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Marsh the masochist has Australia needing to use its Head

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At a certain point, you have to start wondering if he enjoys it.

It's a difficult theory to entertain, but then again the mind of a masochist can be hard to understand for those who don't share their tendencies. Maybe, for some reason known only to himself, Shaun Marsh absolutely loves being abused by people on Twitter.

External Link: Match summary

Far-fetched as it may be, it nearly seems more logical than the alternative — that in the first over after lunch, with the score at 2-59, the most experienced batsman in this Australian team would play a slashing, cross-bat drive to a ball that didn't come close to warranting it, and drag it on.

In a match loaded with woefully poor shots, Marsh's entry into the contest was a doozy, only made worse by his reputation as a player who is liable to do something exactly that dumb in such a situation.

The Marsh discussion is quite possibly the most boring in Australian cricket nowadays. Everybody has their position on the matter, which is usually guided by how far west you reside, and absolutely nobody is shifting from it. It's a little bit strange just how angry some can get about it, but that's what social media and caps lock does to people.

But it's not difficult to see why it remains such a nagging talking point. This is a player who has operated on potential for the entirety of his career, who has offered tantalising glimpses of world-class quality but more often has disappointed, and who is now being relied upon as an experienced head in a team in desperate need of one.

Shaun Marsh trudges off

His list of recent Test scores — 2, 4, 3, 0, 7, 7 — has fluttered its way around the internet and makes for dreary reading, but equally as frustrating is the fact he has scores of 163*, 98, 81 and 80 for WA and an ODI 106 for Australia to his name from just the last month and a bit alone.

Shaun Marsh can bat. He knows it, the selectors know it, probably even those who deride him know it. But when he's off, he's miles off, and it's the team that inevitably suffers.

In that sense, it might be a little unfair to single him out in yet another disappointing batting effort from the Australians, as he was hardly a unique case. Aaron Finch's dismissal was more violent than Marsh's but no less irresponsible.

Peter Handscomb's new technique looked an awful lot like his old technique, even as television split screens tried to convince us otherwise, and his brief battle with the equally unorthodox Jasprit Bumrah resembled something out of a particularly low-budget and poorly animated cricket video game.

Marcus Harris was brought undone by tentativeness, as was Tim Paine, while Usman Khawaja found himself bogged down before getting a Ravi Ashwin beauty.

Aaron Finch plays a shot but misses the ball, which has split the stumps behind him

It was all so reminiscent of the day previous, sans one crucial element — the Cheteshwar Pujara innings to not only show the rest of the team how it's done, but to pull the score kicking and screaming from Defcon One to the relative security of a mere Defcon Four.

And so great relief would have been felt by Justin Langer and the selection panel as Travis Head, playing his first Test in this country and only his third overall, emerged as the steadier of the ship.

It was difficult to get a read on Head as a Test cricketer in what felt like a pre-season tour of the UAE, but Friday afternoon's rear-guard offered the first encouraging signs Australia may have found one in that number six position.

His technique is solid, his range of shots broad enough, his temperament evidently up to the task. In plain terms, he looks a good, solid, if unspectacular, Test middle-order batsman.

Australia batsman Travis Head drives in front of India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.

And my goodness, isn't that just what this team needs?

Merely reaching India's score on the third morning can hardly be considered a success, and then leaves Australia relying on the tourists making the same inexplicable mistakes again in the second innings. Not impossible, but certainly a waste of day one's good work.

But with what is one of the more handy Test tail-ends available, Head has an opportunity to take Australia beyond the par and back into the ascendency in a match that looks highly unlikely to call Cricket Australia's new "gold coin entry for all day fives" policy into action.

Australian fans, so frustrated with familiar failures, are desperate for new players to champion. On his home ground and with a glorious chance to launch a career and win a Test in front of him, all eyes will be on Head this morning.

External Link: Scorecard

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