Alex Massie

Malcolm Marshall Remembered

Text settings

Since I'm too young to have seen Dennis Lillee in his absolute prime, Malcolm Marshall is the greatest fast bowler I've watched in my lifetime. He would have been 50 this month, but for the colon cancer that killed him. Pat Lynch remembers the great Barbadian here. One fine story that has just a hint of the Golden Age about it:

What he said, he meant, as he did at Pontypridd when playing for Hampshire. With two days remaining, Glamorgan were 13 runs ahead in their second innings with seven wickets left. Just before the start of play in front of a full dressing room Marshall rang his Southampton golf club and booked a tee-time for 4pm that day.

In the first session Marshall took six of the seven remaining wickets, leaving Hampshire 70 to win, which they accomplished before lunch. At 4.05pm Marshall was teeing off, apologising for being five minutes late.

Also, anyone who has ever had to ghost a column for a sports star will appreciate this:

Marshall and I got on well, initially because we made each other money. I ghosted his book in 1986 and wrote his column in the Daily Mirror for eight years, rusty shorthand struggling to keep up with a mountain of words, machine-gunned out in a Bajan accent he never lost. I was never sure I wrote what he said, but he never complained.

"Maco" liked brandy (not rum) and coke and he would deliver his sermons for me to scribble down as he knocked it back, his accent getting thicker and voice higher by the shot.

Sometimes I would need him urgently in places like Rawalpindi in the days before email and mobile phones. He would be on tour with West Indies and, for want of something to do, the players would drift in and out of each other's hotel rooms. I am fairly certain I did at least two Daily Mirror columns down crackling phones lines with players other than Marshall but they were happy to talk and it would have been rude to interrupt.

I remember at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, during which one of my duties was to write Kenny Logan's column for him, one hack - from The Sunday Telegraph I think - suggested there should be a "Rugby Ghost Writers' Dinner" at which journos would sit at seats labelled with the names of the player's they had written for. "Aye," said another long-suffering soul, "and there'd be an entire table of Francois Pienaars." If memory serves, after Australia defeated France in the final, the great Serge Blanco's contribution to his 700 word column the next day was "France, great heart, Australia magnifique. That enough for you?"

(Thanks, Norm)

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietycricketnewspapers