With a distinctive mustache, unbuttoned shirt and a baggy green cap like a beacon behind the stumps, the sight of Rod Marsh and the sound of his name pervaded Australian summers in the 1970s and early 80s.
The Australian cricket great, who formed a prolonged and prolific wicket-taking partnership with pace bowler Dennis Lillee, died in an Adelaide hospital on Friday just over a week after having a heart attack during a fundraising event in Queensland state. He was 74.
A stocky and stoic wicketkeeper-batter, Marsh was half of a catchphrase that was synonymous with the era of test cricket: caught Marsh, bowled Lillee. They combined a record 95 times to dismiss opposition batters in test cricket.
“This is a tremendously sad day for Australian cricket and for all those who loved and admired Rod Marsh,” Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson said. “Rod will be forever remembered for the way he played the game and the pleasure he brought crowds as a member of some great Australian teams — ‘caught Marsh, bowled Lillee’ has iconic status in our game.”
Marsh and Lillee made their test debuts in the 1970-71 Ashes series against England and retired after a test against Pakistan in 1984. Both finished with 355 dismissals, records at the time for a wicketkeeper and for a fast bowler.
Marsh played in the first one-day international in 1970 and retired from top-level cricket after his 92nd ODI, against the West Indies in February 1984.
A left-handed batter, he was the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a century in test cricket — against Pakistan at Adelaide in 1972 — and finished his career with three. He later led the national cricket academies in Australia and in England and was the inaugural head of the International Cricket Council’s world coaching academy in Dubai.
In 2014, he was appointed as Australia’s chairman of selectors and held the position for two years.
In a tribute to one of its legendary figures, Cricket Australia said as his career progressed, Marsh became renowned for his “athletic takes and sure hands – belying an early nickname of ‘Iron Gloves’ — particularly when keeping to the ferocious pace of fellow 70s icons Lillee and Jeff Thomson.”
Pat Cummins, captain of the Australia team which was starting a three-test series in Pakistan starting later Friday, described Marsh as a “colossal figure in Australian cricket who gave close to 50 years of incredible service.”
Cricket Australia said the team would be wearing black armbands in Marsh’s honor for the first test at Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi.
“He was brilliant to deal with because he knew the game inside-out, but also had a way of dealing with you to put you at your ease,” Cummins said. “I 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.
“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.”
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame chairman John Bertrand said Marsh, an inductee in 1985, was tactical, spoke without fear and was a significant figure in cricket folklore.
“He created history,” Bertrand said, and was “Respected by all those he played with and against.”
Marsh’s older brother, Graham, was a professional golfer. One of his three sons, Dan, led Tasmania state to its first title in the domestic first-class Sheffield Shield competition.