Murray's Return - Good for the Game?

Mon, Apr 8, '02


Terry Finisterre

For years, this has been the argument: Junior Murray or Courtney Browne? Who's the next best wicketkeeper in the West Indies, behind incumbent Ridley Jacobs.

The common theory is that Murray -- the tall, athletic, moody Grenadian -- made the more difficult catches and was the better batsman, whereas Browne - the Barbados captain - was generally more reliable, but prone to vital drops. Well, my opinion was always that they were both dead horses.

It is time we start investing in young keepers like St. Lucia's Gaspard Prospere and Dominica's Wayne Philip. It's a good thing I'm not a Windwards selector, or we might have missed out on Murray's 642 runs (four centuries) and 27 dismissals this domestic season, the best at his position.

The former figure may well turn out to be as important as the latter, now that Murray has earned a recall to the West Indies team, favoured over Jacobs, and perhaps precisely because of that batting ability. The Antiguan, the Windies vice-captain, failed to produce runs against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and on a team whose batting is weak already, the keeper needs to score.

And Junior Murray can score. For the Windwards, he comes in at number four, perhaps one higher than he will for the West Indies this weekend. That leaves Sarwan (preferably) or Chanderpaul to come in at the first wicket, with Lara next. Hooper would follow, with Hinds and probably Nagamootoo ensuring that there's some depth to the batting.

Murray's selection speaks to his ability, but moreso to Jacobs' decline and the lack of options, particularly young options. Bringing the Jamaican, Baugh, through the ranks appeared to be a step in the right direction.

His injury during the Busta Cup series hurt his cause, but it set the West Indies back as well. For over a decade now, the West Indies has been searching for a reliable opening pair and a batting wicketkeeper. Now, Murray is no Dujon, but he'll bring a dimension to this team that's been absent even during his first coming and during Jacob's richer vein of form in the Windies colours. Finding a younger man to perform as Murray is capable of doing seems to be beyond us for now, so Junior it is, and well may he fare.

* Terry Finisterre is an award-winning sports journalist based in St. Lucia. He also is the sports editor at Radio Caribbean International and operates the OECS Athlete Web site.