Former Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies wicket-keeper/batsman Deryck Murray has refuted claims made by ex-TT and WI captain, and batting legend, Brian Lara, that the regional teams of the past did not play within the spirit of the game.
The 48-year-old Lara, while delivering the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture at Lord’s, London, England on Monday, mentioned that top Test teams had a responsibility to lead by example and uphold the virtues of the sport.
Lara touched on the infamous 1980 three-game Test series between the West Indies against hosts New Zealand – which ended in a 1-0 win for New Zealand. Ironically, this was the last Test series which the WI lost until the 1995 contest, at home, against Australia.
Lara was quoted as saying, “I grew up at a time when West Indies dominated the world. For 15 years from 1980, the West Indies never lost a Test series. And just before that, Colin Croft decided he was going to take a piece out of Fred Goodall's shoulder and ran into him during a Test match. Michael Holding decided he was no longer a cricketer, he was a footballer and he kicked a stump. I'm sure the occurrences during that period had a big effect on cricket.”
Murray, during a telephone interview yesterday, noted, “In my experience, the West Indies team that I was part of were always conscious that we were representing and being ambassadors for the West Indies as a region. We were always careful to seek to project the image as (not only) being excellent performers, but also excellent sportsmen and ambassadors, and always showing the spirit that the West Indies is renowned for, in terms of its sportsmanship, its entertainment and its excellence on the field.
“If, and there were occasions when we may have slipped up, we take responsibility for those. But that was not the way of the team and that was not what we were proud of as examples of how the game should be played. And I am sure that we made every effort to rectify those immediately (thereafter).”
Asked if Lara was accurate about his views on the 1980 series or was the “Prince of Port of Spain” exaggerating, Murray replied, “Remember that team would have been playing together for a number of years before, so to simply choose one isolated incident may not be truly fair, and may not be in the spirit of accessing the performance or the stature of that particular team.”
Lara also touched on the 1990 home series against England, with specific incidents including the Third Test at the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair (when stand-in captain Desmond Haynes was alleged to have used time-wasting tactics to deny England victory on the final day) and the Fourth Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados (when regular skipper Vivian Richards was accused by various English journalists of intimidating Barbadian umpire Lloyd Barker to give batsman Robert Bailey caught behind by wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon).
Murray pointed out, “You can equally point to 1968 when there was no time-wasting when England won a Test match in Trinidad chasing a total when they were completely out of the game for four-and-a-half days. So you just look at different things that happened in different ways. Unfortunately we were not always perfect in every way but we certainly never intended to breach the spirit of the laws of the game.”
Lara also mentioned that, in his view, the decline of WI cricket began during the late 1980s.
Murray, who was the WI manager from November 1991 to the end of the 1992 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, commented, “I think it’s also necessary to talk, not about the decline of the performances on the field but the decline of the whole manner in which the team was administered, the development procedures, the development plans etcetera.
“Although the first actual loss of a series was in 1995, I agree with him that it was some time in the making. And I roughly put it at around 1985. So it took 10 years, as a gestation period for the decline to become obvious,” he ended.