Batting legend Ricky Ponting has called for both Marsh brothers to be retained in Australia’s playing XI for the Test series opener against India next month.
On Monday (November 26), Ponting named his playing XI for the first Test in Adelaide – starting December 6 – saying that Australian team management should go with the opening combination of Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris. He pushed the left-hander Usman Khawaja to No. 3 spot despite his success as an opener against Pakistan in UAE last month. Khawaja had aggregated 229 runs at an incredible average of 76.33 while opening the innings in UAE.
"Victoria don't want to break up their opening partnership – I think they should for Aaron Finch's benefit," Ponting told cricket.com.au. "I think they should let him open for one game and slide Travis Dean down. Just to give him red ball (practice) opening the batting before he goes into the Test match.
"If the coach asked Aaron Finch where he'd rather bat, I'm sure he'd say he'd want to open. Finch is a bit of an anomaly really that the last few years he's done most of his batting for Victoria in the middle order. Then because they go to the UAE where conditions probably weren't going to be that new-ball friendly they gave him the chance to open. So he deserves to stay in the team and open.
"He's had a lot of success around the world opening the batting in T20s and one day internationals – if he can go in with a similar mindset and not worry too much about opening the batting in a Test match in Australia against the red ball, I'm sure he'll have some success."
Ponting also believes Australia should hand a Test cap to Harris, who has been prolific in four Shield games this season, amassing 437 runs at an astonishing average of 87.
"I remember when he first came into the WA (Western Australia) side, speaking to Justin Langer about him and he thought he was potentially an Australian player in the making," Ponting explained.
"Things didn't really work out for him in WA (but) he decides to move to Victoria and his last few seasons have been very good. No batsmen have really dominated domestic Sheffield Shield cricket over the last few years but if you look at the numbers and the way he's performed this year, he deserves his chance to be opening the batting."
Talking about Khawaja, Ponting said: "I've been a huge fan of Khawaja's for a long time, probably outspokenly so, a lot of people have been quite critical of him over the years."
"Sometimes there's guys you just have to stick with, you just have to pick them and give them a go. I know he had a bad run in the subcontinent but so did I, for the first part of my career.
"Suddenly you start to work it out and like he showed in the UAE, he played one of the all-time great rear-guard innings an Australian has ever played. Let's hope it's the making of him, not just for this summer but for the next five or so years," he further opined.
Ponting offers a vote of confidence for Marsh brothers, who have had a horrific series against Pakistan in UAE. While Shaun scored 14 runs in two Tests at an average of 3.50, Mitchell made 30 runs at 7.50. Nonetheless, Ricky put Shaun to bat at No.4 and placed the younger Marsh to No.6. South Australia’s Travis Head gets Ponting’s tick of approval at 5. The southpaw was one of only three Australian batsmen to average more than 30 against Pakistan in UAE.
As expected, there were no surprises in Ricky Ponting’s bowling line-up as he picked Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood for the Adelaide Test.
"They've just got to pick their best batting line-up, simple as that. Don't worry if they're all left-handed or if they're all right-handed. They've got to find guys who are good consistent run-scorers, not just now, but there's an Ashes series not far away and they need to show some faith in who they believe are the right people," Ponting concluded.
Ponting's Australia XI for the Adelaide Test:
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (c/wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.