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Geoff Marsh, the catalyst to Australia’s white-ball cricket supremacy

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Last updated on 31 Dec 2023 | 10:57 AM
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Geoff Marsh, the catalyst to Australia’s white-ball cricket supremacy

While he was a decent batsman in Tests, it was in ODIs that he became very effective

Former Australian captain and opener Geoff Marsh might have only had a brief seven-year stint in international cricket, but the Northam lad did manage to help his country win the coveted World Cup Trophy during that time, an honour that eluded Australia for 12 years.

Marsh wasn’t a mere passenger in the 87’ World Cup-winning Australian team either, as he ended as the third-highest scorer of that edition, sitting only behind Graham Gooch and David Boon. Marsh’s most iconic batting display came in Chandigarh against New Zealand when opening with Boon. He remained unbeaten on 126, a knock that had 12 boundaries and three sixes.

Born on December 31, 1958, in Western Australia, Marsh wasn’t a technically rich, elegant batsman as purists loved to see. In his prime, Marsh was widely believed to be unbeatable once he was set at the crease as he banked mostly on grit and determination to take the sting out of bowling attacks before playing his shots. However, this doesn’t take anything away from his extremely judicious shot selection that helped him score 13 international centuries in a short time.

Marsh debuted in 1985 during India’s tour of Australia and after failing to score big from the number three position in four consecutive innings, he found his mojo as Australia’s opener. Marsh’s 92-run knock in Sydney spelled the beginning of Australia’s new era, alongside the upcoming likes of David Boon and Mark Taylor.

The retirement of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh had thrown Australia off-gear, but the transition phase didn’t last long, thanks to Marsh who took the responsibility for scoring quick runs coming at the top. While Marsh was a decent batsman in Tests, it was in ODIs that he became effective.

Marsh scored 4357 runs in 177 ODI games with an average of almost 40, tallying nine centuries and 22 half-centuries. India was his favourite opponent, against whom he scored almost 1000 runs in 24 games. He tallied over 800 runs against New Zealand and West Indies as well, with the 1987 World Cup year being his best white-ball season.

Despite not looking the part, Marsh was a good captain and exceptional coach. While he could captain Australia in only four ODIs, in which he won three, it was in the coaching capacity that he shone. Having taken up the coaching role from Bob Simpson in 1996, Marsh had a tricky task ahead.

While Australia were the best side in Tests in the mid-90s, it was in white-ball cricket that Marsh’s acumen was needed. The new coach needed to bring this new change without seeing depreciation in Australia’s red-ball form and he did it in an almost flawless manner. While the team won in West Indies, Pakistan and retained the Ashes on the way, they went on to win the 1999 World Cup by remaining undefeated in seven consecutive matches.   

The only taint in Marsh’s coaching career would, perhaps, be a 2-1 defeat in India in 1998, which spoiled an otherwise excellent record. Marsh has also coached the Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka national teams apart from being a national selector.

Geoff Marsh is also among the very few cricketers in world cricket, whose sons - Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh - have represented the national cricket team.

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