David Murray, talented but wayward cricketer whose career bombed after he joined rebel tours to apartheid South Africa – The Telegraph’s obituary

He was a skilful wicketkeeper-batsman but suffered from his predilection for drug and alcohol abuse

An obituary from London’s Telegraph.

David Murray, who has died aged 72, was a highly regarded Barbadian cricketer who played 19 Test matches for West Indies in the late 1970s and early 1980s before joining two rebel tours of apartheid South Africa. His decision to take the Krugerrand not only ended his career but brought him pariah status in the Caribbean, contributing to a tragic personal descent into drug addiction and destitution.

As a wicketkeeper Murray had a smooth, unhurried technique, with such soft hands that the ball seemed to enter his gloves noiselessly, even when delivered at blistering pace by the likes of Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. Off the field, however, his touch was not nearly so assured, as the decision to play in South Africa attested.

Coming home to find that he was regarded by many as a traitor to the cause of black nationalism, Murray blew much of his $125,000 rebel-tour money on drugs and alcohol, messed up his personal life, and spent most of the remaining four decades wandering around the tourist beaches of Barbados, making a hand-to-mouth existence via begging and small-time drug-dealing

Murray’s rapid unravelling might have occurred even without the fall-out from the two rebel tours between 1982 and 1984. But it certainly did not help matters. He and the 19 other West Indian cricketers who travelled to South Africa did so despite a worldwide prohibition on cricketing relations with apartheid that was strongly supported by most people in the Caribbean. On their return they were banned from playing first class cricket and found themselves ostracised from polite society, many discovering that the only way out was to move abroad.

Even though the response to the rebel tourists in Barbados was not as visceral as in some other Caribbean territories, what made Murray’s plight even more difficult was an existing predilection for drug and alcohol abuse. Steadfastly refusing to express remorse for his actions, he found it hard to rehabilitate himself in the public consciousness, and descended into shambolic dereliction.

Murray appeals for a run-out during a one-day International against England at the Oval in September 1973: West Indies won by 8 wickets
Murray appeals for a run-out during a one-day International against England at the Oval in September 1973: West Indies won by 8 wickets 

David Anthony Murray was born on May 29 1950 in Bridgetown, Barbados, an illegitimate child of the great West Indies cricketer Everton Weekes. When his mother emigrated to England without him, he was brought up in the care of his maternal grandmother, who struggled to keep him in check. By the age of 13 he had become a regular marijuana smoker.

Inheriting cricketing talent from his father, Murray began playing for Spartan club in Bridgetown as a wicketkeeper-batsman, making his debut for Barbados aged 20 and later becoming deputy in the West Indies side to the Trinidadian keeper Deryck Murray (no relation), including the tour to Australia in 1975-76, when only the kindly intervention of a senior player, Lance Gibbs, prevented him from being sent home after his drug consumption came to the notice of management.

When Deryck Murray defected to the Kerry Packer cricket circus in 1978, David was able to make his Test debut, against Australia in Guyana, at the late age of 28. On tour in India in 1978-79 he took 18 dismissals in six Tests and scored 261 runs at an average of 29, including his highest first class score of 206 not out, against East Zone in Jamshedpur. But he also came across a ready supply of the local hashish, admitting later that “I would eat a piece and I would be high for the whole day.” His attendance at mandatory team meetings was sketchy, and if he did appear, often barely coherent.

Murray in 1973
Murray in 1973 

When Deryck Murray returned from exile after Packer, David again became understudy, but took over as No 1 in late 1980 when the older man finally retired. He then played four of the five home Tests against England in 1981, and on the 1981-82 tour of Australia took nine catches in the first Test at Melbourne, still a West Indies record, despite having a broken finger. He played with the same injury in the second Test, but was then rested for a series of one day matches, in which Jeffrey Dujon took over his duties.

Dujon impressed so much in his stead that he retained the role for the third Test, at Adelaide, and Murray was dropped. Murray partly lost his place because his finger had not fully healed, but also because Dujon had proved to be a better batsman and, perhaps crucially, the West Indies board preferred Dujon’s more professional attitude on and off the field.

Taking the decision badly, Murray refused to do his duties when named as 12th man at Adelaide, and was sent home without ceremony. Feeling that his West Indies career was over, he became ripe for plucking by Ali Bacher, the administrative mastermind behind the apartheid rebel tours.

Murray during the second Test against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1980, which West Indies won by 156 runs
Murray during the second Test against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1980, which West Indies won by 156 runs 

Nothing much of note happened in South Africa – the two tours Murray participated in were of little consequence, other than for the outrage they caused. But the aftermath was painful.

Spending most of his tour money on frivolities, Murray went on to foul up his marriage to an Australian forensic scientist, Kerry McAteer, by having an affair. On his subsequent return to Barbados, and by now hooked on cocaine, he took a room with two aunts at the family home in Station Hill, Bridgetown, and shifted into a long downward spiral of poverty.

In his later years a skeletal figure with matted grey dreadlocks, he existed mainly by selling small parcels of drugs to tourists, taking hand-outs from family members, and accepting occasional payments from foreign journalists who showed up to interview him about his sad decline.

He is survived by a daughter from his marriage to Kerry, which ended in divorce, and a son, Ricky Hoyte, from an earlier relationship, who became a first class cricketer.

David Murray, born May 29 1950, died November 25 2022

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