BRISBANE/SYDNEY: The cricketing world on Friday lost two all-time greats of the game; one who cut a distinctive, mustachioed figure behind the stumps for Australia, while the other was arguably the greatest leggie to ever step onto a cricketing pitch.
74-year-old Rodney Marsh, who played 96 Tests and later remained a national selector, had been in an induced coma and passed away peacefully in an Adelaide hospital on Friday morning, his family confirmed. He had suffered a heart attack during a fundraising event in Queensland last week.
But mere hours after he condoled the death of the Aussie wicketkeeper on Twitter, Shane Keith Warne — a larger-than-life character whose tally of 708 Test wickets has only been surpassed by Muttiah Muralitharan — was found unresponsive in his villa on the Thai island of Koh Samui.
Caught Marsh, bowled Lillee
Marsh made his Test debut against England in November 1970 and scored 3,633 Test runs during a career that lasted more than 13 years. He famously combined with fellow Western Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee to take 95 wickets during the pair’s Test career together.
“He was a childhood hero of mine who led me to actually try and be a wicketkeeper in primary school,” recalled Australian PM Scott Morrison, adding: “Everyone wanted to be Rod Marsh.”
Nicknamed “Iron Gloves”, Marsh played in the first One-day International, held on Jan 5, 1971 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He played a total of 92 ODIs and as a dashing left-hander was the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a Test century against Pakistan in 1982.
He was also involved in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, which polarised international cricket in the late 1970s before revolutionizing the sport for professional players and fans.
After his playing career, he remained closely linked to the game as head of the Australian Cricket Academy, helping nurture dozens of players including Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer, before becoming chairman of selectors.
“He was a legend of our great game and an inspiration to so many young boys and girls. Rod cared deeply about cricket and gave so much — especially to Australia and England players,” were Warne’s words of condolence on the passing of the Aussie great.
But after this tweet on late Friday afternoon, Warne was found unconscious by three friends staying in the same villa, who tried unsuccessfully to revive him, a local official said.
Warne was taken by ambulance to hospital, where medical personnel could not revive him. The official said there were no signs of foul play.
Ball of the century
With a single twist of his right wrist on an early summer day at Old Trafford in 1993, Warne not only bamboozled England’s batsman Mike Gatting with the so-called ‘Ball of the Century’, but also revived the noble art of leg spin.
The bleached blond-haired Warne arrived on that tour of England relatively unknown outside Australia and with fairly unspectacular figures from his first 11 Tests.
The beautifully-flighted delivery initially appeared to be heading straight but began to drift through the air towards the right-handed Gatting — known for his expertise against spin bowling. The ball pitched a foot outside the line of Gatting’s leg stump and with the batsman thrusting his left pad forward with his bat angled down, it gripped in the dust. It then spat and bounced back at a 45 degree angle, ripping past the edge of Gatting’s bat and hitting the top of off stump.
Legendary umpire Dickie Bird, who was at the bowler’s end as Warne sent down the fabled ball, called it “one of the best deliveries I ever umpired”.
Named as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, alongside Donald Bradman, Garfield Sobers, Jack Hobbs and Viv Richards, Warne’s impact was enormous.
He also became well known for a colourful life away from cricket and both he and teammate Mark Waugh were fined for accepting money from a bookmaker. Then, Warne was suspended for 12 months after failing a drugs test on the eve of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. He became the first bowler to take 700 Test wickets
Australian test captain Pat Cummins, who is currently leading his team on a tour of Pakistan, said the legendary spinner Shane Warne was “a hero” to the current generation of cricketers.
“The loss that we are all trying to wrap our heads around is huge. The game was never the same after Warnie emerged, and the game will never be the same after his passing,” he said in a video message.
“We have lost one of the greatest sportsmen of all time!” said West Indies batting legend Brian Lara.
Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2022