ICC World Cup: Mitchell carries Marsh name back to Eden for semi-final

The Australian allrounder’s father was part of Allan Border’s team which won the 1987 World Cup at Kolkata's famed cricket venue

Mitchell Marsh receives his Baggy Green cap from father Geoff Marsh in 2014 (photo: Getty Images)
Mitchell Marsh receives his Baggy Green cap from father Geoff Marsh in 2014 (photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The surname Marsh is set to strike a chord among old-timers at Eden Gardens when Australia take on South Africa in the second World Cup semi-final on Thursday. Mitchell Marsh, their dashing allrounder, will certainly want to leave his footprint at a venue where his father Geoff Marsh was a member of Allan Border’s team which held aloft the Reliance World Cup back in 1987. 

Nearly 36 years have elapsed since Australia pipped England to the post by seven runs in a thrilling day final here, winning the first of their five titles in the 50-over cup so far. Two years back, ‘Mitch’ went on to emulate his dad when they became the first father-son duo to be involved in winning World Cup finals for their country, his moment of glory coming against New Zealand in the 2021 T20 World Cup in Dubai.

There is a big gap between the cup and the lip before Mitchell can equal his father’s feat in this format, but the current form of the Australia no. 3 holds some promise of fireworks at the historic venue. Only on Saturday, he threatened to run Glenn Maxwell’s superhuman feat close when his hurricane 177 not out helped his team chase down a target of 307 against Bangladesh in Pune. An innings studded with 17 fours and nine sixes, which puts the Aussie in eighth position among the top 10 run-getters in the tournament.

There is only one gear that Marsh junior knows how to bat in, though he later sheepishly admitted that he was only trying to make amends for slipping up in bowling when he went for 48 runs off only four overs. A tougher challenge awaits against the powerful South African bowling line-up just in case there is an early loss of either of the openers, but the younger of Marsh sons can’t wait for the semis to begin.     

‘’Yeah, we’re really excited. Semi-finals, I think you look back to the start of the World Cup and a nine one-day game seems like a long way away. With the amount of improvement with all cricket teams around the world, there’s been not one easy game so to get to the semi-finals is great — but yeah, we’re very excited about what lies ahead and the challenge that’s ahead of us,’’ the ‘Mr Popular’ of Australian team said at the post-match media briefing on Saturday. 

There are no prizes for guessing that the approach to batting has been like chalk-and-cheese between Geoff and Mitchell, a big draw in the franchise cricket ecosystem. The question came up when, after their first win in the tournament against Sri Lanka, Sunil Gavaskar asked the Australian if his opener father had taught him to play down the ground. "I'm just making up for his poor strike rate," a tongue-in-cheek Marsh said, referring to his father’s 55.73 across 117 matches in ODI cricket. 

A disconcerting feature of Australia’s campaign, despite their turnaround, had been the manner in which their famed pace trio has often come in for a bit of stick. The Proteas mustered 311/7 during their league clash while lesser teams like Bangladesh and Afghanistan had posted totals in the region of 300, not to speak of the scare New Zealand gave them in pursuit of a mammoth 389.  

Asked to explain if Australia as a bowling unit has been a bit off-colour, Marsh explained: "There’s been some really flat wickets and some small grounds. I didn’t realise how small this one was, even though I played here a little bit. There’s a lot of good teams out there, a lot of teams have chased down big totals so I think it’s about having a mentality to keep taking wickets but understanding that when guys get on top — that that’s going to happen at this level and whatever’s put in front of us, we try and chase it down."  

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