David Murray died on November 26, 2022, aged 72. He played 19 Test matches and 10 ODIs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and went to South Africa as part of the Rebel Tours. He was remembered in the 2023 Wisden Almanack.
MURRAY, DAVID ANTHONY, died on November 25, aged 72. At the beginning of 1982, David Murray looked set for stardom, having just collected a West Indian record nine dismissals in the Boxing Day Test against Greg Chappell’s Australians. One Test later, he was gone, a pariah who would never again play at the highest level.
An apparently sudden fall from grace had deeper roots. Born into cricketing aristocracy in Barbados – he was the son of Everton Weekes – the soft-spoken Murray grew up with his grandmother in the parish of St Michael, and discovered marijuana in his early teens, revelling in the social status it gave him. It also dulled the hurt he felt at an inability to connect with his father – and it would be a faithful companion for the rest of his life.
Murray was a gifted keeper and elegant batsman, first with his father’s side, Empire, then with Spartan, the club of the black elite. “Little D” was popular in the dressing-room, endearing himself to team-mates with his gentle manner, natty dress sense and smooth way with women. He was the long-serving Deryck Murray’s understudy in the West Indian squad from 1973, earning a reputation as a technically superior keeper, agile and silky. Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding both rated him the best they bowled to; even Jeff Dujon, his eventual successor, said Murray’s footwork made him look like Dolly Parton. However, as Dujon also observed, his life choices didn’t always mirror his excellent decisions behind the stumps.
Murray’s Test debut came early in 1978, against an Australian side led by Bob Simpson, in a series overshadowed by the schism with World Series Cricket. Two years later, Murray finally usurped his namesake Deryck, and was part of the great West Indian side that began a 27-Test unbeaten streak. But his marijuana addiction had begun to spill on to the pitch – Murray claimed it gave him greater focus during long days in the sun – and on that tour of Australia in 1981/82 he regularly missed team meetings and rowed with the management. He had played in the first two Tests despite a broken finger, and felt he deserved to be cut some slack, but Dujon was preferred in the third because of his superior batting – and behaviour. And that, for Murray, was that.
Aggrieved at how his Test career had panned out, he was an easy target for the rebel tours of apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Defying Caribbean public opinion, he pocketed over $100,000 to join the West Indian team led by Lawrence Rowe. But there was a price to pay. When Murray returned to Barbados, he was labelled a race traitor, and banned from first-class cricket. His marriage to Kerry McAteer, an Australian, broke down, and he turned to harder drugs – and dealing.
In later years he led a spartan, Rasta-like existence, sporting grey dreadlocks and scraping together a living on the tourist beaches. When possible, he dispensed coaching tips to emerging wicketkeepers (Ricky Hoyte, one of his six children, also kept for Barbados). Some never forgave him his rebel transgressions, but he earned respect for his sharp cricket brain and friendly disposition. On the day of his death, he had been watching the football World Cup at a sports bar with former Test spinner Sulieman Benn and Barbados Cricket Association president Conde Riley; that evening, Murray collapsed outside his home in the Bridgetown suburb of Station Hill.
David Murray scored 601 runs and effected 62 dismissals in Test cricket, and had a first-class double-hundred.