Australia mourns death of beloved cricketer Rod Marsh

Cricket - Australia Nets - Lord?s - 14/7/15 Australia chairman of selectors Rod Marsh during nets Action Images via Reuters / Philip Brown Livepic

SYDNEY, March 4 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Scott Morrison led tributes as Australia mourned the death on Friday of much-loved cricketer Rod Marsh at the age of 74, with messages pouring in from around the world of cricket.

Marsh, who played 96 tests in the 1970s and 1980s, died in Adelaide eight days after suffering a heart attack while on his way to a charity event in Queensland.

"It's a sad day," said Morrison. "He was a childhood hero of mine who led me to actually try and be a wicketkeeper in primary school.

"Wasn't very good at it, but everyone wanted to be Rod Marsh."

Regarded as one of Australia's finest wicketkeepers, Marsh retired in 1984 with a then-world record tally of 355 dismissals from behind the stumps.

Adam Gilchrist, one of three wicketkeepers who have since surpassed the tally, was among the many Australia players who paid tribute to Marsh on Friday. L3N2V70WO

"I'm shattered, absolutely stunned," Gilchrist told 6PR radio.

"I thought he was invincible. He was my absolute idol and hero and inspiration as to why I pursued what I did. The impact he had on my life is profound."

Marsh made his test debut against England in November 1970 and scored 3,633 test runs during a career that lasted more than 13 years.

He famously combined with fellow Western Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee to take 95 wickets during the pair's test career together.

Marsh played his final test against Pakistan in January 1984 and, after a spell in the TV commentary box, ran Australia's national cricket academy for more than a decade.

"He was brilliant to deal with because he knew the game inside-out, but also had a way of dealing with you to put you at your ease," said Australia captain Pat Cummins.

"When I think of Rod I think of a generous and larger-than-life character who always had a life-loving, positive and relaxed outlook."

Marsh was inducted into the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Hall of Fame in 2009 and was remembered by the global governing body of the sport for a lifetime of work in the game.

"His legacy has gone way beyond what he achieved on the field," ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice said in a statement.

"He played a significant role in developing young cricketers all around the world, including through his time as the inaugural director of coaching at the ICC academy in Dubai."

Marsh's last job in the game was as chairman of Australia's selectors panel from 2014 to 2016 and the test team will wear black armbands in his honour when they face Pakistan in Islamabad later on Friday.

He is survived by his wife Roslyn and children Paul, Dan and Jamie.

"He has been an incredible husband, father and grandfather and we have been so fortunate to have him in all our lives," the family said in a statement.

Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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