LONDON (Reuters) - All-rounder Mitchell Marsh is acutely aware he polarises Australian cricket fans but hopes forgoing his mum’s roast dinners as part of a new fitness regime might help win their respect.
Marsh celebrated his recall to the side for the first time since last year’s Boxing Day test against India by taking 4-35 as Australia turned the screws on England in the fifth and final Ashes test at the Oval on Thursday.
The hosts were 271-8 at stumps on day one after Jos Buttler’s unbeaten 64 rescued their innings.
Having been in the team’s leadership group last year before he was dumped and lost his central contract, Marsh acknowledged his see-sawing form had made it difficult for home fans to warm to him.
“Yeah, most of Australia hate me,” Marsh said before laughing.
“Australians are very passionate, they love their cricket, they want people to do well.
“There’s no doubt I’ve had a lot of opportunity at test level and I haven’t quite nailed it,” added Marsh, who averaged 25.39 with the bat and 43.91 with the ball from his 31 previous tests.
“But hopefully they can respect me for the fact I keep coming back and I love playing for Australia, I love the baggy green cap and I’ll keep trying and hopefully I’ll win them over one day.”
The 27-year-old said there were times after he lost his central contract when he doubted he would be back in the Australian side.
Personal issues had also affected him in the last year, including the suicide of a close friend, while his fitness and strength were also lacking, something that coach Justin Langer had asked him to work on.
“Over the last six months I have put everything I’ve had in to it and I’ve changed my lifestyle a bit,” he said.
“I don’t eat badly. I just eat a lot. My body just likes to put on weight easily and my mum likes to feed me.
“I haven’t had as many roasts at home in the last six months, but it hasn’t been that hard.
“There has been no secret recipe, I just worked my arse off hoping to get another opportunity.”
Australia retained the Ashes with victory in the fourth test at Old Trafford and lead the series 2-1.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom