Shaun Marsh has the confidence of knowing he almost certainly will play before his home crowd in Perth next week but the walls on his Test career are closing in after his dismal dismissal against India on Friday.
Marsh's year of woe in the traditional format continued as Australia's top order crumbled on day two of the first Test despite the tourists' fast bowlers struggling to consistently attack the stumps.
At 35 and as the elder batsman in an uncertain top six that has had 18 different combinations in the past 23 Tests, Marsh could muster only two off 19 balls before he unnecessarily slashed at a wide delivery from master spinner Ravi Ashwin six balls after lunch.
This has left a man who has befuddled so many in the cricketing world because of his inconsistency with only 163 runs at 12.5 in his past 13 innings since his 156 against England in Sydney in the New Year's Test in January.
Shaun Marsh leaves the field after being dismissed for two in Adelaide on Friday.Credit:AAP
A closer examination reveals major issues, for he has failed to reach double figures in his past six innings (top score of seven) and has only done so twice in his past 10 knocks.
He averaged 3.5 in two Tests against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and only 18.37 in eight innings in South Africa during the tumultuous tour there in March but saved his spot with strong form in the Sheffield Shield and a century against the Proteas in a one-day international in Hobart.
He almost certainly will have a chance to redeem himself in the second innings in Adelaide but there are concerns Ashwin has a mental hold on him, having dismissed the left-hander five times at an average of 28.
There are also questions as to whether he should be at No. 4 – the position former skipper Steve Smith had held before his suspension.
Marsh averages only 22.76 in 13 innings in the prime batting spot, compared to 42.54 with two centuries in 22 innings at No. 5 and even 38.55 in 10 innings as an opener.
This is Australia's least experienced top seven in their 429 Tests since World Series Cricket – and there were hopes Marsh would provide the veteran nous required against an Indian attack regarded as the best the touring nation has brought to Australia.
Marsh came to the crease at 2-45 after Marcus Harris' promising debut ended but in his 35th Test he again sparked debate about his spot in the side.
Australian cricket's favourite whipping boy was trending on social media almost as soon as he was dismissed.
The national selectors have picked a squad to play in Adelaide and Perth, so Marsh appears assured of retaining his spot, unless he is surprisingly replaced by his brother Mitch, who was axed in Adelaide and sent to Melbourne to find form in the Sheffield Shield before rejoining the Test squad next week.
While there will be calls for him to be dropped, the lack of pressure from rivals in the Shield means there are no obvious candidates to replace him.
Heading into the latest round of matches, Marsh had been the fourth-leading run-scorer, with 443 runs at 88.6 in three Shield matches.
Former Test gloveman Matthew Wade and state teammate Alex Doolan, the latter having played the last of his four Tests four years ago, have been in fine form, while Queenslander Joe Burns is another option depending on the make-up of the order. Victorian Glenn Maxwell had hoped to press his case on Friday but was unluckily run-out at the non-striker's end by WA paceman Matthew Kelly who had just dropped a caught-and-bowled chance in his follow through.
Marsh's struggles could not have come at a worse time for the Western Australian Cricket Association, for he could be the only local player on show when Perth's new stadium hosts its maiden Test match next week.
Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts has said ticket sales are not tracking well, and Marsh's troubles are unlikely to help rectify this.
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