Photo Credit: South Australian Cricket Association
South Australian cricket is mourning the loss of Rod Marsh, who died peacefully this morning aged 74. One of Australia’s finest wicketkeepers, Rod was loved, respected and admired by all for his wonderful contribution to our world game, both on and off the field.
Affectionately known as Bacchus, Rod earned the admiration of teammates and rivals alike. He was known for unwavering integrity and competitiveness, a style forged in the fire of backyard cricket against older brother Graham at their Armadale, WA home.
Playing his first competitive fixture at the age of eight, Rod found a calling behind the stumps, yet was initially recognised for sublime skill with the bat. Named captain of the State schoolboys’ side at 13, Rod went on to debut for West Perth’s First XI followed by a first-class cap for Western Australia against a touring West Indies side in 1968.
Rod worked hard to be recognised with both bat and glove and was earmarked as a special talent, quickly rewarded with an Ashes Test debut in 1970.
Between 1970 and 1984, Rod’s name graced 96 Test Match and 92 One Day International scorecards, with a total of 4,858 runs dutifully recorded and a remarkable 479 dismissals tallied. Able to soar in pursuit of a ball attempting to evade capture following a meeting with a batter’s blade, Rod never let a chance slip by.
At the time of his retirement, Rod’s 355 Test dismissals made him the most prolific wicketkeeper in the history of the game, a stunning achievement revealing the hallmark of Rod’s character: dedication to hard work and perseverance.
95 of those Test dismissals are shared with another great of the game, Dennis Lillee. Two great mates from Western Australia who never failed to appreciate each opportunity to take the field together. The line ‘caught Marsh, bowled Lillee’ echoes throughout the halls of Australian sporting history.
Rod’s contribution to cricket extends far beyond his remarkable on-field exploits. After taking off the gloves for the final time, Rod began a new chapter that would take him throughout the world as a coach, administrator, commentator and champion of the game.
The careers of many of Australia’s greatest cricketers have been shaped by Rod Marsh. Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie were all mentored by Rod during his time as Head of the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide, a role he performed brilliantly for more than a decade.
Foe turned friend in 2001 when England came calling, installing Rod as Director of the ECB National Academy. In that role Rod oversaw England’s rise to a strong team that not only challenged, but defeated Australia in the 2005 Ashes, their first triumph in the storied rivalry for 16 years.
Most recently, Rod served as a member of the SACA Board from 2018 – 2021. As Chair of SACA’s High Performance committee, Rod generously shared his deep cricket experience and knowledge for the betterment of South Australian cricket, served up with his trademark directness and brilliant sense of humour.
Bestowed with many honours, Rod was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1981 and welcomed into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985. Rod was also inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2005 and the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
SACA President Andrew Sinclair said:
“It’s with enormously heavy hearts SACA offers our deepest condolences to Ros and the Marsh family.
“Rod is one of the greatest to play the game, not simply because he was so wonderfully talented, but because he was such a tremendous person.
“A much-loved member of the South Australian cricketing community, Rod inspired all those fortunate enough to meet him or watch him play. For a generation of Australians, Rod epitomised the spirit of cricket on the world stage.
“Rod’s incredible on-field achievements will always be remembered and his profound legacy as a coach and administrator will endure.
“Rod attracted people to him, but not deliberately. He got under your skin in an entirely endearing way. He didn’t mean it – but he showed us how to live.
“In cricket parlance, he was the walking Spirit of Cricket. A man of utmost honesty and integrity. He mixed that Spirit with a verve for life (and South Australian red) that produced a great and rare Australian blend.
“Rodney William Marsh – our glasses are held aloft, in tribute to your life. An incomparable innings that is lovingly remembered.”