Roy Edwin Marshall
April 25, 1930, Farmers Plantation, St Thomas, Barbados
October 27, 1992, Taunton, Somerset, England, (aged 62y 186d)
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Only in cricket is it possible to savour that rare, marvellous amalgam of gentility and single-minded aggression. Roy Marshall was always in a hurry, rather like a nervous man hell-bent on catching a train. He did it with an apologetic shrug, implying he preferred the quiet life. But an afternoon at Southampton or Dean Park could never be too somnolent when he was at the wicket. It was invariably joyful. He made spectators gasp at his daring, sigh at his consummate fluency on good days.
It was usually accepted that the reason he went in first for Hampshire was that he simply couldn't bear to hang around for long, pads on and head buzzing over the technical complexities of the pitch or the opposing bowlers. Once he was out there, taking guard and adjusting his spectacles, any mental distractions had been exorcised. He was ready to go. The first ball was at times destined first bounce for the third-man boundary.
For the most part he was a master of style. He square-cut in the grand manner that Greenidge went on to emulate around the same parishes of the Solent. His on-and off-drives, especially the classically executed one through the covers, could be sublime. He was never afraid to hook. He had a dancer's feet and timing that will live timelessly in the minds of Hampshire romantics.
Marshall was the county's most hypnotic player. Members' wives dropped their knitting. He created an instant frisson; they loved the way this gentle cavalier set to work to impose his mastery over the best bowlers on the county circuit. He played for Hampshire from 1953 to 1972 and scored three double-hundreds. His highest, 228, was against the Pakistanis in 1962. Six times he passed 2000 runs. Many of them were compiled in felicitous haste.
He came from Farmers Plantation, St Thomas, Barbados and made his first-class debut as a 15-year-old. In 1950 he arrived here on tour with the West Indians, shook off ill-health, and still made 1117 runs at 39.89, with centuries at Leicester, the Oval and Southampton. It was not enough, in a richly-endowed party, to win a Test place.
Roy's brother played for his country; he himself made no more than four appearances, two each against Australia and New Zealand in 1951-52. His highest Test score (30) came in his debut match, at Brisbane, from the No. 9 position, and at Adelaide his 29, made with a runner following a painful leg injury, launched West Indies to a Christmas Day victory as he and Stollmeyer had an opening stand of 72.
At this distance, the negligible recognition seems almost an outrage. But, of course, his harvest years were when he was playing county cricket here. That in effect ruled out cricket for West Indies. The biggest irony of all is that he would have walked into the England side.
In all he scored 35,725 runs in 1053 innings (35.94) and took 176 wickets with delicate deliveries that could break quite wickedly from the off. His fielding occasionally let him down - put that down to his eyesight - but not that powerful, accurate throw from the deepest boundary. He had the tactical knowledge and insights that should have made him a slightly better captain. He led Hampshire from 1966-70 with varying success.
Marshall was one of our most exciting batsmen through the 1950s and 1960s. In his undemonstrative way, his happiest days were with Hampshire. They had persuaded him to join them after he had fashioned the most exquisite of centuries against them during that 1950 tour. Before he joined them, he had a productive spell of league cricket with Lowerhouse CC.
In his later years he arrived in the West Country - with wife Shirley and three daughters - to coach at King's College, in Taunton, and to prove himself a most likeable, unassuming landlord of the Westgate Inn. He showed an increasing interest in Somerset cricket; he was sensibly co-opted to the cricket committee and was chairman from 1987-91. Roy was also elected to the county's general committee. His views were quietly expressed, wisdom emanating from his wide experience of the game and its techniques. He hated controversy.
Many found him a rather taciturn man. Journalists like myself seldom phoned in vain, though the well-reasoned observations were not destined for headlines. On occasions he would become a delightful raconteur, with stories usually against himself. One of the favourites was of the time when Alan Knott came to Taunton to take an objective look at how things might be improved. He came up with the suggestion that the batsmen might benefit from an extended repertoire, with more reliance on the sweep. It didn't work spectacularly well, and up on the players' balcony, Marshall was discreetly tut-tutting, reminding the team what a risky shot it could be. His aversion was well-known. Then he turned up at the ground with a faded photograph of himself, on one knee ... doing the sweep.
Roy Marshall loved his family, the game of cricket and the songs of Frank Sinatra. His ferocious onslaught, never remotely unsightly or bludgeoning, lit up many a gloomy May morning. The manner in which he stood up to the fast bowlers revealed courage. It was a quality that surfaced, along with the dignity, during the recent years when he battled against cancer. He died in a Taunton hospice on Oct 27, at the age of 62.
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