IT CAN be argued that Roy Marshall did more than any other cricketer of his generation to save the county game from atrophy. It was not just that he scored 35,725 first-class runs, mainly for Hampshire, but that he made them with the greatest enterprise at a time - the Fifties and Sixties - when the county game had forgotten that it was an entertainment, and was in danger of becoming defensive to the point of sterility. As his Hampshire opening partner of 11 years, Jimmy Gray, said yesterday: 'Roy forced us all to re-think the way we played our cricket . . . He proved it was possible to attack and be successful.'
Needless to say, Marshall was a prophet who came from another land, one that soon did not want him. His father was a manager on a sugar plantation in Barbados, in the central parish of St Thomas. Like his brother Norman who also played for West Indies, Roy was brought up on hard, fast pitches to bat as most Barbadians do. Yet he was not the flashy, happy-go-lucky character which many deduced him to be.
A member of the then elite Wanderers club, he was chosen to make his debut for Barbados when three months short of his 16th birthday. He came to hook any short stuff; to drive crashingly square of the wicket, or over extra-cover; and was perhaps the first to play regularly that stroke, the upper-cut for six, which has since been made common by heavier, streamlined bats. Still, he was a light man, under 11 stone for most of his career though 6ft tall, and so poorly sighted that he needed thick spectacles.
With Conrad Hunte, who never found a regular partner, Marshall would have made a West Indian opening partnership to rival Rae and Stollmeyer, Greenidge and Haynes. But the West Indian selectors declined to use cricketers who had emigrated, as Marshall did, and his four-Test career was over at the age of 21. In 1953, after two years in the Lancashire League with Lowerhouse, where he met his wife Shirley, he started a two- year period of qualification for Hampshire. The county had remembered him from 1950, when Marshall had been the youngest member of the West Indian touring team and hit 135 against them.
From 1955 to 1972 Marshall reeled off brilliant centuries, 68 in all, with relatively few failures for one of such daring method (his first-class average was 35.94). In 1961 he scored 2,455 runs to take Hampshire to their first county championship. From 1966 to 1970 he was their captain, but, according to John Arlott: 'Just as he did not forgive his own shortcomings, he could not overlook those of others. He was always something of a perfectionist.' He had to open the batting, because 'He simply could not endure the stress of waiting.'
After retiring from active cricket he was a little bemused when invited to become the chairman of Somerset's cricket committee: but he accepted, as he ran a pub in Taunton, and there was nobody else left after the Somerset revolution of 1986-87, when Viv Richards was sacked and Ian Botham resigned. According to one player of the time, 'He was a very good judge of cricketers,' though not the sort of political animal to enjoy the machinations of committee work.
As a white Barbadian, who played before anti-burn creams, Marshall was more liable than most to skin cancer. It cost him his right eye, and forced him from the chairmanship, and into a Taunton hospice shortly before his death.
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