Viv Richards: there won’t be another like him

An inspiration to many both on and off the cricket field, Sir Vivian Richards remains the most feared batsman the game has ever seen. The impact of his batting went far beyond the runs he scored. Often we allocate so much space to talk about his batting, other important facets of the great man are ignored.

Vivian Richards never wore a helmet during his entire career in an era where fast bowlers dominated the game. His logic was simple. Wearing a helmet would induce complacency and more importantly, it would have been difficult to eyeball the bowler through a metal grille.

Fast bowlers are expected to instill fear in bowlers but Richards instead terrorized them.

As captain, he was inspirational leading his team from the front. A remarkable fact about his captaincy stint that stretched for six years is that he never lost a series as captain. This was in an era where Australia were under Allan Border, India were lead by Kapil Dev and Pakistan had the incomparable Imran Khan leading them. World cricket was strong in 1980s but West Indies were stronger than any other team thanks to Richards.

Richards was also a man of principles. In a bid to lure the world’s best batsman to South Africa on a rebel tour, Dr. Ali Bacher offered him a blank cheque to come to the apartheid South Africa. Richards turned down the offer and that inspired many international stars to go on the same path. Sir Ian Botham turning down the offer to tour South Africa said that if he went there, he would be not able to see Richards in his eyes. Such was the aura of the man.

Richards and Botham go back a long way. Richards’ father was a prison officer and discipline was instilled to him very early in his career. Having excelled in cricket for Antigua, Richards and fellow Antiguan Andy Roberts were rejected by English county Surrey in 1972.

The following year Len Creed, the Vice-Chairman of Somerset was touring the Caribbean and saw firsthand Richards’ brutal power hitting. It was he who roped in Richards to the Somerset set up.

While playing for Somerset, Richards had to share a flat with another emerging young player. He answered to the name of Ian Terrance Botham. Both players made their debuts for Somerset on the same day in the 1974 season against Lancashire in Taunton. Their partnership was legendary both for the County and their respective countries although West Indies dominated England in that period.

In 1979, the County won their first major title in their history and for the next five years they were simply unstoppable, particularly in the one-day format of the game.

After he was done with Somerset, Richards moved to Glamorgan and continued to inspire an unfancied County to some memorable moments in the sport.
Viv’s best years as a batsman were perhaps from 1979 to 1984. He underwent eye surgery in 1984 and wasn’t perhaps as dominating as he was before but nevertheless, his impact and prowess never waned.

As a youngster, Richards was a gun fielder. In the 1975 World Cup final, he ran out three Australian batters: Alan Turner, Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell.
His off spin is often underrated, but he took over 100 wickets in ODIs. In New Zealand in 1986, he scored a century and took five wickets and until 2005 no other player was able to accomplish that rare feat in an ODI.

The way Richards played his cricket, his courage and his personality were a source of inspiration to many people, certainly for the blacks. His walk and his stare are at times described as arrogance, but in reality, it was his way of showing to the rest of the world who was boss. He was deeply aware of the history. His native Antigua was a British colony that employed African slaves in its plantations.

The self-belief that Richards had no other cricketer had in his abilities.

Sir Leonard Hutton once described Richards like this, "He may have descended from slaves and cotton-pickers, but his walk to the wicket reminded you that he owned the plantation".

We marvel at the modern-day batters in T-20 cricket clearing boundaries effortlessly. Perhaps, such brutal hitting was showcased by Richards first 40 years ago when he hit the fastest century in Test match cricket in just 56 balls against England in Antigua. Some of those one-handed sixes during that innings put the bowlers to the sword.

When asked, Richards would say that he was trying to be creative. However, what if he had tried to be more circumspect and cautious in his approach rather than trying to dominate the bowling every time? His numbers would have been far greater had that happened but the entertainment would it have been there?
The hallmark of a great batsman is his ability to succeed in all conditions. Richards did this fabulously. He dominated in the seaming English conditions. He had an impact on the bouncy tracks of Australia. The big runs kept coming on the turning wickets of Asia. In the Caribbean, of course, he was unstoppable.

Richards’ impact in international cricket is spoken much after his retirement. In the year 2000 he was named one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year along with Sir Don Bradman, Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Garfield Sobers and Shane Warne.  

The ICC tried to rank top ten batsmen in ODI cricket in the history of the game through a ranking system recording their peak performances and Richards emerged as number one ranked player ahead of other leading contenders such as Sachin Tendulkar, Javed Miandad, Brian Lara, Dean Jones and Adam Gilchrist.

Post retirement, Richards was involved with the game in many capacities as a commentator, coach and selector.

While his insights about the game gave an outlook to the way he took up challenges as a batsman, it was as  a selector that he showed his brilliance as a thinker of the game. He thought out of the box and was influential on picking several players who had been ignored for not being conventional. He backed Fidel Edwards, who had a round arm action and he made quick impact before fading away due to injuries.

In recent years, Richards has been low key and hasn’t been engaging with the game as much as people would like due to health issues. But his influence on the game will not be forgotten. If you can go back on time and watch one player bat that has to be Viv Richards.


Viv Richards Career Stats

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