Subdued aggression and soft hands are working wonders for Mitch Marsh, who is well placed to mark his Test return in Pune on Thursday.
Marsh posted a half-century in Australia’s recent intra-squad match in Dubai then backed it up with a knock of 75 against India A in Mumbai on Saturday.
The 25-year-old has seemingly edged ahead of Glenn Maxwell in the battle to claim the vacant No.6 spot in the Test side.
Marsh was first handed the mantle of Australia’s premier allrounder during the 2015 Ashes, when selectors ushered Shane Watson into Test retirement.
Initially called up for his powerful stroke play then retained in the XI because of his medium pace, the West Australian simply couldn’t make the tag stick.
Marsh played 19 Tests before selectors, unhappy with a batting average of 23.18, dropped him in November. He knew he had plenty to work on to be part of the upcoming four-Test series in India.
“I’ve been working on some gameplans over the last couple of months for this tour,” Marsh said.
“(Working on) my defence against spin. If you have a solid defence, you can attack the balls that are there to attack.
“The biggest thing for me has just been softening my hands, in my defence and also in my attack.
“The later you hit the ball, the easier it is to hit gaps – especially in the subcontinent when it’s turning.”
Marsh showed great restraint at Brabourne Stadium, sitting on 37 off 93 balls at one stage on day two of Australia’s only tour match before the first Test starts.
The right-hander belted one six off Shahbaz Nadeem but generally looked to score singles off the left-arm spinner in a 129-run stand with Matthew Wade.
“I’ve just faced a lot more spin over time,” he said.
“I’ve learned that rotating the strike is really important, especially in the subcontinent.”
Marsh was among the first group of Test squad members to arrive in Dubai, having injured his shoulder last month.
The youngster’s fitness was tested in almost 40-degree heat on Saturday. He opened the bowling in the absence of rested pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood shortly after spending almost three hours at the crease.
“I’m feeling really strong,” he said.
Marsh added he would be comfortable taking the new ball in a Test during the next six weeks.
“I’ve done it for Western Australia and for Australia in white-ball cricket,” he said.
“I practise with a new ball every now and then.
“If I do play it will probably be at number six, but I have’t really spoken to them (selectors) about that.”