Australian cricket is in mourning this weekend after losing two of its most iconic former players in, by some reckonings, the space of 12 hours.
Rod Marsh, perhaps the finest wicket keeper in the history of the game and a fine all-rounder, who played in 96 Test matches in the 1970s and 1980s, died on Friday 4th of March. He had suffered a heart attack a few days earlier at his home in Queensland, and was put in an induced coma while being transferred to a hospital in Adelaide. He did not respond to treatment.
Marsh’s bowler-keeper partnership with demon bowler Dennis Lillee was perhaps the dominant act of Test cricket in the 1970s. Marsh had made his debut in 1970, and played all the way through to 1984. He retired from Test matches with a then-world record 355 dismissals, alongside some 3,633 runs. After retirement, he became a selector for the Australian national team, and also helped run national academies in both Australia and England.
It was very sad news, but at least cricket fans were ready for it after Marsh had been hospitalised and unconscious for around a week. And he was 74, not exactly an unusual age to breathe one’s last. But less than a day later came another, far more shocking bombshell. Shane Warne, surely the greatest spin bowler of all time, and perhaps the most iconic figure of the Australian game in the 1990’s, was found dead at his holiday villa on the Thai island of Koh Samui. It appeared that, just like Marsh, Warne too had had died of a heart attack. He was just 52.
Warne took an astonishing 708 wickets in just 145 Test matches. His leg spin was the most extraordinary in history, occasionally achieving directional change in excess of sixty degrees even on one-day-old surfaces, as well as prodigious post-bounce acceleration. Warne’s first delivery on English soil was the famous ‘Ball-of-the-century’ to remove Mike Gatting – tormentor of many a spin bowler over the previous decade – in an Old Trafford Test in 1993. 23-year-old Warne pitched the ball several inches outside leg stump and turned it so far towards off that it swept past Gatting’s bat and took the top of his off-stump.
From that day, Warne became the terror of English batsmen in particular for the next fourteen years. He finished with the second highest wicket-haul in the game behind Sri Lanka’s Mattiah Muralitharan.
In England, Warne was a player and captain at Hampshire from 2000 to 2007, winning the Cheltenham & Gloucester One Day Trophy in 2005.
After he retired, Warne chiefly worked as a media commentator, particularly for Sky Sports in the UK. He sometimes played Poker semi-professionally, taking part in tournaments worldwide, and was a regular ‘Twitter pundit’ on social media. In a truly chilling irony, Warne’s final tweet was a tribute to the deceased Rod Marsh.
The Victorian government has announced that the Great Southern Stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) would be renamed the S.K. Warne Stand, as a tribute to the leg-spinner. The MCG was where Warne took his 700th Test wicket.
Click here for a secure way to sign up, you will be supporting independent news. Click the button below.
Disagree with this article? why not write in and you can have your say? email us