Mitch Marsh has ended an emotional fortnight with a World Cup tour de force which he hopes has put a smile on the face of his family back home.
The allrounder crashed the third-largest score by an Australian in the annals of the men’s World Cup — 177 not out — in the hammering of Bangladesh in Pune and hoped the wonderful knock was a fitting way to celebrate the life of his late grandfather.
The West Australian, an extremely popular figure with his teammates, had to rush home from India to be with family in the final days before grandfather Ross passed away.
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But he promised to return swiftly to help them win the World Cup and was in an inspired mood as he smashed nine sixes and 17 fours in his second century of the tournament on Saturday.
“I’m sure my nanna, mum and all the family will be watching at home, so hopefully it’s put a smile on their faces. My pop was a great man and a huge cricket supporter and they celebrated his life yesterday,” said Marsh, after picking up the player of the match award.
“Obviously, it’s been a challenging week for the family. It was nice to be able to perform for them and nice to get the win.”
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After he had flown home from India, Marsh had been left touched back in Perth by the show of support from his teammates as he saw them on TV during the England match in Ahmedabad wearing black armbands to mark Ross’s passing.
Now he’s back and wholly fired up for the challenge that lies ahead with a semi-final against South Africa in Kolkata next Thursday.
Mitch Marsh walks off after a career-best knock. Credit: Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images
“To go back into the World Cup is pretty cool. Can’t wait for the semi-final, it’s going to be a ripper,” he said, adding that he thought the four best teams had reached the semis, with India facing New Zealand in the other last-four contest.
“We’re bloody pumped to get to Kolkata.”
Marsh sounded almost embarrassed about ending up with the player of the match award after earlier conceding 48 off his four overs as Bangladesh set Australia a stiff target of 307.
“I started at negative 50 after my bowling, so I had to get a few back,” he shrugged.
“It’s not every day you get man of the match when you get 0-50 off four overs.
“But any time you score 100 for Australia, it’s always a great feeling, and now we’re obviously really excited about what lies ahead for us.”
Mitch Marsh plundered the ball to all parts. Credit: Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images
Just like the rested Glenn Maxwell’s double-hundred on one leg against Afghanistan, it had been trying work in the heat for Marsh.
“It’s always a great honour to score 100, but I was pretty cooked to be honest,” he admitted.
“I was just starting to cramp at that stage, so I was trying to keep my heart rate low and not exert too much energy.
“Yeah, this one meant just as much as any other 100 that I’ve ever made.”
Marsh has become a fan favourite among the Australian public, whose feelings towards the allrounder have turned sharply since a much maligned beginning to his career.
Accusations of nepotism riddled the early part of his Test career in particular, when the son of Australian great Geoff Marsh and brother of Shaun — who combined for 5119 Test runs in their esteemed careers — was given ample opportunity in the Aussie team despite modest output.
Marsh is still grieving the loss of his grandfather. Credit: Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images
Famously in 2019, Marsh, through the guise of an endearing smile that didn’t fully hide his inner hurt, conceded “most of Australia hate me”.
“There’s no doubt I’ve had a lot of opportunity at Test level and I haven’t quite nailed it,” he said at the time.
“But hopefully they can respect me for the fact I keep coming back. I’ll keep trying and hopefully I’ll win them over one day.”
After a renaissance in the twilight of the 32-year-old’s career that has included two ODI centuries and a blistering Ashes ton at Headingly earlier this year, Marsh has well and truly ‘won them over’.
Sports broadcaster Neroli Meadows summed it up when she wrote: “Gosh I love Mitch Marsh. Just a human who makes everyone around him a bit happier.
“So pleased to see another World Cup ton from him live and his highest ODI score. And a touching moment for the family after a tough couple of weeks.”
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