Mitchell Marsh, Australia’s new T20I captain and stand-in leader of the ODI side, has been “blown away” by his brief sightings of left-arm quick Spencer Johnson who will get his first taste of international cricket in South Africa.
Marsh expects all the uncapped players heading on the tour – there are four overall including Matthew Short, Tanveer Sangha and Aaron Hardie – will get the opportunity to showcase their skills, but it’s Johnson who is the most talked-about after his rapid rise through the game over the last nine months.
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Johnson picked up the first of a number of injuries when he made his debut for South Australia in 2017 but has finally overcome them and found a new lease of life for Brisbane Heat in last season’s BBL. He then finished the Sheffield Shield strongly for South Australia and represented Australia A in New Zealand. Most recently he has been playing the Hundred where he produced an extraordinary display in his first outing.
Johnson recently revealed he had been put on standby for the latter stages of the Ashes when Mitchell Starc was battling injury. While he is not currently part of Australia’s ODI World Cup plans, it is not out of the question a similar situation evolves over the next few weeks with Starc currently nursing a groin problem and Johnson elevated to the ODI squad in South Africa.
“We’ve got an extended squad, we’ve got some young guys coming in which is really exciting, seeing guys like Spencer Johnson, he’ll definitely get a crack,” Marsh said. “We haven’t seen much of him, have we? He’s had a few injuries throughout his career and he’s sort of burst onto the scene last year.
“I remember commentating a game and he was bowling 150[kph] and swinging them both ways. He’s an incredible talent. I faced him in the one-day final at the WACA and was blown away by his skill and his pace. Think he’s going to feel right at home in international cricket.”
Spencer Johnson charges in for Brisbane Heat•Getty Images
Short, who was the player of the tournament in last season’s BBL, is only part of the T20I squad but can start to push his claims for next year’s World Cup. In the more near-term, it’s legspinner Sangha and allrounder Hardie who are closest to breaking into the ODI World Cup squad having been included in the initial expanded 18-player group.
Hardie, who plays for Perth Scorchers, was the leading run-scorer in last season’s BBL and has also played for Australia A.
Sangha’s call-up is notable given he missed the entirety of last season with a stress fracture of the back but was building an impressive domestic record for New South Wales and Sydney Thunder. He was previously part of an Australia T20I squad for a tour of New Zealand in 2021.
“Think we’ll definitely get a look at them both at some point throughout the tour,” Marsh said. “It’s really nice to see guys rewarded for performance. Tanveer’s had a few injury problems the last six months but we know what a superb talent he is. Think there’s no doubt we are going to see them in Australian colours over the next few years and we’ll get a look at them in South Africa.
“Think [Tanveer] is a very smart young bowler. From what I can gather and what I’ve heard he’s a very good cricketer, just bowls and bowls. A super talent. What we’ve seen in the Big Bash and first-class cricket so far, some kids you know will just be very good bowlers. And he’s one of those. Can’t wait to see him get his chance.”
Marsh himself does not expect to do a huge amount of bowling in South Africa as he manages his workload leading into the World Cup. He was able to play three back-to-back Tests in the Ashes, where he hit a rollicking century on his return at Headingley, but was nursing some soreness at Old Trafford.
“Feeling really good,” he said. “Had the ankle surgery last year and it’s all going pretty well. It’s been nice to have a couple of weeks to refresh, both physically and mentally, and head over to South Africa fresh and ready to go.”
Although this is currently a short-term captaincy appointment for Marsh, he is now the frontrunner for the permanent T20I role and both white-ball jobs should they be combined in the future.
“Ultimately, hopefully I’m a good captain, if not I won’t be in the job for very long. That’s okay, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity,” he said. “We’ll get through South Africa and see how we go. I’m available to captain for as long as the team needs me. We’ll see where it all ends.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo