Rod Marsh, Australian cricket great, dies aged 74


The cricket world is in mourning after the death of the Australian great Rod Marsh, aged 74. The former wicketkeeper suffered a heart attack in Queensland last week and was placed in an induced coma before being transferred to Adelaide, where he died on Friday.

Marsh played the first of his 96 Tests for Australia in 1970 and came to be regarded as one of his country’s finest players, thanks to a combination of athleticism behind the stumps and often explosive batting.

His partnership with the fast bowler Dennis Lillee became part of the game’s folklore and the line “caught Marsh, bowled Lillee” became a common entry on international scorecards throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

He called time on his Test career in 1984, hanging up his gloves with what was then a world record of 355 dismissals – 95 off the bowling of Lillee – and 3,633 runs to his name.

After retiring as a player, he oversaw the nation’s cricket academy and later became a selector. He spent time in England as the director of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s national academy during a four-year spell between 2001 and 2005, and also oversaw the International Cricket Council’s inaugural world coaching academy in Dubai.

In 2009 he was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, 24 years after being elected to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. He also became a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1982.

Australia’s current Test captain, Pat Cummins, led the tributes from the world of cricket and beyond, calling Marsh a “colossal figure” of the Australian game.

“I, along with countless other people in Australia, grew up hearing the stories of him as a fearless and tough cricketer, but his swashbuckling batting and his brilliance behind the stumps over more than a decade made him one of the all-time greats of our sport, not just in Australia, but globally,” Cummins said.

“When I think of Rod I think of a generous and larger-than-life character who always had a life-loving, positive and relaxed outlook, and his passing leaves a massive void in the Australian cricket community.”

Adam Gilchrist, one of Marsh’s successors behind the stumps for Australia, said he was “shattered” by the news. “I thought he was invincible. He was my absolute idol and hero and inspiration as to why I pursued what I did. The impact he had on my life is profound.”

The former Test player Mark Waugh tweeted: “So incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Rod (Bacchus) Marsh an absolute icon of Aust cricket. Had the pleasure of working with Rod for a number of years as a selector and you wouldn’t meet a more honest, down to earth, kind hearted person. RIP.”

The women’s national team wicketkeeper, Alyssa Healy, said it was a “sad day” while the former captain Lisa Sthalekar referred to Marsh as “a legend of a cricketer, a great bloke who made everyone feel welcome in this great game”.

The former player and commentator Kerry O’Keeffe said it was the “saddest of days”. “Outstanding service to Australian cricket…great team mate…mention of his name makes me smile…brilliant dig,” he tweeted.

“His saying, ‘cricket is a simple game made complicated’ still resonates with me,” wrote the former men’s international David Hussey. “Rod will be missed, thoughts are with his family.”

The English commentator Alison Mitchell posted: “Deep sadness for Rod Marsh RIP. Played his part in English cricket as well as Aus, when he headed up England’s first ever National Academy, and was a selector. What a character, what a loss. A legend.”

Australia’s Test players are expected to wear black armbands when they get their series in Pakistan under way later on Friday. Cummins had said on Thursday the condition of Marsh, who had “really good relationships” with a number of players, had been playing on the their minds in the buildup to the match in Rawalpindi.

Cricket Australia’s chairman, Lachlan Henderson, said the line “caught Marsh, bowled Lillee” had achieved “iconic status” in the game and Marsh would be remembered for the way he played the game.

“Rod also made an enormous contribution to the game by identifying, coaching and mentoring many future stars in his various roles as coach and director at cricket academies in Australia and other cricket playing nations,” Henderson added.

The ICC called him a “true legend of the game” while Australia’s prime minister also paid tribute to the man he said was his favourite player.

“He was part of one of the most exciting eras in Australian and world cricket,” Scott Morrison said. “He will be remembered as one of Australia’s greatest ever Test cricket players.”

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Olivia Wilson
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