Continuing with our series on the greatest cricketers of all time, here’s No. 14 on our list.
No. 14 – Malcolm Marshall
The great West Indies side of the late 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s is possibly one of the greatest teams in sporting history. Their brand of ‘calypso’ cricket captured the imagination of the watching world in a way no other cricket side had done before them. Thousands would flock to watch this side, to watch the swashbuckling Viv Richards and the grace and elegance of Michael Holding. There were so many great players in that team, many of them fast bowlers, that sometimes when people look back to their domination, a few players are overlooked. Probably the most common, and most heinous of these oversights, is one Malcolm Marshall. In knowledgeable cricketing circles, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers of all time. He would certainly get into my greatest-ever side. But among casual observers, he is often overlooked for Holding, Ambrose or Garner.
I remember once having a conversation in which all 6 of the participants rated Holding over Marshall. I then spent the next 10 minutes desperately pleading Marshall’s case, insisting they were wrong. Their argument, (which was wrong, in my humble opinion) was that Marshall wasn’t very tall or quick. So how could he be better than Holding? Well, he wasn’t tall, I’ll give them that, but this often worked in his favour as it meant his bouncer was very skiddy and often surprised unsuspecting batsmen who were hoping for some relief from the barrage at the other end.
In 1984, Marshall immortalised his legend with a display of such courage and skill that one could only watch in awe. After breaking his thumb while fielding, he came out to bat one-handed so that Larry Gomes could complete his hundred. Then came the stunner – with his left hand covered in plaster, he took 7 for 53 to rip apart the English batting lineup. It was a performance that earned him tremendous respect worldwide, and will certainly never be forgotten by anyone lucky enough to witness it.
Unlike the other West Indian bowlers, and most others in the world, Marshall was able to swing the ball both ways at over 90 mph. This, coupled with his remarkably intelligent cricketing brain and determined nature, made for quite a formidable package. His ability to modify his game based on the circumstances was one of his most outstanding qualities. While most fast bowlers would wince at the sight of a subcontinental pitch, Marshall adapted. He developed a devastating leg cutter which he used when the pitch didn’t offer too much pace or bounce. In 1988, at Old Trafford, England had prepared a dusty track in an attempt to nullify the West Indies’ pace battery. Marshall would not succumb to such tactics – he proceeded to use all the tools at his disposal, of which there were many, to take 7 for 22 and tear England to shreds as usual.
Tragically, Marshall died of cancer aged just 41. After his death, the regard in which he was held by his peers became clear. Perhaps his legend was enhanced upon his death, as so often happens when a celebrity dies young. But his stats certainly back up his fame. He had a strike rate of 46, which is exceptional by any standards, and an average of 20.94. To maintain such extraordinary numbers over 81 Tests is quite remarkable. Perhaps the most telling statistic is his number of 5-wicket hauls: he took 22, which is an absolutely incredible statistic considering the quality of the bowlers around him. It suggests that when others failed to deliver, he picked up the slack. He shone in difficult conditions and excelled in others.
For his intelligence, his pure raw talent, his effectiveness, and most importantly, his big heart, Marshall was, quite simply, one of the greatest bowlers of all time.
And now for a video tribute to the great man:
These are the other players who have made it so far:
Read the detailed write-ups on all the players in this list here: