in the T20 team has been Smith’s, but the superstar batter was picked just twice by Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting when the Indian Premier League resumed, having baulked at the white-ball tours where Marsh dominated.
Australian great Shane Warne didn’t pick Smith in his best Australian team for the World Cup, and legendary captain Allan Border has also thrown his support behind Marsh.
Glenn Maxwell, a walk-up at No.4 in the Australian order after making the IPL team of the tournament batting in that spot, said Marsh could be in a for a “massive” World Cup.
“I think Mitchell Marsh is going to have a massive tournament. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone hit the ball better – ever,” Maxwell said.
“We all gathered around his nets and just watch him hit the ball – it’s been pretty extraordinary to watch him go about his business at the moment. I’d be really surprised if he didn’t have a good tournament.
“His presence around the group, regardless of what he’s doing, is second to none. He’s the guy everyone wants in the team – he’s flying at the moment.”
Border told Fox Sports Australia that Australia needed the “power hitting of Mitch Marsh” but conceded Smith would be “hard to leave out”.
Marsh made three 50s in five T20s against the West Indies in July, then punched out scores of 45, 45 and 51 in low-scoring affairs in Bangladesh. He was Australia’s leading run scorer across the two series by some way, scoring 377 runs – 200 more than any other Australian
The right-hander also scored 24 from 15 balls in Australia’s opening T20 World Cup warm-up win over New Zealand, coming in early after David Warner’s first-ball duck.
Maxwell has predicted big runs at the top of the order will be crucial at the World Cup that is being played at the same venues as the IPL in the United Arab Emirates.
That could make the power hitting of Marsh more crucial than Smith’s capacity to control a run chase.
“It’s not like I suppose other places around the world where you can cash in later on. I think it’s about cashing in at the front end and then try to hold off as long as possible,” Maxwell said.
“I don’t think it’s going to be (scores in the) 220s and 230s that people have come to expect from small grounds like Sharjah.
“But if someone gets in from the Powerplay and gets going, anything can happen because if you get used to conditions, you can certainly make the most of them and dominate a team.”
Australia opens its World Cup campaign against South Africa on Saturday.
Oct 23 v South Africa in Abu Dhabi (2pm local time, 9pm AEDT)
Oct 28 v Qualifier A1 in Dubai (6pm local time, 1am Oct 29 AEDT)
Oct 30 v England in Dubai (6pm local time, 1am Oct 31 AEDT)
Nov 4 v Qualifier B2 in Dubai (2pm local time, 9pm AEDT)
Nov 6 v West Indies in Abu Dhabi (2pm local time, 9pm AEDT)