Adelaide: Dennis Lillee led the tributes on Thursday at a funeral service for his friend and former Australian teammate Rod Marsh at the Adelaide Oval.
The Australian cricket great, who formed a prolonged and prolific wicket-taking partnership with pace bowler Lillee, died in an Adelaide hospital on March 4 just over a week after having a heart attack during a fundraising event in Queensland state. He was 74.
Marsh was half of a catchphrase that was synonymous with the era of Test cricket: “caught Marsh, bowled Lillee.” They combined a record 95 times to dismiss opposition batters in Tests.
Marsh’s casket, with purple and white flowers on top, was in front of the podium as a number of speakers came forward during the service. At the end of the service, the casket made a final circuit of the pitch at Adelaide Oval, with past cricketers forming a guard of honour.
Lillee attended Thursday’s service at the stadium’s William Magarey Room, as did former national captains Ian Chappell and Allan Border, pace great Jeff Thomson and former Test player David Boon. Other more recent ex-Test players included Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden and Ian Healy.
“I still can’t believe that our mate and mate to many isn’t around anymore,” Lillee told a gathering of about 300 people. “It’s taken me days to write my thoughts down on this amazing bloke.
“But I don’t want to talk about his cricketing ability… it’s the person Rod Marsh that I loved. I’ve got to say that it hasn’t always been that way. It was something that grew over time, even after our careers were finished.”
Marsh is survived by his wife, Ros, and sons Paul, Dan and Jamie.
Marsh and Lillee made their Test debuts in the 1970-71 Ashes series against England and retired after a Test against Pakistan in 1984. Both finished with 355 dismissals, records at the time for a wicketkeeper and for a fast bowler.
Marsh played in the first One Day International in 1970 and retired from top-level cricket after his 92nd ODI, against the West Indies in February 1984.
A left-handed batter, he was the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a century in Test cricket — against Pakistan at Adelaide in 1972 — and finished his career with three. He later led the national cricket academies in Australia and in England and was the inaugural head of the International Cricket Council’s world coaching academy in Dubai.
Walking in younger brother's shadows
In 2014, he was appointed as Australia’s chairman of selectors and held the position for two years.
His older brother Graham, a retired professional golfer who won the 1977 Heritage Classic on the US PGA Tour, recalled their early days in Western Australia state playing cricket with their father.
“Rod couldn’t get enough, throwing himself at any ball that came near him, even one directed at me he’d grab right from under my nose,” Marsh said.
“I always wanted to be on his team and he’d do anything to protect his family,” he said. “They say younger brothers often walk in the shadow of their older brothers but baby brother, it’s been an honour to walk in your shadow.”