“Murray was the man who stood between Pakistan and victory on the 11th of June. He is the unheralded knight of the West Indian victory in the first-ever humdinger at the marquee stage”
Have you ever wondered where do the heroes come from? What’s the thing they possess which sets them apart from the rest? Well, heroes are just the normal human beings like all of us but what sets them a cut above the rest is their ability to hold themselves in the adverse circumstances to conjure a result which may seem a far cry for most of the mortals. In the continuation of our World Cup Heroes series, we take a look at a West Indian hero who not only took his team over the line but also instilled a belief in his team that the World Cup was theirs for the taking. Let’s rewind back to 44 years.
It was June 11, 1975, and the first ever Cricket World Cup, named Prudential World Cup, was just 7 matches old. Up to that point, none of the seven games could possibly be categorized in what we call a legitimate thriller but fortunes were going to change in that regard in Birmingham in what was the 8th match of the inaugural World Cup where Pakistan took on the mighty West Indians to produce the first-ever nail-bitter in the World Cup history.
Pakistan were dealt a telling blow in the lead up to the match as their regular captain, Asif Iqbal withdrew from the game owing to him going for an emergency medical procedure. Majid Khan had to take over the momentous responsibility and that too against a fearsome opposition. But one thing really boosted the hopes of Pakistanis and that was their batsmen’s prior experience of playing the likes of Andy Roberts, Keith Boyce, Vanburn Holder and Bernard Julien in the county circuits of England.
Riding on that precious experience, Pakistan made a competitive 266 in their innings. Mushtaq Mohammad made a sublime 55 while Wasim Raja’s quick-fire 58 helped Pakistan propel their score to 266. Captain Majid Khan top-scored with a well-made 60. But did they really think that this first-inning score of theirs could really intimidate the opposition? Well, Mushtaq answers this question quite well when he said, “Anything in the region of 260 was a very good winning target. But against West Indies, we were apprehensive as they had a mighty batting order.”
Pakistan’s apprehensions had some solid grounds as West Indies boasted of the names like Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran, Roy Fredericks, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and a young Vivian Richards. But fate can always be depended upon to bring out her treacherous games to befall the mightiest of the warriors and something similar happened in Birmingham too.
Pakistani bowling attack, in that match, featured Sarfaraz Nawaz, Asif Masood, Naseer Malik, and Pervez Mir along with supporting hands of Javed Miandad and Mushtaq Mohammad. No bowler other than Sarfaraz could be termed as threatening for the West Indians and he vindicated this fact soon enough as he snaffled the wickets of Greenidge, Fredericks, and Kallicharran in quick succession to reduce West Indies to 36 for 3 wickets.
The early blow had been dealt with and what was needed was the capitalization by the remaining Pakistani bowlers and they surely did pounce on it as West Indies were further dented with the wickets of Kanhai, Richards and Bernard Julien to reduce them to a struggling 6 for 145. The West Indian chances were getting gloomy with each passing delivery. Enter the wicket-keeper Deryck Murray to support his captain in the chase.
But that association didn’t last long as the captain departed after getting to his half-century, leaving his team reeling at 151 for 7. With the departure of Lloyd, the West Indian tail got exposed to the treacheries of Pakistani bowlers and Murray was left to wage a lone battle for his team. In such a high demanding situation, Murray oozed calm and that’s just what his team needed at that moment, more so when Keith Boyce departed at the score of 166.
Time was ripe for a final assault by their best bowler but Majid, interestingly, didn’t bowl Sarfaraz at that time of the chase which allowed Murray to build a slow and steady partnership with Vanburn Holder. Murray’s sense rubbed off Holder as the duo first looked to steadying their team’s sinking ship. Their association began with boring nudges here and there but, as both the batsmen grew in confidence, started to swell in momentum to leave the Pakistani skipper scratching his head who desperately looked for options beyond the x-factor of Sarfaraz.
But as the West Indian total rolled past 200, Majid wasn’t left with any other choice than bringing on his best bowler into the attack. That move immediately paid dividends as Sarfaraz had Holder caught by Pervez Mir to devoid Murray of yet another partner in his pursuit of success for his team. With 64 runs still to get and only Andy Roberts left for support, Murray surely would have imagined the apocalypse coming at any moment yet he decided to give it a go.
The work of Roberts was cut-out. He had to just play calmly without trying to go for any glory shot and let Murray take the charge of the chase. That’s exactly what they did. The initial focus was to bat till the end as they had a full 14 overs to play with. The strategy paid off and the West Indian pair slowly inched closer to the total. What backfired for Pakistan was their move of bowling Sarfaraz out in the pursuit of the final wicket, a threat which Murray and Roberts negated successfully.
To sum up the importance of Sarfaraz, here are the words by Roberts himself, “The moment he bowled out. That was it. Because they didn’t have any other threatening bowler. So we just stayed and played every ball on its merit. And we just milk it slowly until the last two overs we needed 10, that’s when I hit a boundary and from thereon, we knew that all we had to do was to get the bat on to the ball.”
Surely, in hindsight, it seems a blunder on Majid’s part to bowl out his best bowler but one should not take away any credit from the last batting duo who battled great adversity to take their team over the finishing line with two balls to go. Roberts was heralded as a hero with his match-winning 24 runs and surely, he deserved the adulation as he had shown great maturity and composure to achieve the improbable for his team.
But amidst all this glory talks of Sarfaraz who was picked as the Man of the Match because the adjudicator had gone home after the eighth West Indian wicket fell or Roberts batting out of his skin to win the game, we tend to attach lesser importance to the role Deryck Murray played. He top-scored with 61 but more importantly, he kept the adrenalin of tail-enders like Holder and Roberts in check to optimize their batting potentials.
Murray was the man who stood between Pakistan and victory on the 11th of June. He is the unheralded knight of the West Indian victory in the first-ever humdinger at the marquee stage.