Nostalgia has always dwelled on the ancient days of cricket on the dwindling settings of the past, reflections being evolved only with the viewable trivia, at an outstretched range. For cricket dogmatists, it is always heartening to glance through the lengthening archives memories of the days now fading in time.
He was considered 20th November 1970, a special day when Barry Richards, the former South African batsman has scored 356 runs and consumed just 372 minutes at the crease WACA ground in Perth, and the Aussies began to pour in; around 3,000 zealots gathered inside the stadium and they were storming in to witness Ian Chappell’s South Australia taking on their state team.
Ian Chappell was there with an invincible side, having Barry Richards, the celebrated Springbok who had been promised a dollar a run by the Coca Cola, and all eyes explored this man where was he? Who is this bloke?”- ‘A South African!’, This man can turn the tables. He is a cricketing genius’. ‘An over-rated cricketer’, were the phrases which one could hear between that piercing stare and a threatening roar from the crowd.
The home team skipper, Tony Lock had with him a veteran seamer, Graham McKenzie and another promising fast bowler, Dennis Lillee Ian Brayshaw, a hard-working bowler who could move the ball in with the wind was also present in his armory and not to miss Tony Mann, the skillful leg spinner.
Barry Richards was being put against a formidable attack and this was indeed a testing time for a foreigner who had come to Australia to what his most jaded appetite by playing quality cricket. With his national team facing an exile, he was there to play the game, in a manner it should be played, with great conviction and courage, with motivation and determination. Not rattled by the sound of leather on flesh and bones. Barry Richards winked his eyes, before preparing him-self for another ball.
Barry Richards was born at Durban in 1945 he sprawled into his teens in a typical South African configuration. He was sitting at his living room window, circumspect, strained, and focused. His eyes scorched with freezing concentration, his hair curled and trimmed in an infallible fringe. He waited, assiduously and solemnly, staring into his unpredictable future. The pitch was hard, white, and shining the sunlight reflected off it. Ian Chappell defeated Tony Lock on the spin of coin and to surprise his men, he elected to bat.
It was Barry Richard’s first Sheffield season. He was cricket with an astounding reputation, a man who had scored 508 runs in his first Test series against Bill Lawry’s wearing Aussies during the winter of 1969-70. Since then his aspirations faded in oblivion, his ambitions shattered and his international career short-lived. He was a frustrated man, for whom Shield cricket offered the remuneration of pitting him against the reputed bowlers, those he b desired to meet in the challenging arena.
Graham McKenzie bowled the first ball of the day, it was an out swinger, moving late off the wicket as well as it deviated slightly off the air, and Richards shuffled across the batting crease to come behind the line, missing it comprehensively. Rodney Marsh collected it behind the stumps, turning around to John Inverarity who stood firm in the first slip, throwing the ball to him; he versed ‘ Geez, I thought that this man was supposed to be able to play a hit. Barry survived!
The second ball curved into him and Barry was beaten down the leg-side. The third one was a short, rising delivery which was negotiated confidently and it dropped near the short-leg fielder. Barry played with a loose bottom hand and made himself sure of not popping it in the air. The fourth delivery pitched on the off-and middle stump and quickened off the wicket, he came behind the line, his head was steady shoulders balanced and a forward defensive stroke was completed with ease. The fifth ball deviated off the seam, Richards was late in leaving it, and it flew over his stumps a narrow miss.
From the other end, Denis Lillee shared the attack and he bowled a maiden over. At that juncture, few could contemplate what was to befall in the next 330 minutes. Therefore, 12 minutes passed and Barry Richards pushed McKenzie to score his first run and an over more, before Richards adjusted himself magnificently to play square of the wicket. It was his first four, as the ball skimmed to the fence. Hence, 25 runs were notched up inside two over’s, forcing Lock to shift to Brayshaw who was bowling with the gush of wind at his back, his nostrils dilating, and the chest heaving.
It was a pleasant change as he bowled 5 over’s for 11 runs before being taken off, unnecessarily. South Australians crossed 50 in 47 minutes and soon Richards was holding his bat aloft, acknowledging the applauds for reaching his individual fifty. Denis Lillee was the man who had been bothering him; otherwise, he had played with ease and conviction. He had misjudged two bouncers; top-edging the first one over deep-fine-leg and the other went high in the air, falling in no man’s land between deep square-leg and deep-mid-wicket.
This apart, he guided his team to launch the hundred of the innings, using just 83 minutes and now Lock was sweating as he began to juggle his bowling resources. Now Tony Mann was introduced- he was a conventional leg-spinner who could spin in yards, admixing his googlies, few could analyze. Whatever he was bowling never interested Barry, as the batsman had played him at the club- level. He stepped out of the crease, coming down the track, and drove Mann’s leg break over the head of the cover fielder for a four. Another leg break and the batsman cut him past point for four.
The third one was a googly and Richards conveniently swept him for two more runs. The ball was being hit with a force, twice more than with which it was being delivered. Elegant and flamboyant, Richards hit with the art of a violinist. Barry avoided slogging and never believed in perpetrating violence and those strenuous chases were perpetually worthless. At 109, he lost his opening partner, Causby for 38 and by lunch, Richards had moved to 79 with South Australia at a comfortable 150 for 1.
The crowd was silent, now anticipating that the hosts were panicking and the South African batsman was there, driving on either foot, even square of the wicket, with perfection. His art of batting was conspicuous and he deserved appreciation. The next session began with Barry lifting the Lillee over mid-off for a four and then he rotated himself such that the leg-stump was exposed. So for a moment, the wicket-keeper thought that he had missed the ball but it glanced fine towards the fence.
He was playing late, yet timed his strokes with undying ease. Lillee tempted him outside the off-stump and Richards returned the compliment by turning square as he sliced his bat, angling it so that the ball flew over point and gully for four. Lock recalled Tony Mann and he went to mid-off, and the challenge was met with three severe blows, all of them sailing over Lock’s head and all reached the deep-mid-off fence.
The fielding captain was diving in all directions, in futility. Barry Richards reached his 100 in 125 minutes and then complete his 150 in 176 minutes, and 84 of these runs had been scored with scorching hits to the picket-fences. The sound of the ball striking the hoarding had been much more than that of the crowd. And with his personal score on 169, Barry gave his only chance, as he skied 81 a drive off McKenzie over mid-on.
It was more of an edge and to the horror of Lock, Ian Brayshaw floored the catch. It was a sitter and then onwards Barry decided to hit to all parts of the WACA carpet. Perth was watching an enthralling game of cricket as he and Ian Chappell were unbeaten, the bowlers had been slaughtered 308 runs had been added between the two, and both Ian Chappell and Barry had consumed 170 minutes. The shadows were lengthening, the evening light mellowing, as Ian was brilliantly stumped with South Australian total on an impressive 417 for 2.
Barry Richards was on 246, and Greg Chappell stepped in to partner him and both began to turn balls for singles. Barry positioned himself elegantly before he lofted Lillee over mid-on for four before glancing Tony Lock for another three Greg was out at the team’s total on 247 for 3. Barry drove over covers and it went soaring in the deep, where Bob Meuleman, who had been a spectacular squash player, ran for his life and the flight of the ball betrayed him to see the batsman raising his bat.
Barry Richards had crossed his 300 in 317 minutes, thus becoming the third batsman ever to score a triple hundred on a single day in Sheffield cricket, joining the list which included Charlie Gregory and Bill Ponsford. Four more hits to the fence and he came out to drive Lillee over his head and the ball went for a six. It was destined to be the last ball of the day- South Australians had mauled the hosts.
Barry Richards was there for another 42 minutes on the second day before he fell to an outrageous decision. He was hit on the toe as he tried to flick Mann’s googly. Before Richards started to stroll towards the pavilion, out for 356, adding another 31 to his overnight score of 325, Inverarity voiced; ‘ Rod, I suppose he can play a bit’. Batting for 372 minutes, he smacked 48 fours and a solitary six.
That season, for South Australia, Barry Richards scored 1,528 runs, an aggregate, second-best ever in Shield cricket. Donald Bradman was the name ahead of him on the Roll of. That was one inning; many more were played in a career that lasted over 19 years. Barry Richards represented Natal, South Australia, Gloucestershire, and Hampshire and emerged as the most prolific willow wielder.
Barry was a man who was a tough competitor who could innovate different strokes as he played in more limited over tournaments. One of the most gifted batsmen in the cricketing chronicles, Barry Richards found the arduous task of batting quite absurdly facile. He compelled by the political and racial isolation, few celebrated bowlers around the sphere could test his reservoirs of untainted passion and ability for the game.
He was taken away from the international arena when he was at his prime and then onwards he became a wandering soul, playing fewer matches in his native South Africa than in England and Australia. To begin with, Richards toured England in 1963 and was honored to lead the South African School’s side and then a year’s commitment with Gloucestershire brought him again to Hove in 1965, and 36 months later, he appeared for Hampshire, hitting 2,395 runs at 47.90 average.
Sussex had even allowed Barry Richards to slip through their fingers when the door was opened during the winter of 1967-68 for overseas players to step into the game on an immediate registration. He wanted to come to us when Gloucestershire — for whom he had played a season of second eleven crickets — signed up Mike Procter instead. Yet Sussex dallied and finally turned down the chance to match the Hampshire bid. Sussex offered Richards £700 and put the offer in writing. Hampshire telephoned an offer of £900 plus the air fare. What a difference Richards would have made to our side if he had come to us in the summer of 1968.
In 1969-70, he was included in the South African Test side and he played against the Australians. It was a tour that saw Bill Lawry sweltering under the heat of some exquisite drives executed by Barry Richards in his maiden series against the visitors. He scored his first Test hundred at Durban, his hometown and the milestone just required an over after lunch. He was a tall, fair, handsome right-handed batsman, with a natural gap between his front teeth and it added extra spice to his pure masculine debonair.
He was something different, not that elegant, at times impetuous but he could anticipate the line and length, launching himself into a drive, a shade quicker than the rest of the lot. With a high back-lift, full follow-through of the blade, and balanced movement of the feet either forward or back to get himself into the perfect position to play the ball.
He was a technical paragon He scored more than 1,000 runs in 9 seasons in England and six in South Africa, twice scoring two hundred in a match (against Northampton shire in 1968 and then versus Kent in 1976). In 1977-78 and 1978-79, Barry Richards again landed in Australia to compete, not in Shield cricket but to flex his wings in the Packer circus, and he represented the World XI with distinction and an insatiable lust for runs.
In 1978 he quit county cricket, for personal reasons. In 1968, at Bournemouth against the Rest of the World, he claimed 7 for 63, devastating the renowned batsmen with his teasing off-spinners. As a fielder, he was spectacular in slips and never dropped catches. As a friend and a team-man, it can be best inquired from Gordon Greenidge, who learned much about the technique and about pacing an innings from Barry.
His name would be written in every cricketing catalog due to invincible feats on the field. He hit a century before lunch, nine times in his career and amassed 1,000 runs in a season 15 times over a period of nineteen years. Moreover, also 9 times, he achieved the feat in England, five times in South Africa which also included a record 1,285 runs at 80.31 in 1973-74 and once in Australia. Generally laughing and enchanting, sometimes touched by arrogance, Barry Richards was a determined man and he earned all that his talent merited. He is always an above-board or an equable character.
Barry Richards commentated for the South African Broadcasting Corporation for MNet SuperSport, Channel 4, and Five. Famous England umpire Dickie Bird selected Barry Richards in his autobiography as a member of his Dream team, from all players he ever saw. Sir Don Bradman also selected him as a member of his 20th-century team as an opening batsman.
Barry Richard played only 4 Tests, in which he scored 508 runs with an average of 72.57 including 2 hundred and 2 fifties. Barry Richards’s first-class career spans lasted from 1964-65 till 1982-83. In which he appeared in 339 matches, scored 28,358 runs at an average of 54.74 with the career-best of 356, including 80 hundred and 152 fifties and 367 catches. In 233 List A matches, he scored 8506 runs at an average of 40.12 with the career-best of 155* including 16 hundred and 50 fifties and 106 catches. These stats truly showing the class of all-time great South African batsman.
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