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Tributes for Australian cricket legend Rod Marsh

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Tributes are flowing for Australian Test cricket great Rod Marsh who has died in Adelaide, aged 74.

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Marsh suffered a heart attack in Queensland last week and passed away in an Adelaide hospital on Friday.

The legendary wicketkeeper and left-handed batter played 96 Test matches for Australia before overseeing the nation’s cricket academy in Adelaide and later becoming a selector.

At the peak of his powers, Rod Marsh was the best wicketkeeper in the world, teaming up with fast bowlers Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson to terrorise batsmen the world over.

He was also a more-than-handy batter, a villain, a rebel, irreverent, insubordinate – and later a coach, mentor and administrator who guided the game’s youth through national and international cricket academies.

Marsh lived in Adelaide for many years after moving to South Australia to work at the Australian Cricket Academy and was its director from 1990 to 2001.

Social media was awash with tributes to Marsh this morning ranging from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to former players and even the Barmy Army.

“His saying ‘cricket is a simple game made complicated’ still resonates with me,” former Australian and Victorian cricketer David Hussey wrote on Twitter.

Mark Waugh tweeted: “You wouldn’t meet a more honest, down to earth, kind-hearted person.”

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons wrote: “Very sad news. Lovely bloke. Great cricketer. ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if Lillee don’t get em, Thommo must,’. And Marsh was the maestro behind the stumps for the lot.”

Cricketer Shane Watson tweeted that he was “absolutely shattered” by the news.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Rod and his amazing skill to know how to get the best out of every young cricketer. He just cared!!”

Born in Armadale, Western Australia, on November 4, 1947, Rodney William Marsh had his introduction to cricket in the backyard of his family home, along with his elder brother, Graham, who went on to become a successful professional golfer.

The Marsh brothers represented their state in cricket at schoolboy level before pursuing their chosen sports. By the age of eight he was playing competitively with the Armadale under-16 side.

Rod debuted for the Australian team for the first Test of the 1970-71 series against England at the Gabba, holding 10 catches and making three stumpings for the series.

But it was a routine entry in the scorebook of the seventh, and final, Test of that series in Sydney that was to prove portentous.

On the first morning, Lillee, who had made his debut for Australia in the previous Test in Adelaide, had English batsman John Hampshire caught behind the wicket.

As a result, a simple notation entered the scorebook and the Test cricket lexicon for the first time: c Marsh b Lillee.

The same detail was to appear on Test match scorecards a further 94 times, its regularity prompting Marsh to explain an almost psychic relationship with Lillee.

“I’ve played with him so much now that most of the time I know what he is going to do before he has bowled. I know from the way he runs up; the angle, the speed, where he hits the crease, where the ball is going to be,” Marsh said.

On his retirement in 1984, Marsh had played in 96 Tests, taken a record 355 dismissals and scored 3633 runs with a top score of 132 at an average of 26.5. He was also the first Australian wicketkeeper to make a Test century, and played in the first one-day international, against England in Melbourne in 1971.

He later headed the cricket academies of Australia and England, and was inaugural head of an ICC world coaching academy in Dubai. He also became Australian chairman of selectors.

Marsh leaves his wife Ros and sons Dan, who captained Tasmania to their first Sheffield Shield win, Paul, a former CEO of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, and Jamie.

Although a tough competitor and mentor, he was respected worldwide for his fairness and knowledge of the game.

His sportsmanship was exemplified when Greg Chappell directed his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery against New Zealand in a one-day international in 1981 – Marsh shook his head in disapproval, trying to dissuade his captain.

“Respect,” said Marsh “is part of my non-negotiables.”

Marsh became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1982 and was elected to the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame in 1985 and the Cricket Hall Of Fame in 2005.

Most recently, he served as a member of the SACA Board from 2018 – 2021.

SACA President Andrew Sinclair said Marsh was one of the greatest to play the game, “not simply because he was so wonderfully talented, but because he was such a tremendous person”.

“A much-loved member of the South Australian cricketing community, Rod inspired all those fortunate enough to meet him or watch him play.  For a generation of Australians, Rod epitomised the spirit of cricket on the world stage.

“Rod’s incredible on-field achievements will always be remembered and his profound legacy as a coach and administrator will endure.

“Rod attracted people to him, but not deliberately. He got under your skin in an entirely endearing way. He didn’t mean it – but he showed us how to live.

The Australian men’s team will wear black armbands when they take on Pakistan in the first test between the two sides in Pakistan since 1998 from this afternoon.

“In cricket parlance, he was the walking Spirit of Cricket. A man of utmost honesty and integrity. He mixed that Spirit with a verve for life (and South Australian red) that produced a great and rare Australian blend,” Sinclair said.

“Rodney William Marsh – our glasses are held aloft in tribute to your life. An incomparable innings that is lovingly remembered.”

– with AAP

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