Such has been the influence of Late Rodney Marsh on the young Indian cricketers during his days as a consultant of the National Cricket Academy in the early 2000s that some of them were in tears when they heard the news of his demise on Friday morning. They may have lost touch with Marsh since he left NCA almost two decades ago, but they have not forgotten the lessons learnt from Marsh.
Marsh had a positive influence on the players and did not impose his towering personality on them. He let them be themselves and encouraged them to do their best. One who immensely benefitted from Marsh’s presence at the NCA in Bengaluru in its initial days was former India Under-19, Tamil Nadu and Chennai Super Kings left-handed batsman and left-arm spinner, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, and former Mumbai Ranji Trophy opener and captain, Vinayak Mane.
Sivaramakrishnan used to be low on confidence because of the remarks people surrounding him made on his slow movement on the field, rather than talk about his skills. Sharing his experiences with news18.com on the impact Marsh had on his career and life, Sivaramakrishnan said he may not have played the level that he has had it not been for Marsh and the coaches at the NCA in the first year including Hanumant Singh and Vasu Paranjape.
Sivaramakrishnan, who is now coaching at a personal level in Chennai and occasionally in Bahrain besides doing television commentary in Tamil, spoke of the impact Marsh had on him. He said: “He made a big difference in my life. I was a chubby little boy then who had cricketing skills but not so much into fitness. I was so used to people saying what I was not good at that I developed an inferiority complex. At the NCA, I was in the second batch of the under-19s in 2000 and Rodney Marsh saw the potential in me. The kind of encouragement he gave me, the positive impact he had has stayed all my life till date. He never spoke how slow I was on the field but spoke of how good I was with the ball and bat. It was music to my ears because I was only used to people putting me down all the time. His principle to coaching was not about being perfect but about being effective, finding the ways to get the best out of you.”
The 40-year-old Sivaramakrishnan, who hails from a cricketing family with his father, V Sivamakrishnan being a top-notch left-handed batsman for Tamil Nadu and South Zone while his uncle, V Ramnarayan bowled off-spin for Hyderabad and South Zone, said: “Marsh’s coaching made a huge difference in my life. I used to be in regular touch with him and used to mail him after every match that I played. Such was the atmosphere in those days that the selections were based on the number of runs you scored or the number of wickets you took. I was more result-oriented because of the system that three wickets or scoring 40 runs were not considered useful. I used to be happy with only five wickets. It was about who took more wickets, not who bowled better. But Marsh was always encouraging me. I used to mail him after every match and he was very prompt in replying, saying, ‘Wow, you scored 40 runs or took two wickets’. The kind of influence he had in my life, he made me a better person. I was at a crucial stage of my career that I may not have played whatever I have with the negative talks going around me. Thanks to Marsh and the coaches Hanumant Singh and Vasu Paranjape, they encouraged me to play and gave me confidence.”
Sivaramakrishnan said that they included him in a game for the NCA against the visiting Zimbabweans in a three-day game in Indore. “The other 10 were from the first NCA batch and were a little more established while I was the only man in the 11 from the second batch. They gave me a chance because they thought I was very good. The kind of impact they had in my life was unbelievable. I was always a slam-bang player with the bat. Marsh could see something in my batting. He made me believe that I could contribute with the bat. After NCA, in front of about eight to nine people, he spoke about how important it was for a lower-order batsman to contribute to the team’s total. I had, by then, scored a century at No. 11 and Marsh said, “This gentleman has scored a century at No. 11’ pointing at me. It was so nice to hear a legend of cricket from Australia say that. He lifted my morale and confidence. Until NCA happened, the drills were repetitive and even if mistakes were made, they were repeated. At NCA, the coaches were so reassuring and made me believe in myself. Against Zimbabwe, I got three wickets on a flat pitch. Andy Flower scored a century in the second innings and Alastair Campbell scored a hundred in the first. I was not nervous, I was not thinking I was bowling to international batters.”
Sivaramakrishnan also remembered a match for Tamil Nadu against England ‘A’ in early 2004 with Marsh as the manager of the visiting English team. “Even as I scored a flashy 27 in the second innings including hitting Simon Jones for a six, Marsh was standing from the England ‘A’ dressing room and applauding my shots. Such was the encouragement Marsh had for me,” Sivaramakrishnan recollected, cherishing such moments till this very day.
Marsh was a great motivator: Vinayak Mane
Sivaramakrishnan’s batch-mate at the NCA, Mane said he benefitted immensely from Marsh, who put them in some challenging situations during practice. Mane returned as a better cricketer after a six-week trip to the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide, of which Marsh was the director.
Mane said: “He had a great knowledge about the skills required at that level. We were first-class players trying to get into international cricket. He put us through the process. The skill sets that a batter might need overseas, he was well versed with that. He put us in situations, loading a machine with new leather balls and setting it up to a short of length for us to react to the deliveries. He wanted to challenge us and wanted us to feel what was required at that level. We had to play off the back foot. He gave me positive feedback. At the NCA, we used to maintain diaries and he wrote in my diaries that I had put in tremendous efforts and that they would go on to help me in my growth.”
The 39-year-old Mane, currently coaching at clubs in Mumbai, said: “Marsh was a great motivator. He was fantastic. I am very fortunate to have learnt from him. That experience made me become a better athlete. He made sure you were comfortable and carried a positive vibe. The things that I learn from him, I apply in my coaching today. The finer points of the game, the mechanical part, how the human body works and synchronising the body with the game skills were some of the learnings from Marsh. He maintained that each and every player was different. I tried to keep that in mind and not change the natural flair of the players when I am coaching.”