Tributes have poured in for Rod Marsh following the death of the esteemed former Australia wicketkeeper at the age of 74.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting admitted he was “devastated” by the news while incumbent skipper Pat Cummins labeled Marsh a “colossal figure” whose passing has left a “massive void”.
Marsh, who had been in critical condition after suffering a heart attack in Queensland last week and died on Friday morning, featured in 96 Tests between 1970 and 1984 and was renowned as one of the greatest behind the stumps.
Despite an inauspicious start to his career that led to the nickname ‘Iron Gloves’ after several drops in the 1970-71 Ashes, Marsh finished with a then-record 355 dismissals in Tests and a further 124 in 92 one-day internationals.
After his playing retirement, Marsh became coach of the Australian Cricket Academy in the 1990s, helping develop the likes of Ponting, and took on a similar role with England, with whom he was a selector from 2003 to 2005.
His death was confirmed by son Paul, who said in a statement: “On behalf of my mother Ros and brothers Dan and Jamie, it is with immense sadness that I advise that my father Rod passed away peacefully early this morning.
“He has been an incredible husband, father and grandfather and we have been so fortunate to have had him in all our lives.”
Ponting wrote on Twitter: “Devastated, we have lost a legend. Rod Marsh was a great player, a great coach and one of the best people I have ever met. My thoughts are with Ros, Paul, Dan and Jamie.”
In his later years Marsh, who amassed 3,633 runs at an average of 26.51 with three centuries and 16 fifties in Test cricket, served as the chair of selectors for the Australia men’s team between 2014 and 2016, when he stepped down.
Cummins said in a statement released by Cricket Australia: “I, along with countless other people in Australia, 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.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Marsh a “fierce competitor and a fine sportsman” while International Cricket Council chief executive Geoff Allardice branded the ex-gloveman a “true legend of the game”.
Marsh became the first Australian wicketkeeper to make a Test hundred in 1972 and registered the last of his three ton-plus scores in the format in 1977 Centenary Test in Melbourne, where ex-England fast bowler John Lever played.
Reflecting on his time spent with Marsh, Lever told the PA news agency: “Apart from going from being ‘Iron Gloves’ to being one of their best keepers and such a dangerous batter, he was a hell of a nice guy, he really was .
“We used to mingle more with the opposition than they perhaps do now. You’d have a drink in the changing room afterwards and ‘Nugget’ would be sitting there having a beer and taking the mickey. He was just a really top guy.
“He had everything. He was a good sportsman and a good cricketer. He got on well with everyone.”
Marsh bowed out of Test cricket against Pakistan in January 1984 in what was also fast bowler Dennis Lillee’s farewell. The pair are indelibly linked, combining for a record 95 Test dismissals.
CA chairman Dr Lachlan Henderson said: “This is a tremendously sad day for Australian cricket and for all those who loved and admired Rod Marsh.
“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.”
Shane Warne, Australia’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, said on Twitter: “Sad to hear the news that Rod Marsh has passed. He was a legend of our great game and an inspiration to so many young boys and girls. Rod cared deeply about cricket and gave so much – especially to Australia and England players.”
Former England batter Kevin Pietersen reflected fondly upon his time with Marsh.
Pietersen wrote on Twitter: “With great sadness I write this. To wake up and hear that Rod Marsh has left us is horrible.
“The time I had with him as my boss in England’s academy was some of the best time in my career. A caring, intelligent and loving man who did all he could to help everyone!”
Mark Waugh added: “So incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Rod (Bacchus) Marsh an absolute icon of Aust cricket. 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.”