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Marshall, Malcolm Denzil [Maco] (1958–1999), cricketer, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 18 April 1958, the only son of Denzil Marshall, policeman, and his wife, Eleanor, née Welch, cashier. His father died in a motorbike accident when Malcolm was one, and his mother remarried. He consequently had a half-brother, Michael, and a half-sister, Cheryl-Anne. He grew up in St Michael's parish and although smaller than his contemporaries excelled at cricket from an early age at St Giles Boys' School (1963–9) and Parkinson comprehensive (1969–73), which he left at fifteen with GCE qualifications in maths and English. On his own admission he developed into an indolent youth, not given to accepting authority; he was more than once disciplined for disobedience while playing for Barbados youth representative sides.

Sir Ian Clark, managing director of Banks Brewery, Barbados, rescued Marshall from idleness by offering him an easy part-time job in return for Marshall's blossoming cricketing services for his brewery club side. Marshall rejected Clark's first offer but accepted the second in 1976, aged eighteen. From that uncertain start, his career took off in spectacular fashion. Selected for the Barbados side in the inter-island Shell shield in 1977–8 for one match against Jamaica, and by then a batting all-rounder, he was the shock selection for the West Indies' tour of India in 1978–9. Working in the brewery storeroom, he learned of his selection from the radio and admitted he had no idea where India was. He made his international début in the second test at Bangalore on 15 December 1978. Batting at nine, he made 0 and 5 and took the first of 376 test wickets when he dismissed Chetan Chauhan. The match was drawn but saw the beginning of a career-long grudge against the Indian fielder Dilip Vengsarkar, whose vociferous and constant appeals, Marshall claimed, were responsible for the umpire giving him out wrongly leg before wicket in his first innings.

Marshall at the same time signed his first professional contract with the English county side Hampshire, worth £3000 for the 1979 season. Hampshire took him unseen on the recommendation of Peter Short, the Barbados cricket president. This was the start of a fourteen-year relationship (1979–93) in which Marshall (known by friends and fans as Maco) took more than 1000 wickets for the county, 826 in first-class matches. He was awarded a tax-free benefit in 1987 (which raised more than £60,000).

Marshall was a non-playing member of the West Indies squad that won the world cup in 1979, but no bowler was more dominant in the 1980s, when he cut through international batting. Small of stature, claiming to be 5 feet 10 inches but often looking smaller alongside his giant West Indian contemporaries Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose, and Courtney Walsh, he achieved great pace from his whippy right-arm action, and had a lethal bouncer that opponents found hard to detect. He was probably the fastest bowler in the world in the 1980s, taking seven for 24 in 1980 against England at Old Trafford as a portent. He followed that with thirty-three wickets in the series of six tests against India in 1983–4, during which he also made his best test score of 92 in Kanpur. After the 1984–5 series in Australia his skill as a bowler was confirmed by the statistic that revealed he had taken five or more wickets in eleven out of fourteen tests. Undoubtedly his finest hour in this period came at Headlingley in July 1984 when he broke a thumb fielding, returned to bat at the fall of the ninth West Indian wicket with his arm in plaster, and then took seven for 53 to beat a demoralized England. This earned him the sobriquet ‘one-armed bandit’ as the West Indies went on to win the series 5–0 in what became known as the ‘blackwash’. In February 1986 he broke the nose of the England captain, Mike Gatting, while bowling, confessing the sight of the blood made him sick. In 1988, again against England, he took thirty-five wickets in the five tests at an average of 12.65.

Marshall's last test came at the Oval in September 1991, with Graham Gooch his final victim. After returning to domestic cricket he won the Benson and Hedges cup with Hampshire in 1992, the only major trophy he won while playing for the county. At the height of his powers, in 1982 (during which season he took 134 wickets for Hampshire), he rejected one million American dollars to join an unsanctioned West Indian tour of apartheid South Africa. But in 1993, freed from constraints of conscience by the removal of apartheid, he joined Natal on a three-year contract before retiring in 1996 at the end of a first-class career spanning twenty years, 408 matches, 11,004 runs, seven centuries, and 1651 wickets. If limited-over matches, in which he was conspicuously less effective, are included the final tally was 2171 wickets and 14,799 runs.

From 1996 to 1999 Marshall was coach simultaneously to Hampshire and the West Indies, both then in decline. He was taken ill during the world cup in May 1999, with what proved to be advanced cancer of the colon. With his health declining, on 25 September 1999 at the register office in Romsey, Hampshire, he married his long-time partner, Connie Roberta Earle, daughter of Vincent De Costa Earle, mechanical engineer. The best man was his West Indian team-mate Desmond Haynes. After the marriage he returned to Barbados, and rediscovered his Christian faith in his final days. He died on 4 November 1999 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bridgetown. Among those attending his funeral service at the Sir Gary Sobers Gymnasium, Wildey, Barbados, and later his burial at St Bartholomew's Church, Barbados, on 13 November were his daughter, Shelly Andrea (b. 1984), from a previous relationship, and his son with Connie, Mali (b. 1991). Hundreds lined the streets as his cortège passed. Among posthumous accolades, in July 2010 he was voted a member of the Cricinfo best West Indian eleven of all time by former players and cricket journalists.

Pat Symes

Sources  

Wisden (1979–2000) · Daily Mirror (20 Feb 1986) · Malcolm Marshall benefit brochure, 1987 · M. Marshall and P. Symes, Marshall arts: the autobiography of Malcolm Marshall (1987) · The Times (6 Nov 1999) · The Guardian (6 Nov 1999) · The Independent (6 Nov 1999) · New York Times (6 Nov 1999) · The Economist (13 Nov 1999) · Sunday Sun [Barbados] (14 Nov 1999) · Sunday Advocate [Barbados] (14 Nov 1999) · P. Symes, Maco: the Malcolm Marshall story (2000) · personal knowledge (2011) · private information (2011) · m. cert.

Archives  

 

FILM

 

BBC archives


Likenesses  

photographs, 1979–99, PA Photos, London · photographs, 1988–98, Rex Features, London · photograph, 1996–8, Photoshot, London · L. Smillie, photograph, Camera Press, London · C. Smith, photographs, Camera Press, London · obituary photographs · photographs, Hampshire Cricket Club · photographs, repro. in Marshall and Symes, Marshall arts · photographs, repro. in Symes, Maco