Wednesday 22th August, 2007

 

Inside the mind of Deryck Lance Murray

‘I need to see WI cricket back on top’

 
 
 
 
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There is not much that one can write about Deryck Lance Murray that does not include cricket. He first played for the West Indies against England in 1963 when he was just shy of his 20th birthday, thanks to another mastermind of West Indies cricket, Sir Frank Worrell, who saw a future for the then Cambridge University student.

The rookie wicket-keeper managed 24 dismissals in that series, then a record, as the West Indies won the five-Test series 3-1. Murray played 62 Tests, scoring nearly 2,000 runs, averaging 23, even becoming the team’s vice-captain. More importantly, he had almost 200 efficient dismissals behind the stumps.

Murray grew up on Tragarete Road, which runs adjacent to the Queens Park Oval, and with both his father and uncle on the then T&T Cricket Board, he probably had no choice but to be involved in the cricket game from the very day he was born!

My first meeting with “DM” was when he played for Warwickshire, in the 1972 English county season. Also in Warwickshire’s squad were Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs and Alvin Kallicharran of the West Indies; David Brown, Dennis Amiss, John Jameson, Bob Willis and captain MJK Smith, all England Test players and Khalid “Billy” Ibadulla, the Pakistani international player. It was no wonder that Warwickshire won everything that decade, let alone the year 1972.

As a 19-year-old, I had been sent to Warwickshire on a coaching scholarship, courtesy of Gibbes, one of the West Indies luminaries.

Murray has been, like team captain Clive Lloyd, one of the real “father-figures” that we, as new West Indies players, had in 1976/7. By then, my friend had even managed to bring a great personal gift for me; the best pair of cricket bowling boots that I have ever had; from Australia, after the 1975/6 West Indies tour there. I played my entire Test career, seven or so years, with that pair of boots as the primary, so good were the bowling boots!

Murray is now the President of the T&T Cricket Board and a West Indies Cricket Board Director. He was also the person who first made the moniker, “West Indies Players Association”, fashionable, since he was the first ever convener of the players’ body. There is much that West Indies cricket owes to Murray Lance Murray.

With all the changes going on in West Indies cricket, I met with Murray to discuss West Indies cricket.

Colin Croft (CC): We have just had the new WICB President, Dr. Julian Hunte taking up office. What is your first take on the new President?

Murray (DM): This is a very crucial time for West Indies cricket. Every time that there is a game that we play, win or lose, these days; every time there is a change in the administration, whether it is the CEO or President, whatever; we look for a new dawn. Almost always also, we would say that, at that specific time, that West Indies cricket is at its lowest ebb. Yet it continues to go further down.

So there are great expectations from Julian Hunte. He has been on the WICB previously, so he knows the workings of the WICB. Julian Hunte comes at a time when we need to take some very harsh decisions. Only time will tell whether he is the person and whether he will lead us in a direction not only to take those hard and harsh decisions, but to also follow the path that those decisions take.

All of this is very interesting because it also comes at a time when we are all eagerly awaiting the final report for the PJ Patterson-led Governance Committee. As for me, I am placing great emphasis on what that report will recommend because I think that it is so very important for the future of West Indies cricket that we see a great change, real radical change. Business as usual, is not going to solve our problems. So Julian Hunte is at a time when there is a great challenge facing us.

CC: You are unique in West Indies cricket. You are presently fully involved in the administration and governance of several facets of West Indies cricket. You have won the ICC Cricket World Cup twice; 1975 and 1979; and have been a West Indies player since 1963. So, you will have seen, and been a part of, the advent of the team that was called “World Champions” in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Unfortunately, you will also have seen the dismal cricket over the last several years, and the decline of the same “World Champions” to where we are presently. This new Governance Committee will only make recommendations; not laws. There is nothing concrete about it in the very first place.

DM: No, and this is the thing with a committee. I am on the WICB Cricket Committee. It also seems a bit strange to me that as a Cricket Board, the Cricket Committee has to make recommendations which the entire WICB may or may not adopt.

The Governance Committee report is simply that; a report. It is a report that will make recommendations. At the very end of the day, it is up to the Directors of the WICB to adopt those recommendations and then to put them into practice; give them life; give them reality. I think that we are at the stage where we have to do that.

We have had an interim report so we know basically what they are thinking —‘scrap this WICB and let us start a new structure’—I believe that is the way to go. It will be very difficult for Directors to vote or say that “I am going to scrap myself.” But, as far as I am concerned, it is for the good of West Indies cricket and I am not sure that we have another choice.

CC: Cricket Australia had the same experiment; allowing a Governance Committee to recommend the future of the running of the game there. One of the suggested recommendations was to scrap the Australian Cricket Board as it existed then. In the end, the ACB scrapped the Governance Committee that it had commissioned.

You are saying that the same situation exists here in the Caribbean, at least initially. You Directors are going to be deciding on your own future. That does not make much sense. Maybe to politicians it does, but to the normal person, it makes no sense at all.

DM: I do not know if it makes sense or not, but this is the reality. We have constitutions to follow etc. It is a brave decision. As you say, I have seen West Indies cricket from many, maybe every direction, inside and out, from different perspectives.

I have never stopped thinking of West Indies cricket of being of paramount interest. Whether Mr. X or Mr. Y is President or a Director is irrelevant, in so far as what we need to do. We need to have the right structure. Then, we have to hope that the structure allows us to appoint the best people, on merit, to the respective positions, to serve the WICB and the Caribbean people. We are moving in that direction.

Once upon a time, it was imperative that we had one or two representatives or Directors from each of the main territories; Guyana, T&T; Jamaica; Barbados; the Windward Islands; the Leeward Islands. But we also need to remember that, once upon a time, there were only four territories in all; Guyana; T&T; Jamaica and Barbados; that made up the West Indies. Now, we have six, but there are also arguments for even broadening that to individual countries.

In the context of other institutions; the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME); the University of the West Indies (UWI) etc, we do not man UWI Professorships by one person from each territory.

We look far and wide for, hopefully Caribbean people, who are qualified in their respective fields and the best qualified for the positions. I certainly believe that West Indies cricket deserves no less than that and maybe better than that too.

If, perchance, all five, or seven, or nine, directors happen to have come from the same country, then so be it, if they are the best people for West Indies cricket! Similarly, if you had a team that, once upon a time, had nine Barbadians in the team, but that team was an excellent team and the best that we could put out, then so be it too.

Ramnarine’s appointment

CC: The new WICB President has just appointed four new Directors—Professor Hilary Beckles of the UWI (Cave Hill); Ken Hewitt, the long-standing WICB Accountant; Dininath Ramnarine, CEO of WIPA; and our former captain, Clive Lloyd. Some people are lauding some of the appointments, but some are also suggesting that maybe the appointment of especially Dininath Ramnarine as a ‘check-mate’, bringing in the wolf to be among the sheep. The people on the street would have that perspective, even though those of us who are more intimately involved in the sport would know better, that they all have West Indies cricket at heart. What are your thoughts on the appointments?

DM: Again, we have to distinguish the personalities. I remember when the West Indies Players Association was first formed, in 1973, and the first letter that we wrote to the WICB was to ask that we be recognized as the representative of the players, while the second letter, about a year later, was to ask that we have a representative on the WICB. So, it may have taken 33 years, but I think that it was a wise move to have a representative of the players on the WICB, to be involved in the deliberations.

Ramnarine has a different type of personality than other Players representatives in the past. He will have to adapt to working with the WICB but I also think that it allows for a lot greater collaboration in terms of WICB/West Indies player interface. We need to do much more of that too.

The other persons who had been appointed were appointed for their own expertise and there are so many others who could have been appointed. Again, it is just a question that the constitution limits us to those additional four. I am sure that they will make very useful contributions as things go along.

CC: You have contributed so much already to West Indies cricket. With all of the new governance and everything else about present-day West Indies cricket coming into being, I expect that you would want to see the players themselves, on the field of play, take greater responsibilities for the situation too. Would that be a fair suggestion?

DM: Yes, that is fair. They do, but I think that there is a responsibility first, from the game’s administration in the West Indies, to provide the right infrastructure for the players to be developed properly. I think that for umpteen years, particularly when we were winning, it was taken for granted that West Indies cricket would continue the Crofts, Holdings, Roberts’ and Richards’ etc., and that these players would just keep coming out of the woodwork.

Yet, even in those days, I remember that we were starting to suggest that we needed an academy; we needed to have proper structures and development programs. Yet nothing had been done.

Now we are seeing the decline, as a result of the neglect over those years. So now, we, as the administrators, have got to put into place, that kind of developmental infrastructure that will help the obviously talented and potentially great players that we now have to be developed to what is really required to international standards. All too often, very talented players, going into the international arenas, are being exposed for their lack of basic fundamental techniques, mental preparation etc. That is almost like throwing the lambs to the wolves.

I think that we as administrators have a great job to do, to accomplish. From a T&T perspective, we are trying to do that from the primary and secondary school levels, but we also need to see that happening at the same levels all around the Caribbean.

CC: When I started playing for the West Indies in 1976/7, I remember two things that happened to us. Immediately, I and Joel Garner were instructed to become member of the WIPA, a suggestion we had no difficulty in accepting, since it came from our two sages, you and Clive Lloyd. Secondly, I remember you both also suggesting that ‘look, this team is not being so successful around the cricket world because of the WICB, but despite the WICB.’ It has taken us more than 30 years to get from that point to where we are now. Somehow, though, you seem very confident indeed now. Will that change?

DM: I am optimistic and to be honest, Crofty, that is why I am still so very involved. I believe that all that has been suggested is possible. I think that there were different social conditions in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as we built that world-beating team, which motivated players who had been given an opportunity to play for the West Indies; these being beyond financial or beyond even just playing a game of cricket.

I think that we all understood where our place was in the run of things both regionally and internationally; and the development of our countries after independence from Britain. It was a great challenge to us, understanding where we were in the hierarchy, and what talent was, as opposed to the professional circuit that there was in places like the United Kingdom or the love of winning that the Australians always brought to competitions. We knew that we had to compete at that level if we were going to hold our heads high. I think that we were driven by the fact of wanting to be the best in the world.

I think that the present West Indies players can achieve that too, despite the WICB, or without the WICB’s help, but it would be, and it is, a little more difficult these days. The values that you are given at school now are not the same values that we were inculcated with, not only at school, but at home, at church, combined to give us that determination to be the best. I think that society today is a bit too materialistic, too liberal; I use the word in its worse sense, rather than its best sense. So, it is up to the respective Cricket Boards to put that value system in place, to allow the players to have that self esteem, to know that being West Indian, in the cricket scenario, means that you can be the best in the world.

CC: So you are saying that the WICB must provide that platform for development and for making the players and their abilities good enough to beat the rest of the cricket world. I cannot believe that any player who now plays for the West Indies does not want to win. It simply is that they are not sufficiently prepared for the task at hand.

DM: I think that you are quite right. The environment has changed. Our teams did not need the WICB 30 or 40 years ago, as coaching at that time was purely voluntary. We had some of the most dedicated coaches around, giving their help and services for free.

When you speak about T&T, for instance, I know that people like Noel Guillen, Rex Dewhurst, Pa Aleong, Willie Guadeloupe; these are people who were legendary as cricket coaches in the country, for just being around the cricket and coaching players.

You would hear players like Charlie Davis, Gus Logie, Larry Gomes, all West Indies players, single out these coaches as being people who would have helped them in their efforts to be the best cricketers that they could have been. I am sure that you would have had a similar situation in Guyana and that the rest of the Caribbean countries would have had a similar situation.

Now, people do not do that sort of thing. Ordinary people do not do that sort of thing, giving up their time after school, in the afternoons, to come in and supervise the youth at cricket. Everyone wants to be paid for that service these days to do those jobs and that is fair enough. However, it means that if they are to be paid, then the WICB must be in a position to provide the wherewithal to provide those coaches so that the players can be developed properly.

Corporate Sponsorship

CC: The next, most important subject is finance/sponsorship. The ICC CWC 2007 has been completed. From what we have been hearing, there will be some profit, probably in the tens of millions as opposed to what we had hoped for, the hundreds of millions. There is some money coming in from the Stanford tournament and situation, but you must be somewhat concerned as to where the funding will come from for all of this advertising of West Indies cricket. It must be sponsored and be made viable somehow!

DM: That is correct. It is a chicken and an egg situation. If the West Indies team was being successful, then sponsorship would be far more available. Yes, it is a problem. The World Cup promised hundreds of millions of dollars of profit. I am hopeful that when the final report comes out next month, September, that we would have, at the very least, cleared off our debt, which stood at about US$15 million at last count. I do not know that we would end up having a profit that was over and above clearing off that debt.

So it is back to square one! So, yes, we need sponsorship, but we also need corporate sponsors that would have the same optimism that I have; that West Indies cricket can rise again, and to be prepared to put money in as an investment, into the development of West Indies cricket. These companies will not get the exposure that they may want for the next two or three years, simply because West Indies cricket will not be at the top of the heap in two or three years.

So, we are almost saying to sponsors; ‘come in and share our vision that our cricket situation would improve; that it would cost your company US X millions to fund the development over the next three-four years; that you may be lucky to start seeing some improvement in that time, whereby you may want to continue to sponsor the team’. It really is simply on trust and goodwill, now, that we are asking sponsors to come in and help West Indies cricket.

CC: The competitions that are to be sponsored that will develop our players must also be at a certain level, perhaps like the Pura Cup in Australia, or even the County Championships in England, which helped many of us become better. The hardest cricket that I may have played is playing for Guyana in the Shell Shield in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We also have to look at the development and standards of our competitions. They must be channeled to producing the very best West Indies team possible.

DM: Yes, I agree that the competitions need to be strengthened. However, the competitions are only going to be as strong as the players that you have available to play in the competitions. Because we are not doing the preparatory work with the players; look at our Carib Beer first class levels; and there are quite obvious faulty techniques. One would see batsmen selling their wickets cheaply. One would see bowlers just going through the motions, but still getting wickets because of the batsman’s lack of longevity at the crease; after he hits a few 4’s and maybe 6’s, he would have had enough and that is that. Our fielding is not always up to the required standards. We have a problem.

I also think that we have a problem at the lower levels, too, rather than the national and international teams, as we can only provide the national teams with the kind of players that have been produced through the ranks; with the techniques and foundations that would have been put in at the schools level. We really need to go back to the drawing board.

I say that that is a seven year process. We need to work on long term plans. If you assume that our present 14 and 15 year olds are the future international West Indies players, when they would be 22-25, then we need to start working on them now; working on the techniques.

Here is a simple example. Look at our best batsmen playing fast bowlers these days. We were well known, renowned around the world, for being the best “back-foot” players and that is why we combated the world’s best fast bowlers.

Nowadays, every player sticks his “front foot” down the pitch, while trying to perform the “hook” shot! Conversely, Crofty, as a former fast bowler, you must look at these present day players and perhaps think; ‘I would love to bowl at this lot now’, but who has taught them the technique that they use today?

(Continued next week)

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