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Remembering Malcolm Marshall: The Speed Machine

Pravir Rai
08 Jun 2018, 00:42 IST

Marshall delivering the ball

West Indies in 1970s/80s had an abundance of fast bowlers who could maul any batting attack with their swing, speed and bounce. All four - Andy Roberts, Holding, Garner and Marshall were savage and revered at the same tim e.Marshall was a slight departure among the quadruple. He was 1.8 meters tall and lanky in appearance, but that did not stop him from becoming the most lethal bowler from West Indies.

Malcolm Marshall bowled with an angular run-up instead of a straight run-up. Bob Willis had the same kind of run-up, but he was not as fast as Marshall. Marshall ran like a cheetah, sprinting and skidding as he got close to the bowling crease, and delivered the ball with quick round-arm action.

His in-cutters were at par with the ones bowled by Imran Khan. He would land the ball outside the off-stump and could cut it so sharply that batsmen would struggle for room and would either get bowled or be given LBW. During the 1980s, Marshall reigned supreme. A superb athlete, his combination of searing pace, dripping accuracy and the ability to swing the ball both ways made for a lethal combination.

Marshall has probably bowled the maximum number of bouncers and that too so effective that it hurt a few batsmen and most were left demoralized even before they could face him. He would bowl bouncers mostly from round-the-wicket to a right-hand batsman, with a middle and leg line such that batsman did not even have a chance to duck and save themselves from the body blow. One of his victims was Mike Gatting, whose nose was rearranged by a vicious bouncer in the opening One-Day International between the West Indies and England on February 18, 1986. Andy Lloyd got hit by one of his bouncers to such an extent that he had blurred vision for many days and did not again play test cricket for England.

One os
One of his lethal bouncers

With his quick round-up action and lengthy run-up, he bowled out batsmen with his sheer speed. Gavaskar once mentioned that when he faced Marshall, he could never see the entire bowl coming at him. Instead what he saw, was a small ring which he would aim to hit. He consistently bowled at 90+ mph for the most part of his career and took 376 wickets at an average of 20.94. Indeed his average of 20.94 runs per Test wicket has yet to be bettered by any Test bowler with over 200 wickets.

Wasim Akram mentions about Marshall in one of his interviews "His skills were to pick the mistakes of batsmen straight away and spot their weaknesses". Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev said Marshall's devastating slinging action was the key for the only bowler he could remember who rattled the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. "On a green pitch at Kanpur, Marshall hit Sunil on the arm and the bat flew out of his hand. I said `wow' - I had never seen such a thing before."

Malcolm had a heart of a lion. No one can forget his bowling spell of 7/53 against England with broken left hand and then bat only with his right hand. Very few players in the history of the game have played with such a big heart and roared like a lion as he did.

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