Sir Vivian Richards – Cricket’s most feared batsman
Sir Vivian Richards saunters into the room- Personality first, person later
Sir Vivian Richards walk to the crease is regarded as the most iconic site in the cricketing history. After the dismissal of either Grenidge or Haynes the crowd used to wait for Sir Vivian Richards. The outgoing batsman almost walked past the boundary line and the whole stadium used to hold their breath in an anticipation of the arrival of Sir Viv Richards.
Sir Vivian Richards never came to bat in a hurry, he made you wait then he used to step out. Walk with swagger and sheer nonchalance, muscling the chewing gum with his jaws and a menace in his eyes. Head held high, a Maroon cap, never ever a helmet because according to him it would have been admission of fear and a weapon of mass destruction in his right hand. He came to bat like a king came for hunting. oo choreographer with the help of lights and sound effects could mimic his grand walk to the crease. It was a treat to the eye.
He would then take guard and his own time to settle into the crease. A walk down the pitch for 4-5 steps and he used look in the bowler’s eye. A well thought tactic which scared the bowlers all over the globe for more than a decade. From walking up to bat to facing the ball, those 3-4 minutes were Viv’s strong point. It was a drama of highest intensity. Audacity personified.
The bowler delivers the ball well outside off stump. Sir Vivian Richards doesn’t give a damn about the swing or seam in the pitch. He plant’s his left foot forward and miraculously flicks the ball through square leg. The bowler felt cheated. Viv hit the ball across the line when it was considered as a sin to score through cow corner but Viv cared nobody.
In an era of fastest bowlers ripping batsman apart. Viv never wore the helmet. Not once Not against the thunderbolts of Lille and Thomson Not against Kapil Dev and Imran Khan. Not even against his own teammates- the killing quartet Holding, Garner, Marshall, Robert. He trusted his eyes to save him and they never betrayed him.
Born on 7th march 1952 on a tiny Caribbean island of Antigua. Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was a child prodigy. After going through the first class system, he made his test debut for West Indies1974 at Chinnaswamy Bangalore and he never looked back. He amassed 8000+ runs with an average of over 50 in test. His ODI debut came in 1975 at old Trafford. And he scored 6721 runs in ODIs. Few players in the cricketing history made an immediate impact like Sir Viv. And by virtue of his stellar performances he made an instant name for himself. But Sir Viv was never about statistics. It was about how he decimated the bowling attacks all around the globe.
There are several innings which had Sir Vivian Richards Written all over it. But there is one inning which is still regarded as the greatest ODI innings ever played. It was a first match of Texaco trophy against the arch rivals WI and England at the old Trafford 1985. West Indies was reeling for 166 for 9, Viv was holding one end but others were succumbing to the immense pressure created by the English Pacers and then Viv decided that enough is enough. From 166 for 9 WI miraculously ended on 272 for 9. Sir Viv annihilated the English bowling attack single headedly and scored 189 of 170 balls with 21 four’s and 5 gigantic sixes. WI won the match by 104 runs.
Another Iconic moment came when he toured Australia lead by Chappell for his first series against them in 1975 .Australia had the deadly duo. Denis Lille and Jeff Thomson. There was a saying that Thomson used to bowl so fast that the ball used to reach the batsman in less time than our technology tell us that we can react. The fastest bowler ever in the history of Cricket. But Viv tormented him. Thomson spent the series mouth agape watching his thunderbolts getting hit all over the ground. Viv literally manhandled the Aussies with smile and utmost disdain. Dared them to bowl faster.
But unlike many other greats of the game, Viv was more than the statistics. He was about domination, destruction. Viv always backed his abilities and in his heydays nobody had had the guts to sledge him. But some players tried though. It’s a story for the ages and describe Viv very aptly. It was when Viv was playing for Somerset and Glamorgan fast bowler Greg Thomas had beaten Viv three consecutive times with outs wingers. Thomas who was known for his witty and cheeky remarks reiterated the balls description to Sir Vivian Richards. “Viv that’s called a ball. Its red and round, weighs five ounces and you are supposed to hit it of you are wondering what to do.” Viv didn’t replied him. He went back to his batting crease. Ran down the pitch and smashed the next ball out of the park. He strolled down the pitch with swag and gave it back to Thomas. “Hey Thomas, that’s called a ball, its red and round. Weighs five ounces now go and find it.
If in 70s and 80s West Indies team was Ferrari then Viv was its wheels. That West Indies team had the fastest bowlers in the world- Holding, Garner, Marshal, Roberts. But Viv was the X factor. In 1975 WC final against Australia, Viv didn’t score too many runs but his three run outs ensured WI won the inaugural WC.
But there was another aspect to Sir Vivian Richards cricketing career. His captaincy. From 1984 to 1991 WI never lost a series under Viv. A born leader who knew only one thing-winning. Former Pakistan Captain Imran khan once said- There are two types of Captains: “One who don’t want to loose and one who want to win.” And you know who will come out victorious. Viv was exactly like that.
Being born in 90s had its own disadvantages as far as Cricket is concern. We could not watch the Sharjah storm live by Sachin. We could not watch Walsh and Ambrose, Wasim and Waqar ripping through the batting line ups in their hey days. Neither we could saw how Allan border turned the mediocre Australian team into the winning machine. But the thing I miss is watching Viv Richards bat live. Many people call Sachin master blaster. But it was an original nickname of Sir Viv Richards. Nowadays its all about who is fastest to score 5000, 6000 runs. A constant race between Amla and Virat. But Viv held the record for the fastest 5000 run’s for a long time. Viv scored those runs when there was no power play.
8540 test runs at the strike rate of 86.7 and 6721 runs at the strike rate of 90.02. He scored these runs in an era when a captain could place all his fielder’s on the boundary. No Field restrictions were there in Viv’s era. For all those who doesn’t consider this as a great feat, Viv scored at 4G in the 80 and 90s where all the other batsman were stuck on 2 kbps.
Cricketing fans rue the fact that t20 was not invented when Viv was playing. He never got the chance to play t20 and IPL. But he played his every game in the t20 mode long before Sehwag and Warner started it. It is no brainier that if Viv was playing around today, he would have been the most expensive player in the IPL. Many people hit the ball hard. But nobody hit that ball harder than Viv did. He hit the balls across the line for fun and made the mockery of the bowlers.
In 1991 Viv hung his boot’s and now enjoys his life in Antigua. There is a stadium in North sound, Antigua, “Sir Vivian Richards Stadium” which is named in honor after him. He was knighted by the Antiguan government in 1999. He became Sir Issac Vivian Alexander Richards. He was a playboy, most feared batsman to have played the game. He dominated and dismantled bowling attacks. He destroyed careers and killed bowler’s ego.
For many people Viv “hitting across the line” in an era where it was considered as taboo was a revolution. Aptly the name of his autobiography is “Hitting across the line”. What bothers me is despite knowing how great Viv was and everything about his batting many people don’t know Viv Richards. He had the Alan borders grit David Gower’s timing, power of Ian Botham and Kapil Dev. But nobody came close to sir Viv’s shadow.
He was attacking, aggressive but not a slogger. He trademark shot was a hitting across the line but his cover drives were gorgeous. He was a poet capable of violent poetry. A subtle artist who had the gift of ferocious performance. A man who made chewing gum a style statement. A man who defined swagger.
Sir Vivian Richards was Cricket’s first ever poster boy. A playboy. A one man evolution. A Knighted king. And Crickets most feared batsman ever.
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Writer :- Deu Gaichor
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