By some measures, Shaun Marsh is the most successful opener in the short history of Twenty20 cricket.
His average of 45 is the highest of the top 80 openers in international ranks and the biggest in domestic leagues, his strike rate of 135 is on a par with blasters like Adam Gilchrist and Brendon McCullum and his impact as a match winner is undeniable.
Marsh is striving to narrow the gap between potential and performance after a modest start to the season with WA and the Perth Scorchers but, just as his leaden footwork is starting to improve under the tutelage of batting coach Bob Meuleman, his team has also found a sharper focus.
Marsh knows he must have an impact against the new ball if Perth are to progress in the Champions League in their sudden-death contest against the Kolkata Knight Riders at Kingsmead tonight.
Kolkata have lost both their matches to be out of the running for the semifinals, while victory will keep Perth alive after their first-round defeat when Marsh's early departure scuttled the run chase.
"It is my job to build an innings and provide a path for the hitters to finish off," Marsh said.
"If I can be there at the end of the innings I know the team will be in a pretty good position."
And he believes he is on the verge of a breakthrough after a series of sessions and wise counsel from Meuleman has coincided with the most stable period of his career off the field.
"Bob has been a friend for a long time and it has been good to get away from the WACA and get a different opinion and have a bit of a laugh," he said.
"The thing that has been lacking for me at the start of the season has been my footwork.
"I have worked hard in the past couple of weeks to be sharper.
"I had a long hit today and felt a lot more confident walking out of the nets than I have been for a long while."
Marsh believes Perth have an advantage over the Knight Riders given many of his teammates have fond memories of the ground.
Simon Katich and Herschelle Gibbs have scored Test centuries at Kingsmead, Marcus North contributed to a series-winning victory, Brad Hogg took part in a World Cup quarterfinal win, while Marsh himself scored important runs in his sole appearance in Durban.
The Perth players suspect Kolkata's motivation may have declined after their twin losses but Marsh warned that McCullum and his teammates remained dangerous.
"McCullum, (Jacques) Kallis, Gautam Gambhir - they are world-class players and so we have to be on top of our game to beat them," Marsh said.
Paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile proved his fitness with a sharp bowling session and is likely to replace Ben Edmondson.
·Kevin Pietersen has returned to London for talks with the England Cricket Board about his return to international cricket but is expected back in Cape Town in time for Delhi's match against Perth on Sunday.I have worked hard in the past couple of weeks to be sharper. " *Shaun Marsh *
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