CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1959

Roy Marshall

County cricket in the last four years has offered few more rewarding sights than Roy Edwin Marshall lashing the best bowling into subjection. The bronzed, bespectacled Marshall is a batsman with a style that is at once peculiarly and typically West Indian. The uncanny amalgamation of eye and wrist is something he shares with the very best batsmen from the Caribbean, and with three of them, Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, he shares the birthplace of Barbados, that tiny island, where the excellent turf pitches and clear atmosphere breed confidence and fluency in each succeeding generation of young batsmen. Coaching is perfunctory, which may explain why in Weekes and Marshall, unorthodoxy has reached the pitch of brilliance. Marshall, born on April 25, 1930, recalls that most of his advice came from his brother Norman, six years his elder. Curiously enough, the older Marshall played for West Indies against Australia in 1955, after the younger Roy had disappeared from Test cricket.

Not surprisingly, competition for places in schools teams in Barbados is keen, but Marshall, a pupil of Lodge School, which also numbers John Goddard among its old boys, was in the eleven for three years as batsman and off-spin bowler. His potential did not go unnoticed, and in 1946, at the age of fifteen years and nine months, he made his first-class d├ębut for Barbados. His performance was an anti-climax--two runs--and for the time being he rejoined his school friends among the crowd. Later that year he watched enthralled while Worrell and Walcott compiled the then highest stand in the history of first-class cricket, 574 for Barbados against Trinidad at Port of Spain. Three years later Marshall was back in the Barbados team, and this time he began with 149, 110 and 57 in two matches against Trinidad.

An innings of 191 against British Guiana caught the eye of the West Indies selectors, and Marshall achieved the ambition of every West Indian schoolboy, selection for the 1950 tour of England. At 20, he was one of the youngest members of the party. English cricket was routed by John Goddard's great team, and though Marshall did not play in any of the Tests, he scored 1,117 runs at an average of 39.89. One innings was to have far-reaching significance. Hampshire, at Southampton, were overwhelmed. Marshall scored 135, shared a stand of 139 with Weekes, and his innings is considered to this day one of the finest ever played on the county ground. E. D. R. Eagar, Hampshire's secretary-captain, watched it from slip, and noted Marshall's quality.

The summer of 1951 Marshall spent playing for Lowerhouse in the Lancashire League. Then he went to Australia under Goddard. The side which had been too good for England were in turn, soundly beaten by Australia, but Marshall was one of the successes of the tour. Lindwall, in the first Test, shattered the early batting with his sheer speed. Marshall showed that Lindwall could be hit, others followed his example, and by the end of the tour the great Australian fast bowler had lost much of his menace for the touring team. After losing the first two Tests, West Indies needed 233 to win the third, their first innings having totalled only 105. Marshall had pulled a muscle in the field, but batting virtually on one leg, with the services of a runner, he shared with J. B. Stollmeyer an opening stand of 72, the best for either side in the series, and West Indies won by six wickets.

Next summer Marshall fulfilled his contract with Lowerhouse and was packing up to go home when he received a letter from Eagar offering him a job on the Hampshire staff. He started to qualify the following summer, emerging to hit 71 in eighty-five minutes against the Australian team on a brute of a pitch at Southampton. A visit to India with the Commonwealth side followed, and in the five unofficial Tests Marshall averaged 44.28. His first season in the Hampshire team, 1955, was also the most successful in their history prior to 1958. Marshall's contribution was 2,115 runs in all matches, and he also led the bowling averages. Like many other batsmen, Marshall secretly longs for elevation to the all-rounder status, and in his case there is some justification. His powers of spin are considerable--men who spin the ball little rarely last long in Barbados.

Hampshire's batting these days is almost totally reliant on Marshall. Yet responsibility has completely failed to dull his attacking instincts. Five- and six-hour centuries are anathema to him. It is not enough to fight an honourable draw with the bowling, he feels. It must be dominated, and right from the first ball he sets out to impose his mastery, with frequently spectacular results. Marshall's most prolific scoring strokes are square on either side of the wicket, but when these avenues are closed to him by field-placing he contrives to score just as quickly, with a drive past mid-off, late and off the back foot, which few batsmen could emulate.

But he is just as likely to hit a four with a stroke which defies definition. One recalls particularly his dismissal by the New Zealanders at Southampton last season. He was caught on the boundary edge at third man, trying no doubt to emulate P. G. H. Fender's legendary feat of cutting a six. Marshall has no strict preference for any one type of bowling, but speed probably suits him best, if only because the ball reaches the boundary that much faster. Yet in conversation he declines to be described as a fast scoring batsman. Watching Weekes or Worrell at the other end cured me of that idea, he modestly claims. Marshall has brought a spirit of adventure to Hampshire cricket, and cricket in general should be grateful. He has a Manchester-born wife and two daughters.--A. W.

© John Wisden & Co