Life after Clive Lloyd! Can Viv Richards emulate the success of his two greatest predecessors? Of leaders, Field-Marshal Montgomery once said they have infectious optimism, a determination to persevere in the face of difficulties, and the composure to radiate confidence when they are not too certain of the outcome.’ One would think Montgomery had known Clive Lloyd personally, but what about Vivian Richards?
Even before the press release back in February 1985, which announced that he would be leading the West Indies in their home series against New Zealand, an air of speculation clouded the Caribbean cricketing fraternity Was Viv Richard worthy of the Clive Lloyd office? An early omen came last year when the respected regional journalist ‘Reds’ Pereira appealed to all West Indians to abandon insularity and support Lloyd’s successor, whoever that might be.
Then there was the much-celebrated dressing-room incident in Antigua, in which a Guyanese reporter suggested that no small-island player should succeed Clive Lloyd. In addition to that, while the West Indies were on tour in Australia in January 1985, Jamaican columnist Jimmy Carnegie quietly argued in one of his Sunday articles that Michael Holding and not Vivian Richards were more deserving of the Clive Lloyd mantle.
Then, at last, somebody was audacious enough to address the situation head-on. Tony Becca, another Jamaican journalist, in March 1985, finally made these observations: ‘Fans think he is arrogant, the establishment finds his discipline wanting, some players fear he won’t be Lloyd’s avatar, and the WICB is uncomfortable with his apparent Rastafarian beliefs’. Viv Richards, tarnished by such criticism, may be destined for greatness.
Remember Frank Worrell? He too was branded arrogant, and what about Ian Chappell? He too was labeled indiscipline. Yet both were among the best at the task. And what does Richards himself make of all this? Seemingly piqued by his lengthy apprenticeship, in the Trevor McDonald biography, he intones that ‘they might be searching for a blue-eyed blond boy whose hair shakes in place’—a suspicion that was not entirely ludicrous.
The calendar has moved along, but some sentiments will never be altogether abandoned West Indian communities, though producing some of the sharpest minds, are yet to relinquish the colonial mentality. If you are privileged to talk with some of those who played first-class cricket in the ’40s and ’50s, you will invariably hear who had to carry whose gear on tour or whose career was blighted simply because his color was wrong All this aside, Richards is the most prepared to lead the West Indies at this time. ever On the field, he is tactically sound.
At the Test level, he had deputized a few times before his first full series, though in the Second Test against Australia, staged in Port-of-Spain in 1984, his stewardship came under fire. He seems more at ease in the one-day matches and can match wits with the Chappells and the Brearleys. Like it or not, these ‘pajama parties’ are contributing more and more to the coffers, and Richards is not about to stem that financial flow. To say that he is arrogant is picayune.
Of course, he has his style of flamboyance, the cheek, and the rest, but so do Gary Sobersand Dennis Lillee, and to a lesser extent, so do Kapil Dev and Zaheer Abbas. Wasn’t that the same arrogance we lauded at the onset of his run rampage back on the 1974–75 Australian tour? The fable goes that, having been beaten for pace by consecutive Jeff Thomson deliveries, his mid-wicket conference with Lawrence Rowe went ‘Yagga” (Lawrance Rowe nickname). It’s me or him, Richards, always ready to challenge the best.
He is no Clive Lloyd, and we shouldn’t expect him to be He has to develop his approach and the players will have to accommodate it One good thing is that his personality is understood by the team’s current nucleus, which has been fused since the early 1970s In the heat of competition, he can be acerbic and volatile, yet he is unfailingly unbiased in appraising his fellow players and is always friendly to his In the McDonald biography, he lavishly praises Joel Garner, but in one World Series encounter, he wasn’t quite as generous Joel was having a torrid time facing up to a rejuvenated Len Pascoe.
His defense was being breached and, understandably, Joel Garner was more concerned with self-preservation than with contributing to the score sheet After the ordeal, Richards, in his argot, commented, Doc, imagine a big man like you afraid a de man, just a step down de wicket and hoist him, nuh!’ No malice, just the drive-in Richards.
Every man must contribute. In sports, cricket is not excluded; intimidation plays a part, and every team has its warheads. As Rod Marsh did his somersaults and Dennis Lillee belched his expletives, Greg Chappell would stand at a slip, hands folded, oblivious to the carrying-on. The behavior is unsettling to the opposing batsmen, but that’s all part of the ploy. At times, Clive Lloyd did the same thing as Viv Richards, and Jeff Dujon riled the strikers. Of course, this role may no longer fit Viv Richards, and he might well consider delegating it. ‘But what do they know of cricket? Only cricket knows’ the thought-provoking C. L. R. James asked.
The West Indies captaincy today doesn’t end on the field. The current socio-political climate dictates that our leader be culturally aware and astute. In this respect, Viv Richards might be unparalleled. His feelings about South African excursions are cautious but firm. Yet, like Clive Lloyd and unlike some, he diplomatically avoids hurling vitriolic criticisms at some of his former teammates who were not as strong.
Michael Holding, recently appointed captain of Jamaica, and, for some, the more natural successor to Clive Lloyd as West Indies captain and Holding’s fellow Jamaican, wicket-keeper Jeff Dujon, a candidate for the national vice-captaincy.
On the Caribbean front, Viv Richards has, for example, dissuaded insularity. In the early days of World Series cricket, Michael Holding would amusingly tell of Viv Richards’s liking for Jamaican all-rounder Richard Austin. In the years to follow, Barbadian wicketkeeper David Murray would be in his company more often than not. On cricket duty in Jamaica, Viv Richard is often weighted with his favorite reggae albums.
Lately, he has been spurned in the press for wearing his red, yellow, and green sweatband, but Viv Richards explains that he is a man of Africa and the colors mean a lot to him. It has to be refreshing to black people all over the world to see the captain of a renowned team unappealingly proud of his culture. Psychologists confirm that, in any occupation, humor plays no small part in relieving stress, and, as Peter Roebuck notes in his book Slices of Cricket, Richards is hardly short of that sense.
Adrian Murrell’s typical working day might be similar to that Tuesday evening at Sabina Park against Kapil Dev’s Indians. It’s Lloyd’s 50th time captaining the West Indies. Richards is hardly at ease. On this last day of the rain-plagued match, he is suffering from a painful shoulder; furthermore, his forehead is a little puffy after bumping it a few days before while getting off the team bus.
Despite all this, he is jocular and determined to do well. In his last Test outing here against England, he disappointed, as moments before lunch that Saturday he injudiciously flicked at Graham Dilley and was caught down the leg side for 15.
Just before that, he had promised so much by casually on-driving John Emburey well into the George Headley Stand. This time will be different. After getting his physiotherapy, Richards takes the seat conveniently left beside Clive Lloyd at the boundary cordon.
Nobody dares to ask how he feels, yet deep inside, everybody wants to know. Gordon Greenidge and Haynes in helmets, looking like twins, initially make heavy weather against Kapil and Sandhu, yet they must hurry if their side is to get the 172 required to win in the allotted half an hour plus 20 overs.
As Kapil Dev walks back to his mark, the bowler, as usual, is fidgeting and tugging at his shirt. Richards breaks the silence by wondering aloud, ‘He has ants in dem or what?’ In his ramblings, he does a Bunny Wailer impersonation, forcing a bemused Lloyd to query: ‘Who de hell dis Bunny Wailer be?’
Venkat relieves Sandhu, and Gordon Greenidge, in particular, is cautious about the guile. Joel Garner yawns and advises his emissary, “De cricket dead, wake mi when Smokey starts bat.” The chatter stops as Haynes is out. Viv Richards snatches some gum from Jeff Dujon, meticulously sets his cap, then swaggers away, accompanied by tumultuous applause. His classic 61 dashes India’s hopes and sets the stage for Dujon to ‘wrist’ Mohinder Amarnath’s full toss high into the Members Pavilion.
Clive Lloyd is jubilant. Back at the Pegasus Hotel after the match, Richards is on his back, graciously receiving his well wishes. Suddenly his captain barges in, in a half-serious mood. ‘Vivian Richards’, he shouts, ‘Why weren’t you at the reception?’ ‘Skip’, Richards responds, ‘Yu is a sadist or what? Imagine having a cocoa head and half a hand, and you’re talking. Lloyd can only smile; he knows he is being ‘taken’. ‘Anyway’, Clive continues, ‘Your excuse is better than Desmond Haynes; the boy claims he couldn’t find a shirt’.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to see where the captaincy has changed. Richards has not only been in Lloyd’s crucible for the last 10 years; he has also been a student of life. One doubts if he will abandon ‘walking with kings while maintaining the common touch’. No cause for alarm; West Indies leadership is in safe hands.