Marsh puts friendship before fortune

Mitchell Marsh will forego a potential blockbuster pay day to join childhood friends and acclimatise to English conditions at Surrey

Mitchell Marsh has cited Australia’s upcoming Ashes and World Cup double in 2019 as the reason why he will forego the potential riches of the Indian Premier League to instead ply his trade on the UK county circuit later this year.

Marsh was bought for $1 million at the 2016 IPL auction by the Rising Pune Supergiant franchise and, having missed last year’s tournament due a shoulder injury, was expected to attract a high price at this year’s player sale in late January.

With the competition flush with cash following the five-year broadcast rights deal with Star India worth $3.2 billion and a 21 per cent rise in salary cap for all franchises, payments offered to high-profile players are expected to soar.

But despite enhancing his reputation as one of the world’s cleanest foremost power-hitters with his blazing 181 (from 236 balls) in the recent third Magellan Ashes Test in Perth, Marsh will not enter the IPL auction and has instead committed to playing for England county outfit Surrey.

The 26-year-old confirmed today that while the decision to choose red-ball cricket in the UK over the white-ball riches of India was partly influenced by personal friendships, it’s his Test match ambitions that have been most influential

And with Australia targeting their first Ashes win in the UK since Steve Waugh’s team triumphed in 2001, when they begin their 2019 campaign immediately after the ICC World Cup 50-over tournament, Marsh wants to gain as much England experience as possible before then.

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“No, I’m not going into the (IPL) auction, I’ll be full-time at Surrey which I’m really looking forward to,” he told reporters in Sydney today.

“I guess it was a pretty big decision from a money point of view, but my ultimate goal is to play Test match cricket for Australia.

“When I made that decision I didn’t really think I was going to be back in (the Test team after shoulder surgery) this quick but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to play 14 red-ball games over there if I can, and try and improve.

“And obviously looking forward, we’ve got a lot of cricket coming up in England over the next few years and I want to give myself the best opportunity to be over there and getting used to the conditions.”

Marsh claimed that there was no guarantee he would have been picked up by an IPL franchise – with the competition expanded this year by the return of two recently suspended outfits Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals – even if he had thrown his hat in the ring.

But on the evidence tendered last year by England’s power all-rounder Ben Stokes, who today was granted a no objection certificate by the England and Wales Cricket Board to take part in the 2018 IPL having been bought for $2.8 million by Pune last year, Marsh was earmarked for a huge pay day.

However, he is instead looking forward to renewing his working relationship with former Australia Test and limited-overs batting coach Michael Di Venuto who has been in charge of Surrey since 2016.

Marsh said he had discussed the move with current Bupa Support Team man’s coach Darren Lehmann and his Alcohol. Think Again Western Warriors state coach Justin Langer as well as his father, former Australia opener Geoff Marsh.

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As part of the Australia squad that surrendered the Ashes in the UK in 2015, Marsh learned that the variety of conditions that players encounter during an English summer – from flat batting wickets like The Oval to seam and swing-friendly pitches further north – provided a stern test of their adaptability.

Another key factor in Marsh’s move to put county experience ahead of IPL riches is his long-standing family friendship with England’s newly capped Test seamer Tom Curran who, along with his younger brother Sam, plays for the county team based at The Oval in south London.

The Curran brothers are sons of former Zimbabwe cricketer Kevin Curran who worked alongside  Geoff Marsh when he was coaching the African nation from 2001-2004.

When Kevin Curran – who died suddenly at age 53 in 2012 - and his family were forcibly evicted from their farm at Rusape between Harare and the Mozambique border under the regime of recently toppled Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, they went to live with Geoff Marsh.

By that stage, in 2004, Mitchell had returned to Perth where his older brother Shaun was forging a first-class career for Western Australia.

The respective sons have remained close friends ever since, and when Mitchell Marsh saw Tom Curran during the rival Ashes teams’ warm-up sessions prior to the first day of the third Test in Perth, the pair shared a prolonged hug and a lengthy conversation before resuming practice drills.

So while the Australia all-rounder is keen continue his close working relationship with Di Venuto, it’s the chance to be reunited with his childhood friends that carries greater appeal than the vast riches on offer through the world’s most lucrative T20 franchise competition.

“The two Curran boys, who I sort of grew up with in Zimbabwe, it's going to be great to play a season with them,” Marsh said today.

"There was a little bit of chat between Tommy and I (when the pair met in Tom’s debut Test for England at the MCG last week).

“His old man was dad's assistant coach at Zimbabwe, so I was about 10 and had three years with them when we spent a lot of time together on tour as a family.

“Tom's mum was staying with our family during the Perth Test match, we're great family friends and looking forward to playing with them

“They're a great family.”

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Ashton Agar.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test MCG, drawn. Scorecard

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21