The stairs leading to the press box at the Kingsmead Stadium here are steeped in history.
The adjoining walls have pictures of the local provincial team — KwaZulu-Natal. Among these annual group photographs, springs an image with a difference: a portrait of a man, who is in his follow-through after releasing a thunder-bolt.
It is the great Malcolm Marshall in full-flight. Having played and mentored the local provincial side Natal between 1992 and 1996, the late West Indian speedster is revered here.
There are many who reiterate his enduring influence on cricketers, a contribution that could have been more but for his untimely demise in 1999 due to cancer.
In the multiple-race dynamics that shapes South Africa, Marshall’s stint here was special. Interestingly, much before he landed in Durban, the fast bowling legend, who detested apartheid, refused to play in South Africa even after the then Cricket South Africa chief Dr. Ali Bacher offered him “one million US dollars”.
However, with Nelson Mandela inspiring South Africa to shed its racist prejudices, Marshall had a change of heart and soon became an icon here in a dual way. He inspired the whites to emulate his skills and also offered hope to black Africans, who saw in him a mirror image of themselves.
Casim Docrat, who was president of the Natal Cricket Union when Marshall played here, said: “It was tremendous to have a player of his calibre in KwaZulu-Natal.
“He had a major influence on upcoming bowlers such as Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener and other youngsters like Jonty Rhodes. His mere presence in the dressing room developed a team that was prepared to go the extra mile. He was very influential.”
Importantly, Docrat referred to Marshall’s impact on the African race.
“Marshall became a role model for black Africans to take up the game and gave them the belief that they could play at the highest level. The legacy he left behind is tremendous,” Docrat said.
Marshall inspired the Pollocks and the Makhaya Ntinis to excel for the Proteas and that is the ultimate tribute to a great cricketer, who transcended the boundaries imposed by race. A few years ago, Pollock said: “He helped me develop as a player and that was because he believed in me. I was very upset when he passed away, because I lost a mentor, a childhood hero and a friend.”
Marshall may have departed for a higher abode but in Durban he is still alive as a memory that inspires cricketers.