By Felicia Persaud
News Americas, PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Fri. April 26, 2013: In the historic Queens Park Oval of Trinidad & Tobago, if you sit in the stands and shut your eyes, even without a match, you can still feel the energy of the crowd and hear their chants.
But even Trinidad-born former West Indies wicket keeper and right-handed batsman, Deryck Lance Murray, has to agree that the glory days of West Indies cricket, is largely a thing of the past.
Murray, speaking to News Americas in Trinidad on April 14th, said the hero worship status of cricketers is over and the youth of the region are not as interested in the sport – at least not as when he played or even when Brian Lara became a world record holder.
“So who’s the next Lara?” I ask, unable to hold back the question.
Murray smiles almost embarrassingly before answering: “That is the question!”
While Lara’s statue stands tall in the promenade of Port-of-Spain and tour guides are quick to point out his mansion on the hill, below in the Oval, several young Trinidadians are braving the heat of the 3 p.m. sun in a friendly match.
Inside, in the cricket museum and later in club lounge, as the air conditioner blasts an almost wintery chill, Murray remembers the hay day of cricket when the West Indies ruled the world and people hero worshiped the players like himself, Joel Gardner, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Michael Holding.
In his career, Murray played 62 Tests for the West Indies. He was first selected for the West Indies as a 20-year-old, under the captaincy of Frank Worrell. In his maiden series in 1963, he effected a record 24 dismissals. Though he never scored a Test century, Murray’s elegant right-handed batting in the middle order could be effective. During his highest Test score of 91, against India in 1975, he shared a partnership worth 250 runs with Clive Lloyd (who scored 242 not out).
To Murray, the demise of West Indies cricket began with the introduction of the T-20 tourney format. That, he said, killed test cricket, which really is what determines status and dominance in the world.
But to Murray, how President of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board, the future lies in the youth of the United States and the region – re-engaging Caribbean youth at home with exciting stories of West Indies cricket’s past glory on social media in order to re-energize them to take up the bat into the future. And engaging the many youth playing cricket across the United States to seriously train to represent their local teams in local competitions so they too, like footballers with Caribbean roots, can one day soon be included in the squad of Windies cricketers and lead it back into hero status.