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Deryck Murray: The big gloves that absorbed Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft

Deryck Murray: The big gloves that absorbed Roberts, Holding, Garner, and Croft
Deryck Murray was the man who linked the careers of Jackie Hendriks and Jeff Dujon © Getty Images

When the West Indian fast bowlers of the 1970s steamed in, the ball usually thumped into the big gloves of Deryck Murray, who was born on May 20, 1943. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man who served as the link between Jackie Hendriks and Jeff Dujon.

Recall the all-conquering West Indians of the 1970s: there was Andy Roberts, a man Sunil Gavaskar has often referred to as the shrewdest fast bowler he has faced; Joel Garner, whose tactical acumen unfortunately remained confined to First-Class level; Alvin Kallicharran, the man who carried West Indies on his shoulders during the Kerry Packer era; and Gordon Greenidge, a man who evoked awe, respect, and fear at the same time. There was also Viv Richards, the next man at the helm.

None of these were considered the deputy to Clive Lloyd, the leader of the juggernaut that steamrolled one opposition after another; that post went to Deryck Lance Murray — an epitome of calm behind the stumps who had an error-free career against men of extreme pace. He was the man who linked the careers of Jackie Hendriks and Jeff Dujon — the greatest wicketkeepers West Indies has produced.

Murray had an almost teenage look when he first arrived on the international scenario. The trademark beard came much later; he probably needed that push himself to “adulthood” among a group of men who were huge in both frame and stature. Despite the juvenile face there was no doubt that Murray had an exceptionally mature brain, providing Lloyd with inputs and strategies from behind the stumps.

With the gloves Murray was sound and faultless; he was not as spectacular as a Hendriks or a Dujon, and he was possibly not gifted with the unrelated (and contemporary) David Murray’s raw talent either. What marked out Deryck Murray was his immaculate work ethic and perseverance — the lack of which put David Murray out of contention.

Let us not forget that Murray was a more than handy batsman who finished with 1,993 runs at 22.90 with 11 fifties along with 181 catches and eight stumpings. He held the record for most runs and dismissals by a West Indian wicketkeeper by a distance when he retired (Gerry Alexander was next with 961 runs and 90 dismissals); the record is currently held by Dujon (3,146 runs and 270 dismissals).

At First-Class level his numbers read 13,292 runs at 28.34 with ten hundreds in addition to his 740 catches and 108 stumpings. The number of victims (848) remains the highest among all West Indians and second among non-Englishmen (Rodney Marsh finished with 21 more victims).

Early days

Born in Port-of-Spain, Deryck Murray was the son of Lance Hamilton Murray, a Trinidad cricketer from the late 1950s. Deryck’s cousin Colin Everton Murray, 12 years younger to Deryck, also went on to play for Trinidad and Tobago as well as for West Indies Under-19s.

Deryck played for Trinidad and Tobago when he was still in school. On his debut against EW Swanton’s XI at Queen’s Park Oval he scored 32 and four, but caught Ian McLachlan and Tiger Pataudi. Though he did not impress as a batsman in his early days, he soon rose to the number of wicketkeeper of Trinidad and Tobago.

He was still a student of Queen’s Royal College when the call-up came: Frank Worrell had watched him keep wickets, had liked what he had seen, and had made sure Murray made it to the England tour of 1963.

Test debut

One might have thought Murray would be at a disadvantage against the moving ball, but coped with the swing easily. He kept wickets with such proficiency that Worrell included him in all five Tests. He did not score a lot of runs (though he played useful cameos of 20 at Lord’s, 20 not out at Edgbaston and 34 at Headingley). He claimed six catches in each of the Tests at Old Trafford (on debut), Lord’s, and The Oval.

It was, however, his wicket-keeping that caught the eyes of the pundits. The teenager was outstanding behind the stumps, and finished with 22 catches and two stumpings. The tally of 24 dismissals still remains a record for West Indies; Murray also held the world record at that time (it is currently held by Brad Haddin with 29 victims).

Back home Murray scored his maiden First-Class hundred: playing for Sir Frank Worrell’s XI against Conrad Hunte’s XI Murray scored 102 not out at Sabina Park where nobody else in the innings managed a half-century. Despite his exceptional show behind the stumps in England and his recent performances in front of it, he had to relinquish his spot to Hendriks — arguably the finest wicketkeeper West Indies had produced.

Deryck Murray: The big gloves that absorbed Roberts, Holding, Garner, and Croft
West Indies team of 1963. (From top left clockwise) Joe Solomon, Lance Gibbs, Joey Carew, Charlie Griffith, Deryck Murray, Basil Butcher, Wes Hall, Garfield Sobers, Frank Worrell, Conrad Hunte and Rohan Kanhai © Getty Images

Finding his way back

Not disgruntled, Murray went to study at Nottingham University and Jesus College, Cambridge. He became a Cambridge Blue, and scored 108 out of a team score of 168 against Worcestershire at Fenner’s Ground in his first season for the University. He won a contract from Nottinghamshire in 1966, and scored a career-best 166 not out against Surrey at The Oval.

The next season was a watershed one for Murray. He won his Nottinghamshire cap, captained Cambridge University, and tied the knots with Maureen the same year (they have two sons, Michael and Nigel). Playing against the touring Indians, Murray scored a belligerent 139 in a 251-run stand with Ian Moore. With Hendriks injuring himself he was recalled for the 1967-68 home Tests against England.

It was another excellent series for Murray behind the stumps, but once again Hendriks was preferred once he was back. Murray went back to his Nottinghamshire duties. He was selected for the Rest of the World XI “Tests” against England. At Headingley he took four catches and opened batting against John Snow, Chris Old, Basin D’Oliveria, Tony Greig, Ray Illingworth, and Don Wilson to score 95 in a humdinger.

Surprisingly, he was still left out of the West Indian team. He made a shift to Warwickshire in 1972, but found himself out of the national side in favour of Mike Frindlay and Desmond Lewis. It was not until the home series against Australia in 1973 that he could finally claw his way back to the side.

Cementing a spot

Frindlay was the first-choice wicketkeeper for the home series against Australia, but the selectors decided to recall Murray for the next one at Kensington Oval. The match was in the balance with Australia having scored 324 and the hosts on 179 for five; Murray scored 90, added 165 with his captain Rohan Kanhai, West Indies secured a 67-run lead, and the Test was drawn.

After playing ten Tests in ten years (all against England) Murray’s place was finally sealed. Australia won the series 2-0, but there was no question regarding the choice of Murray behind the stumps.

Murray toured India and Pakistan in 1974-75, and did an exceptional job behind the stumps to the wiles of Lance Gibbs, Elquemedo Willett, and Arthur Barrett along with the pace of Roberts, Bernard Julien, Keith Boyce, and Vanburn Holder. He also scored a career-best 91 at Wankhede Stadium, adding 250 in 267 minutes with Lloyd for the sixth wicket.

Champions of the world

Murray, somewhat surprisingly, was named the vice-captain of the squad for the 1975 World Cup. His greatest moment with the bat came in the famous match against Pakistan at Edgbaston. After Pakistan had put up 266 for seven, a rampant Sarfraz Nawaz had reduced the hosts to 166 for eight when Holder joined Murray. Tom Graveney, the Man of the Match adjudicator, retired to a bar.

It was a matter of survival. But then, Holder batted smartly and helped Murray add 37 for the ninth wicket before Majid Khan played his trump-card by bringing back Sarfraz. He removed Holder soon, but Roberts turned out to be a stubborn customer. With his semi-crouched stance, he somehow remained as the crease as Murray went for the kill.

Sarfraz was bowled out, and Majid slowly ran out of options. Murray batted brilliantly to reach his fifty, and the winning runs came off the final over off Wasim Raja when Roberts pushed a ball to square-leg and ran desperately to the other end — and did not stop before he reached the pavilion. The ground was swamped by the local West Indians; it was a miracle win.

Graveney announced Sarfraz as the Man of the Match. When asked why Murray’s 76-ball 61 was overlooked, he responded with “Sarfraz (Nawaz) has taken four wickets and it is normal for a player from the winning team to get the award.” It was only then he got to know from one of those present that that it was West Indies that had won the match.

There were no further hiccups; the others were steamrolled as West Indies won the tournament with ease.

The deputy

West Indies were routed 1-5 in Australia, but Murray came out with flying colours both in front of the stumps and behind it. He was one of the few West Indians who handled Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson with authority, scoring 66 and 55 at The Gabba, 63 at WACA, and 50 at SCG with his blistering pulls and cuts.

A tally of 342 runs at 31.09 in a humiliating defeat was a more-than-impressive performance by the vice-captain. With 17 dismissals he became one of the few good things West Indies had to write home about in that horror series.

Keeper for the champions

Lloyd changed his strategy following the Australia tour, going for his famous pace battery. They tormented batsmen across the ball with their menacing pace and unreal bounce, and whenever the ball took the outside edge or went past it, it invariably thudded into the trusted gloves of the man who stood yards behind the stumps.

The “Grovel” series in 1976 saw Lloyd’s men rise to a different level as Wayne Daniel joined Roberts and Holding. The rout was completed by Richards’ mass destruction weapons, aided by Murray’s 19 catches. Unfortunately, Murray reached a nadir in the Test at Kensington Oval next season.

Pakistan had amassed 435, to which the hosts had responded with 421 (Murray scored 52). What followed was a nightmare display from Murray: Roberts, along with debutants Colin Croft and Joel Garner, splayed all over The Oval after Pakistan had been reduced to 158 for nine.

Wasim Raja and Wasim Bari put up 133 for the last wicket in 110 minutes; Raja was dropped four times en route to 71, while Bari scored 60. West Indies set the dubious record of conceding 68 extras (the record has been broken thrice since; India holds the record now with 76); though Murray conceded 29 byes (and 11 leg-byes), it must also be remembered that the big men had sent down 28 no-balls. The West Indians also bowled only 402 balls; their record of conceding an extra every 5.91 balls still remains a world record.

Captaincy, Packer, and World Champions again

When Lloyd pulled out of the Test at The Gabba on the 1978-79 tour following a knee surgery, Murray went out to toss with Greg Chappell. The new captain put Australia in, and the fast bowlers bowled them out for 268. A hundred from Richards gave the tourists a 173-run lead, but hundreds from Greg Chappell and Kim Hughes helped Australia save the Test. Lloyd was back for the other two Tests, and Australia were duly thrashed 2-0.

Kerry Packer took away two years of Deryck Murray’s career — a period that witnessed the ascent of David Murray behind the stumps. Deryck returned for World Cup 1979, and Lloyd’s men lifted the Trophy again.

Final days

Murray toured New Zealand with West Indies in 1979-80, and played a crucial role in keeping the harmony between the two sides alive despite Fred Goodall’s horrifying decisions that resulted in Michael Holding kicking down the stumps and Colin Croft shoulder-barging the umpire.

Murray, along with renowned Kiwi journalist Don Cameron, played a major role in getting the series underway after things had turned murky. Unfortunately, West Indies lost the series; they would not lose another series in 16 seasons.

He toured England one final time in 1980 (28 of his 62 Tests were against England; 18 of them on English soil). Even at 37 Murray did an exemplary job behind the stumps, playing all five Tests and finishing with 14 catches. He top-scored with 64 in the first innings at Trent Bridge, which ultimately proved crucial in the two-wicket win: it remained the only decided Test in the series.

He never played another Test. The arrival of Dujon ended Murray’s career for good. Murray played another domestic season. In his last First-Class match, against a full-strength England XI at Port-of-Spain, Murray top-scored with 75 after claiming two catches.

Deryck Murray: The big gloves that absorbed Roberts, Holding, Garner, and Croft
Deryck Murray (second from left) and George Maxwell Richards (second from right). Photo Courtesy – Flickr user 13bobby.

Post-retirement

Murray had served as a diplomat in the Foreign Service of Trinidad and Tobago while playing for West Indies. He represented his country to United Nations as the Vice-President of the Fifth Committee and Chairman of the Committee of Programme & Coordination.

One of the earliest ICC match referees, Murray officiated in three ODIs between England and Pakistan in 1992. He is currently the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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