The Test team Australia should select in India
CRICKET: There's a reason Shaun Marsh is seen as a virtual lock to reclaim his spot in the Australian batting line-up for the first Test in India on Thursday - and a reason why fans of Glenn Maxwell shouldn't be holding their breath awaiting his selection.
Marsh is by far Australia's best batsman against spin bowling in Asia and Maxwell is comfortably the worst - that's what statistics not readily available to the public reveal.
The ability to combat spin is the single most important skill for a visiting batsman in India and one which many Australian players have lacked during the team's recent Test floggings against Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan.
By crunching the numbers of the Australian batsmen against spin in Tests in Asia we found some surprising stats - including Marsh's position as the team's best player.
Marsh has an incredible average of 91 against spin bowlers in Tests in Asia, well clear of Australia's second-best performer, captain Steve Smith who averages 38.2.
The biggest shock is that maligned all-rounder Mitch Marsh has fared just as well as superstar David Warner against spin in Asia, and much better than batsman Usman Khawaja, all-rounder Maxwell or wicketkeeper Matt Wade.
The younger Marsh brother has averaged 28.8 against spin from his five Tests in Asia, while Warner's mark is only 30 from nine Tests.
This will come as a surprise to many cricket fans but it won't have escaped the notice of the Australian selectors - this stat may well vault Mitch Marsh into the starting line-up for the first Test in Pune.
Australia looks likely to pick a batting all-rounder to offer bowling support against the dominant Indian batting line-up, which averaged 550 in the first innings across a recent five-Test home series against England.
Aside from Marsh, Maxwell is the only other batting all-rounder in Australia's Test squad and he is hampered by dreadful stats against spin in Asia. Maxwell's average of 10 against spin is the lowest of any batsman in the squad, even worse than fellow strugglers Khawaja (average of 19.5) and Wade (17.2).
While Wade's poor record hasn't hurt him - he is certain to play the first Test - Khawaja and Maxwell may well have been hindered by their struggles against spin.
Neither player looks likely to feature in the first Test. Khawaja was not even given a chance to impress in Australia's only-warm up game, against India A in Mumbai, so it would now be a surprise if he plays at Pune.
Maxwell, meanwhile, had minimal influence against India A, making scores of 16 not out and one with the bat, and only bowling six overs. Meanwhile, his rival Mitch Marsh had a fine match, scoring 75 with the bat and then bowling 13 overs, taking 1/45.
Opener Matt Renshaw laboured in that match, with scores of 11 and 10. But he and fellow rookie Test batsman Peter Handscomb have an advantage, of sorts, of having never played a Test in Asia and so never having been exposed by spin on dry pitches.
This may well see them win berths ahead of Khawaja and Maxwell, who have had technical and mental deficiencies exposed during previous Test series in Asia.
Khawaja's biggest problem against slow bowlers in Asia has been getting caught on the crease - moving neither back nor forward. This has led to him being either bowled or LBW for each of his four dismissals against spin during his four Tests in Asia.
Maxwell's shortcoming, meanwhile, is a mental one. His lack of patience when facing spin in Asia has seen half of his six dismissals come from either trying to launch the bowler for six or playing across the line of the ball.
These records against spin suggest Australia cannot expect much in India from Maxwell, Khawaja or Wade. Instead it is the Marsh brothers, Smith and Warner who shape as Australia's best bets with the bat.
TEST AVERAGES AGAINST SPIN BOWLING IN ASIA:
Shaun Marsh - 273 runs at an average of 91
Steve Smith - 497 runs at 38.2
David Warner - 420 runs at 30
Mitch Marsh - 259 runs at 28.8
Usman Khawaja - 78 runs at 19.5
Matthew Wade - 103 runs at 17.2
Glenn Maxwell - 60 runs at 10
Matt Renshaw - no Tests played in Asia
Peter Handscomb - no Tests played in Asia
Ashton Agar - no Tests played in Asia
POTENTIAL AUSTRALIAN LINEUP:
David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith (c), Peter Handscomb, Mitch Marsh, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Starc, Steve O'Keefe, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon