MITCH Marsh and Peter Handscomb are locked in a selection showdown, with the all-rounder knowing all too well the scrutiny faced by Australia’s incumbent No.5 batsman.
Marsh, who recently resumed bowling and earlier this season impressed selectors with his domestic form as a batsman, was rushed into Australia’s 13-man squad for the third Test that starts on Thursday.
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If the WACA pitch is flat and/or selectors are convinced that Handscomb is unable to fight his way out of a recent funk then Marsh will play alongside his brother next week.
Some pundits feel it is unfair for Handscomb to be under the pump after only two Tests. Marsh, who attracted plenty of criticism for failing to convert potential into performances while averaging 21.74 with the bat in 21 Tests, knows the score.
“I certainly have been there,” Marsh told reporters. “We’ve got a great relationship. Petey’s a great bloke, still averaging (almost) 50 in Test match cricket.
“In these situations you’re always going to come under scrutiny if you don’t get runs, but he’s a very good player.
“I’m sure if he gets another opportunity in the next Test match he’ll make runs.”
Selectors rate Marsh’s medium pace highly and are well aware of the risk of overcooking frontline quicks Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
The selection debate is likely to swirl until Steve Smith reveals his cards – either at the toss or Wednesday’s pre-match press conference.
“I wouldn’t be changing anything at the moment,” former captain Allan Border told Fox Sports.
“He (Handscomb) is a quality kid from what I understand and he seems like he’s pretty level-headed and has a bit of ‘get up and go’ about him.”
Michael Clarke, who led an unchanged side throughout a 5-0 thumping of England in 2013-14, also backed Handscomb.
“If I was in Steve Smith’s position I’d be fighting to keep the same XI,” Clarke told the Nine Network.