Obituary

Roy Marshall

MARSHALL, ROY EDWIN, who died from cancer in a Taunton hospice on October 27, 1992, aged 62, may well have been the finest white batsman to have come from the Caribbean. His fame rests largely upon his 18 seasons with Hampshire from 1955 to 1972, when he made more than 27,000 Championship runs, and did so in a manner that shone like a beacon in a period when cricket was often drab and mean-spirited. He had all the strokes, though he avoided the hook and he always insisted on playing the spinners from the crease. He drove handsomely, and when a ball was short of a length, on or outside the off-stump, he would cut or slash with devastating power, sometimes even testing third man's catching ability.

Marshall was born on April 25, 1930, on a sugar plantation about ten miles outside Bridgetown. He was fortunate to be able to develop his game in Barbados, an island teeming with young cricketers, and in a cricketing family - his elder brother Norman also played Test cricket. Roy progressed so rapidly that he was chosen to represent the island when he was three months short of his 16th birthday. Another chance came in January 1949, when he secured his place. He made 149 against Trinidad at Bridgetown and followed this up in the second match with scores of 110 and 57. After hitting 191 against British Guiana in February 1950, he was chosen as the third opening batsman and youngest member of John Goddard's team to tour England.

His tour got off to a cruel start: on the boat he contracted measles; then he heard that his father had died suddenly from a heart attack. In the circumstances, his 1,117 runs at an average of 39.89 was highly commendable; he had little chance of making the Test team. The most significant innings he played turned out to be the 135 he scored against Hampshire at Southampton. Desmond Eagar, the Hampshire captain, was impressed enough to send Marshall a contract two years later. By then he had played in four Tests, to no great effect, on West Indies' tour of Australasia in 1951-52. At the time, moving into county cricket meant giving up his Test aspirations; the combination of political uncertainty in the West Indies and the presence of the three Ws in the batting line-up is believed to have assisted his decision.

Marshall qualified for the county in 1955, made 2,115 runs and played the major role in lifting Hampshire to third in the table, at that time their highest ever. He even finished top of their Championship bowling averages, taking 25 wickets with off-spinners which he could have bowled to even greater effect had he been more interested. It took him a while to adjust to damp wickets and he was less successful in the wet summer of 1956, but he was fast acquiring a reputation as one of the most watchable cricketers on the circuit. In 1957 he hit a century in 66 minutes against Kent at Southampton, the fastest for Hampshire since 1927. He was chosen as one of the Five Cricketers of the Year in 1959 and in 1961 he had a stupendous season. He passed 2,000 runs (as he did in 1955 and every year from 1958 and 1962), went on to make 2,607 and Hampshire won their first Championship. "People said we didn't have any stars," said the captain, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie. "But we had two major stars, Shackleton and Marshall." Sometimes the presence of Marshall was a disadvantage: Ingleby-Mackenzie was anxious to force results from games that were going nowhere but other captains were reluctant to set attainable targets when Marshall was around. With his partner Jimmy Gray providing staider contrast, Hampshire had the best opening partnership in the game.

He remained a highly effective county player for another decade. In 1966 he succeeded Ingleby-Mackenzie as captain and, despite the happy-go-lucky nature of his batting, actually proved a far more cautious leader than his predecessor. But he took an ageing team to fifth position twice and to second place in the Sunday League in its inaugural year, 1969. He had another sparkling season in 1970, his last year as captain, when he was 40. By then he had dropped down the order to accommodate Hampshire's new overseas star, Barry Richards. They had a good deal in common. Both might have played dozens of Tests but actually only played four each. Both were at their best against the most demanding bowlers but could get bored if the challenge was unworthy of them. Marshall had a very keen cricket brain and strong opinions on how the game should be played. It sometimes made him a difficult player to captain. It added depth to his own captaincy, to his coaching later on, and - after he had moved to Taunton - to his contributions as a member of the Somerset committee. He was an affable man and a good companion who for a time ran a pub in Taunton and regularly took the chance to go on the more sociable kind of cricket tours. He scored 35,725 runs, averaging 35.94, 30,303 of them for Hampshire, and 68 centuries. In 1972, he passed 1,000 runs as he had done every year since he qualified and, as a 42-year-old, made his third double-century, an awesome 203 against Derbyshire. He had a brilliant throw from the deep and held 294 catches. He took 176 wickets at 28.93. In his four Tests he made 143 runs and averaged 20.42. This was obviously no reflection of his real merit. Had he played for West Indies in 1963, when he was close to his peak and a mighty team was short only of a reliable opening partner for Conrad Hunte, he might have proved the point.

© John Wisden & Co