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Malcolm Marshall

by Saurabh Sharma Jun 03, 2020 • 11:50 AM

Malcolm Denzil Marshall was a West Indian cricketer. Primarily a fast bowler, Marshall is regarded as one of the finest and fastest pacemen ever to have played Test cricket. Marshall was one of the stars of the West Indies team which dominated international cricket for more than a decade from the mid-1970s. He achieved his bowling success despite being, by the standards of other fast bowlers, a short man – he stood at 5 feet 11 inches.

He generated fearsome pace from his bowling action, with a dangerous bouncer. Marshall was also a very dangerous Middle-order batsman with ten Test fifties and seven first-class centuries. Marshall had colon cancer and breathed his last on 4th November, 1999.

Marshall was born in Bridgetown, Barbados. His father, Denzil Marshall, was a policeman, but died in a road traffic accident when Marshall was one year old. His mother, Eleanor then remarried. He grew up in the parish of Saint Michael, Barbados and was educated at St Giles Boys' School from 1963 to 1969 and then at Parkinson Comprehensive from 1969 to 1973.

He was partly taught cricket by his grandfather, who helped to bring him up after his father's death. His first representative match was a 40-over affair for West Indies Young Cricketers against their English equivalents Trinidad and Tobago in August 1976. Marshall's initial senior appearance was a Geddes Grant-Harrison Line Trophy (List A) match for Barbados on 13 February 1978.There he made a duck and did not take a wicket. Four days later, he made his first-class debut against Jamaica, and whilst he failed to score runs he claimed 6–77 in the Jamaican first innings. On the back of this single first-class appearance he was selected to tour India in 1978-79, many first-choice West Indian stars being unavailable having committed themselves to playing World Series Cricket. Marshall heard of his selection on the radio while working in the storeroom at Banks Brewery, and later claimed he did not know where India was.

His introduction to Test cricket wasn't an auspicious one and in his first series, in India in 1978-79, Marshall managed only three wickets in as many Tests, and leaked more than 88 runs per wicket. He didn't play Test cricket again till the summer of 1980, and till the end of 1982 he played only nine further Tests.

Thereafter, though, the transformation was stunning. Marshall came to prominence in 1980, when in the third Test at Old Trafford he accounted for Mike Gatting, Brian Rose and Peter Willey in short order to spark an England collapse, although the match was eventually drawn despite Marshall taking 7–24.

When India toured West Indies in 1983, Marshall took 21 wickets at an average of less than 24, but the series that announced his class and talent came later that year in India, with West Indies seeking revenge for that utterly shocking World Cup final defeat (he was in West Indies' World Cup squad, but did not play a match in the tournament). Marshall was simply unstoppable, claiming 33 wickets in six Tests, including that of Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar five times each. That period started an amazing run that continued almost uninterrupted for the next eight years, during which period Marshall took 342 wickets from 69 Tests at an average of less than 20.

Yet it was England, his second home, that suffered most, it seemed. At Headingley in 1984, he broke his left thumb while fielding earlier in the match. But with his hand in plaster, and in considerable pain, he bowled 26 overs in the second innings to take 7 for 53 and win the game. He also came out to bat at number 11 in West Indies' first innings despite his injury, allowing his team to gain a further psychological advantage as Larry Gomes completed an unbeaten century (Marshall batted one-handed that day, with one arm in plaster)

Four years on, at Old Trafford, with the England team in a maelstrom of unrest, he showed versatility on a pitch deliberately prepared to negate pace and give excessive help to spin, by simply pitching the ball up and swinging it, taking 7 for 22 as England were humiliated for 93.

In 1984-85 he had another successful series at home against New Zealand, although there were calls for his bouncers to be ruled as intimidatory beyond what was acceptable, and that Marshall should have been admonished by the umpires. A rising delivery broke the nose of Mike Gatting, England's captain, in a one-day match in February 1986.Marshall succeeded in swinging the ball in both directions. He also used an in-swinging yorker as well as developing an effective leg-cutter, and with the exception of the 1986-87 tour to New Zealand, against whom he could only manage nine wickets at 32.11, no side seemed to have an answer to him.

1988 saw his career-best Test performance of 7–22 at Old Trafford, and he ended the series with 35 wickets in five Tests, at 12.65. Marshall was coming towards the end of his international career, moreover, and though he took 11 wickets in the match against India at Port of Spain the following winter, he played his last Test at The Oval in 1991. His final Test wicket, his 376th, was that of Graham Gooch.

Marshall's final appearances for West Indies came in One Day International cricket – the 1992 World Cup. However, in his five matches in the tournament, he took just two wickets, both in the penultimate game against South Africa at Christchurch. He played five matches for Scotland in the 1995 Benson and Hedges Cup without much success.

He played for Hampshire again in 1993, taking 28 wickets at a shade over 30 runs apiece, but that was to be the end of his time in county cricket. He took over 1,000 wickets for Hampshire, and received more than £60,000 (tax free) in his benefit year in 1987.

In 1996, Marshall became coach both of Hampshire and the West Indies; although the latter's steadily declining standards during this period brought a considerable amount of criticism his way. In 1999, during the World Cup it was revealed that Marshall had colon cancer. He immediately left his coaching job to begin treatment, but this was ultimately unsuccessful. He married his long-term partner, Connie Roberta Earle, in Romsey on 25 September 1999, and returned to his home town, where he died on 4 November aged forty-one, weighing little more than 25 kg.

The Malcolm Marshall Memorial Trophy was inaugurated in his memory, to be awarded to the leading wicket-taker in each England v West Indies Test series. Another trophy with the same name was set up to be the prize in an annual game between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Abhishek De

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