Rod Marsh was remembered as “a hulking figure” in Australia’s cricket Friday, celebrating nearly 50 years of service to the sport as tributes poured in after he died of a heart attack at a charity event last week.
The 74-year-old, who played 96 Tests and later served as the national selector for a long time, had been in an artificial coma and died peacefully at a hospital in Adelaide 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 past 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 of 355 Test layoffs, 95 from the bowling of legendary pacemaker Dennis Lillee.
Nicknamed “Iron Gloves”, he also played 92 ODIs and as a dashing southpaw he was the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a Test century against Pakistan in 1982.
After his playing career, he remained closely associated with the game as head of the Australian Cricket Academy where he helped educate dozens of players including Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer before becoming chairman of selectors.
His former captain and longtime friend Ian Chappell told Channel Nine that Marsh was respected by everyone he played with and against.
“His tentacles were pretty widespread in cricket, so there were a lot of people who knew him, and even if someone didn’t necessarily like him, they respected him,” Chappell said.
“He was always happy to have a yarn. He had a good sense of humor. Everyone who met him enjoyed his company.”
‘One of the greatest ever’
Current Test Captain Pat Cummins praised him as “a colossal figure in Australian cricket who has provided incredible service for nearly 50 years”.
“When I think of Rod, I think of a generous and larger-than-life character who always had a spirited, positive and relaxed outlook, and his passing leaves a huge 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 favorite player growing up, calling 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 Test cricketers ever,” he added.
Batting great Mark Waugh said Marsh was “an absolute icon”.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rod as a selector for a number of years and you couldn’t meet a more honest, down to earth, good hearted person. RIP,” he said on Twitter.
Even England’s supporter group Barmy Army paid tribute, tweeting: “Our thoughts are with the legend’s family and a huge thank you to Rod for some great Ashes memories.”
Marsh was Director of the National Academy of the England and Wales Cricket Board from 2001-2005 and was credited with helping rejuvenate their national team.
He leaves behind his wife Roslyn and sons Daniel, Paul and Jamie.
Marsh was at a charity event in the state of Queensland last week when he collapsed, with son Paul announcing Monday that his father was in an artificial coma.