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‘Caught Marsh, bowled Lillee’ legend lives on

WACA fast wicket that spreads fear among batsmen

Image Credit: K.R. Nayar/Gulf News
The framed photograph in the Lillee-Marsh pavilion saying “caught Marsh, bowled Lillee”.
Gulf News

Perth: Western Australia Cricket Ground (WACA)’s Press box is located in the Lillee-Marsh pavilion. As soon as one enters it’s portals, a framed photograph saying “caught Marsh, bowled Lillee” adorns the left side of the hall.

The combination of Rodney Marsh behind the wicket and Dennis Lillee running up to bowl was the most awe-inspiring sights for all spectators at the WACA because both are products of this ground. Even now, people here proudly recall memories of this combination that destroyed many a batting line-up.

I was fortunate to have talked to Marsh about his playing days, especially his combination with Lillee, when he was the Head Coach of the ICC Cricket Academy in Dubai. When I visited the very ground where he had taken those spectacular and acrobatic catches, that conversation came back to me to give me the goosebumps.

Marsh had once narrated to me an incident involving him and the great Gary Sobers way back in 1971 at WACA. He recalled Sobers walking out to bat and Lillee walking up to get ready to bowl. The slip cordon and himself, the wicket keeper, were standing nearly 27 yards behind the crease. After taking his guard, when Sobers asked Marsh why they were standing so far behind, Marsh replied that he would know very soon. The WACA wicket was fast and bouncy, and when combined with Lillee’s pace, it was possible to collect the ball or take a catch only if one stood that far behind. In that match, Lillee took eight wickets.

Below the photograph of Marsh taking a catch off Lillee are written the words: “From Friday January 29, 1971, when they took the field together at Test match level, to Friday January 6, 1984 when they walked off for the last time, they combined for a record number of dismissals by a wicket keeper-bowler combination. The immortal phrase “caught Marsh bowled Lillee” appeared 95 times in scorebooks!”

Some of the local fans here also relish spreading fear among fans of visiting teams reminding them of batsmen who have got injured due to the pace of the wicket. “Do you know that in the 1988-89 series, Australian tailender Geoff Lawson’s jaw was broken by Curtly Ambrose. Anyone who does not know to bat should never bat in WACA,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Indian team management’s decision not to permit their players to give interviews has become such a big news that a group of Indian scribes were heard discussing how they were humiliated by a taxi driver. This taxi driver, whose ancestors are from Punjab, is said to be a keen cricket follower, and it seems as soon as the scribes entered his car to go to the stadium, he asked them whether they were the ones to whom Team India does not give any interviews!

Not to take the insult lying down, they gave it back to the driver when he asked them why Yuvraj Singh who had hit three centuries in domestic games was not picked for the Indian team. It seems they told him that he was good enough only to play Twenty20 cricket. Many of the drivers here who are from Punjab believe that Yuvraj should have been picked.