A devoted cricket fan's love for the late Malcolm Marshall turned the pace of things around.
Standing 1.80 metres tall, Malcolm Denzil Marshall (“Macko” to his friends) was no doubt dwarfed by taller team mates in the invincible West Indies team of 1980's — Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh (all around 1.98 metres). But in pace, accuracy and wicket-taking abilities, he was their equal if not superior and he led the pace battery with distinction — 376 test wickets at the unbelievably low average of 20.94 proclaimed his greatness. He was the most feared of the West Indian pace battery, having broken the nose of England captain Mike Gatting and forcing the retirement of England opener Andy Lloyd after just one test match with a vicious bouncer which struck him on the head. During a 1984 test match in England, Marshall, with his fractured left hand in plaster, destroyed the English batting with a spell of 7 for 53. The British media hailed him the “One Arm Bandit” Marshall who became the West Indies' team coach after retirement, developed colon cancer in 1999 and died the same year. His native Barbados regarded it a national calamity and he was buried at St. Bartholomew's Church near the Bridgetown international airport. Five former West Indian cricket captains were the pall bearers.
In distant Mumbai, cricket crazy Mansie, from her school days, along with her father, hero-worshipped the great West Indian team. When the West Indies team played at the Wankhede Stadium, ignoring the element of personal risk, she outshouted the local goons who screamed racial taunts at the black players. Pictures of the West Indian team members led by Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall were pasted on the walls of her bedroom. Father and daughter together rejoiced as the West Indies won series after series. One of Mansie's proud possessions was the maroon cricket shirt of the West Indies team, the gift from an uncle. Even more precious was a piece of paper with the signature of Malcolm Marshall, gifted to her by Sunil Gavaskar through her father. Even in school days her ambition was to visit Barbados which produced dozens of her heroes. Now there was an obligation, she vowed to pay homage to her “Macko”. This became a reality once when Mansie, now settled in the US, holidayed in Bridgetown with husband Mike. First on her agenda was a visit to Marshall's grave.
What she saw shocked her. The grave was uncared for, dirty, wild grass grew everywhere. No one bothered. Choking back tears and furious, Mansie who was as pushy as her father was not, decided to act. She attended a Cricket Legends Match in Bridgetown and made friends with many former famous players, particularly Walsh and Ambrose. After listening to her lament and anger on Marshall's grave, Walsh, asked her to meet Rev. Wesley Hall, former West Indian fast bowler, then a Senator, Minister and now a priest. Ambrose who joked that he did not talk to married women relented and lent his support! Hall, a Barbadian, who had officiated at the funeral was appalled and promised to remedy the situation.
Mansie kept in touch with Walsh through e-mails and some weeks back returned to Barbados on a second holiday. Again she visited Marshall's grave. What a transformation! The grass had been cut, the entire area cleaned and the grave was spotless. More people were visiting the grave to pay their respects to their beloved “Macko”. Rev. Wes Hall had kept his promise. The young school girl had kept hers too. On her return from Bridgetown she recounted details of the grave episode to her father and promised to take him to Barbados when he visited the US next. I am looking forward to the trip.