A tribute to the late "Field Marshall"

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Wednesday, October 4, 2000, 12:20 [IST]
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Rajkot: He was the ultimate proven model in the science of fast bowling. The moment he had red cherry in his hand, the fall of a wicket was imminent. He was a constant terror and an absolute nightmare to the batsmen the world over. He was a typical West Indian fast bowler, who was spectacularly talented. Yes, we are talking about the "Barbados Bomber" Malcolm Marshall, whose death anniversary - unfortunately - falls on Saturday (November 4).

In his hey days, Marshall entered the cricket arena with a single-minded devotion of dismissing batsmen and running riot with the opposition. He had the irresistible capacity of changing the course of a match under any condition and on any type of wicket. He was indeed a rare fast bowler beyond human comprehension.

Such was the impact of his presence, that his exclusion (invariably due to injuries) would result in the opposing teams heaving a big sigh of relief. In fact, even when he was rested from bowling, the batsmen used to be transfused with new blood. He was a sort of cricket's Napoleon, who achieved results even before entering the field.

Marshall belonged to Barbados where cricket and fast bowling were religions of their own. His first school St Giles Primary was also Wes Hall's school. Despite his achievements, Marshall had to fight for his personal reputation as the West Indies had a battery of fast bowlers during his time.

And surely Marshall's entry too would have been delayed had cricket not been revolutionised by Kerry Packer. Some of the finest names in West Indies cricket joined the "Packer Circus" and Marshall got the "surprise" the call up for national duty against Australia, Down Under. Marshall changed what was then dubbed by some sections of the media as "selectorial fluke" into a "selectorial master stroke".

Marshall, in fact, had an ominous outing in India during 1977-78 under the captaincy of Alvin Kallicharan. He ended up with just three wickets and conceded too many runs for anybody's liking. However, his fortunes changed dramatically when he turned out for Hampshire. The combination of frightening pace, quickness as well as the movement of the pitch and consistency transformed Marshall into a totally different kind of bowler.

He developed the "mean weapon" of bringing the ball back into the batsman consistently. With his quick speed and smooth action, he often had the batsmen confounded on the movement of the ball. If the batsmen decided to play forward to avoid being rapped on the pads, they would find the ball swinging away late, kissing the edge of their bats and lodging safely into the gloves of the wicket-keeper. He disguised his bowling wonderfully well and that was his greatest asset.

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