Mitchell Marsh has revealed a hidden family tragedy was behind his “horrific” run after being named vice-captain of the Aussie Test side.
Australian cricketer Mitchell Marsh has revealed a hidden family tragedy that marred his only series as vice-captain of the national Test team.
The infamous ball-tampering scandal crippled the Australian cricket team in 2018, but it opened the door for Marsh to assert his authority as a leading figure within the Test side.
With Steve Smith and David Warner banned from the sport, the younger Marsh brother was appointed joint vice-captain of the Test team in their absence.
Just six months earlier, the West Australian had finally cemented his place in the national outfit with an Ashes century at the WACA, his home ground.
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Australia’s first Test tour after the Cape Town saga was a two-match series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, and Marsh was tasked with batting at No. 4. But his first series as vice-captain was less rewarding than Marsh would have hoped, with the all-rounder receiving some heartbreaking news ahead of the first match in Dubai.
A close friend had tragically taken his own life.
“My good mate Jarvo, who was dating my cousin at the time, unfortunately got to a point in his life where that was the only option for him and it was extremely sad at the time,” Marsh told broadcaster Mark Howard on The Howie Games podcast.
“To get that news probably a week out from the first Test was very tough to deal with.
“I sort of felt guilty at that time being away from my family, being away from my cousin, and it was just unfathomable that he was gone, and I was away from home.
“If I’d had my time again, I definitely would have gone home, but I’d just been announced as vice-captain of the Test team; a huge honour.
“We had a reasonably young and different squad, so I really wanted to be there. And I was going to be batting at No. 4 that series, so in my head I was like, ‘It’s too good of an opportunity to give up’.
“I didn’t sleep for a whole week, going through something like that. Everyone deals with it differently, but I just couldn’t sleep, had a lot of thoughts running through my head.”
During a warm-up match against Pakistan A, Marsh cracked 17 boundaries and top-scored for the Australians with 162 from 298 balls.
But in the brutal conditions of the subcontinent, his heart went into atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that causes poor blood blow.
“Stupidly I didn’t even go off after that, because I just wanted to be playing cricket for Australia,” Marsh explained.
“I think all the stress and lack of sleep contributed to that, and then a couple of days later went into a Test match. And obviously my performances in that Test series were horrific.”
Horrific was putting it lightly.
Marsh finished the series with 30 runs to his name, averaging 7.50 with the bat and mustering a top score of 13. Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas tormented the right-hander, trapping him in front LBW on three occasions in four innings.
While Australia’s bowlers struggled to unearth swing or seam on the lifeless decks, Abbas rolled through the tourists with his subtle variation and relentless precision.
“Abbas seemed to have the ability to seam the ball on probably the flattest wicket of all time, and was all over me,” Marsh confessed.
“I’ve just got this distinct memory of fielding at deep point on the day of Jarvo’s funeral, and just thinking, ‘Is this all worth it? What am I doing here?’”
Australia ultimately lost the series 1-0, with Usman Khawaja’s heroics on day five of the first Test the lone highlight.
After serving as vice-captain for two matches, Marsh was brutally axed ahead of Australia’s next Test series against India on home soil, dropped for Victorian batter Peter Handscomb — the very player he had replaced 12 months earlier.
Marsh has only played two Test matches since.
“That sort of mentality sort of went throughout that whole summer. You come back into Australia and you’re under the pump,” he said.
“That was a very tough summer for me, both away from cricket dealing with something like that, and then on the field obviously I wasn’t performing, which made it tougher.”
Last month, Marsh was named in Australia’s 15-player squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup, which gets underway on Saturday, October 23.