ADELAIDE (AFP): Rod Marsh was remembered as “a colossal figure” in Australian cricket Friday who gave close to 50 years’ service to the sport as tributes poured in after he died following a heart attack at a charity event last week.
The 74-year-old, who played 96 Tests and was later a long-time national selector, had been in an induced coma and passed away peacefully in an Adelaide hospital on Friday morning, his family confirmed.
“We are so grateful for all the love and support our family has received from so many people over the last week,” they said in a statement. “It has given us strength in the most difficult week of our lives.”
Perth-born Marsh made his international debut in 1970 against England before retiring in 1984 with what was then a world-record 355 Test dismissals, 95 off the bowling of legendary paceman Dennis Lillee.
Nicknamed “Iron Gloves”, he also played 92 ODIs and as a dashing left-hander was the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a Test century against Pakistan in 1982.
After his playing career, he remained closely linked to the game as head of the Australian Cricket Academy, helping nurture dozens of players including Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer, before becoming chairman of selectors.
His former captain and long-time friend Ian Chappell told Channel Nine that Marsh was respected by all those he played with and against.
“His tentacles were pretty widespread in cricket, so there were a lot of people that knew him, and even if somebody didn’t necessarily like him, they respected him,” Chappell said.
“He was always happy to have a yarn, he had a good sense of humour, anybody that met him enjoyed his company.”
– ‘One of greatest ever’ –
Current Test captain Pat Cummins hailed him as “a colossal figure in Australian cricket who gave close to 50 years of incredible service”.
“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,” said Cummins, who is in Pakistan for Australia’s first Test tour since 1998.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Marsh was his favourite player growing up and called him “a fierce competitor and a fine sportsman who valued what the game stood for”.
“He will be remembered as one of Australia’s greatest ever Test cricket players,” he added.
Batting great Mark Waugh said Marsh was “an absolute icon”.
“Had the pleasure of working with Rod for a number of years as a selector and you wouldn’t meet a more honest, down to earth, kind hearted person. RIP,” he said on Twitter.
Even England’s Barmy Army supporter group paid tribute, tweeting: “Our thoughts are with the legend’s family and massive thanks Rod for some amazing Ashes memories.”
Marsh was director of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s national academy from 2001-2005 and was credited with helping rejuvenate their national team.
He is survived by wife Roslyn and sons Daniel, Paul and Jamie.
Marsh had been at a charity event in Queensland state last week when he collapsed, with son Paul on Monday announcing his father remained in an induced coma.