Cricket: Marshall dies of cancer at 41

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The Independent Online
THE LOUDSPEAKERS that would have been booming their reggae music across the ground were muted. The Red Stripe beer and the Appleton rum weren't flowing as freely as normal. Flags were at half-staff and faces glum.

The death from cancer of Malcolm Marshall threw a pall of gloom yesterday over Red Stripe Bowl Weekend at the Kasiser Sports Club in Discovery Bay, in the relaxed heart of Jamaica's tourist country.

The normally festive culmination of the West Indies' annual one-day tournament became a virtual wake as several of those who played alongside him in his heyday as one of the game's most feared fast bowlers and then under him more recently in his role as the West Indies' coach gathered for the semi-finals and final.

Michael Holding, one of Marshall's colleagues in the formidable West Indies' pace attack of the 1980s, was audibly choked by emotion when asked on the radio commentary at the start of play for his memories of Marshall. "It's too hard, let's stick to this cricket," he replied after a lengthy pause.

It was typical of the reaction to the passing of a widely admired and respected cricketer.

"I'm very shocked," Holding managed to say as he regained his composure. "You knew he was going to find it difficult to recover from the illness that struck him down but, as a young man of 41 with so much to contribute, it's not easy to take.

"I don't think of the guy as a fast bowler," he added. "He was more than just a statistic to me. It's not something I can talk about easily. It's knocked me back quite a bit."

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, captain of the Guyana team that met the Leeward Islands in yesterday's semi-final, played under Marshall. "It's not going to be easy to concentrate on the cricket here," he said.

From Prime Ministers to past players to postmen, the West Indies mourned Marshall's passing as one.

The Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, called it "a most tragic moment in the life of West Indies cricket."

Viv Richards, under whose captaincy Marshall played most of his 81 Tests, compared the effect of his death on the global cricket community with Payne Stewart's on golf two weeks ago.

"He was admired the world over and I know the shock and the sadness will be the same in our game as it was in golf when Payne Stewart passed away," Richards said.