Of all the batsmen who played in Test cricket, Viv Richards was the one you most feared would take the game away from you. He possessed a magnificent physique and a powerful personality and was highly driven by a fierce pride in being among the first Antiguans to represent West Indies. His close friend Andy Roberts has beaten him to the honor by a matter of months.
At a time when few West Indies cricketers had emerged from outside the main islands, they both knew there was something special about that. Later, when he took over the West Indies captaincy from Clive Lloyd, it was pried again that spurred him to build on the good work done by his predecessor and make sure the team maintained its pre-eminence.
Viv Richards quickly gained a fearsome reputation as a batsman, scoring 192 in his second Test match away to India before putting together a string of big scores in his annus mirabilis of 1976. He began by making runs against Denis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in Australia as an opener. He later settled in the pivotal number 3 position behind Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. And Viv Richards was crowned with an astonishing series in England in which he plundered 829 runs in just four Test matches, including a glorious 291 runs at The Oval.
That was his personal response to Tony Greig’s ill-advised prediction that England might make West Indies ‘grovel’. People learned to choose their words carefully when Viv was in the opposition. You’d come up against him on a handful of occasions in county cricket before, but the first-time bowler really experienced the full impact of his batting in the World Cup final of 1979.
When he played an innings of absolute brilliance, aided and abetted by Collis King. England had West Indies in some trouble before those two got together and England rather ran out of bowling! English bowler just couldn’t separate them, at least, not until it was too late, Viv finishing with a marvelous 138 not out. There were to be a few more days like that, some of them when David Gower was captain and charged with setting fields to a man who could be impossible to contain.
The most extreme example of that came in a one-day international at Old Trafford in 1984, the first meeting of the sides that summer. On that occasion, England had them in even greater trouble at 166 for nine. What followed was a masterclass both in batting and in how to manage a difficult situation, with Viv Richard manipulating the strike in order to keep his partner – Michael Holding – out of trouble.
Amazingly Viv Richard was toying with English bowlers: wherever the captain put the fielders seemed to make no difference and during the last 14 overs of the innings that they stayed together, Viv faced all but 27 balls and scored 93 of the 106 runs they put on. Viv Richards and Holding set the world record for the highest-ever 10th wicket partnership in one-day cricket history.
It was much the same two years later when he scored what was then the fastest Test hundred in history off 56 balls in his beloved Antigua later, the record was equaled, by Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq, and then beaten by Brendon McCullum in 54 balls against Australia. Vivian Richard was the first all-rounder in ODI history, who took five wickets and score a century.
Viv Richards simply took the mickey. If you put the field out, he would run two; if you brought it in, he would hit the ball over the top for four or six. It was unbelievable, godlike stuff. Viv had a very distinctive batting style. Everyone thought they had a chance if they bowled straight at him because he liked to play across his front pad and work the ball to leg. Bowlers were sure he’d miss one, but he seldom did. The robust power was the other thing that struck you. He wasn’t particularly tall at 5ft 10in, but he had the shoulders of a boxer.
Vivian Richards never seemed intimidated by anyone or anything, even if he got hit, as occasionally he did in the Caribbean playing inter-island matches. He took the blows but never showed the pain and certainly never admitted to it. His decision to never wear a helmet during a period when every other player in the game wore one as a matter, of course, was an audacious statement of superiority and one he never had reason to regret.
Even at the age of 38, playing in the championship for Glamorgan against Hampshire, his eye was good enough for him to take 14 off the last over from Malcolm Marshall – four, six, four – to win a game. As they thought we’d had in the bag. Going into the last hour Glamorgan, five wickets down, still needed 112 to win and we thought Viv Richards had miscalculated: fat chance.
He took pride in launching vendetta-like assaults on the best fast bowler in an attack, as Bob Willis discovered to his cost during the 1980 series in England. Viv learned a lot from the mauling West Indies suffered at the hands of Lillee and Thomson in Australia in 1975–76.
Where they lost five of the six Tests, but also from the World Series, which is where he would have had some of his severest tests. In 14 World Series “Supersets” Viv scored 1,281 runs at an average of 55.69, a record that none except Greg Chappell and Barry Richards could remotely match.
In the official Test cricket, his return was 8,540 runs and 24 hundred, and at the time he was chaired off the field has drawn the 1991 series in England 2–2 to ensure he maintained his record of never losing a series as captain, only two batsmen had scored more runs in Tests and only three had made more hundreds. Whether or not he was captain, Viv Richards embraced the role of leader, both within his team and in the wider sense of representing the people of the Caribbean.
The West Indian community may not have heaped expectations on his shoulders in quite the same way as the Indian population did with Sachin Tendulkar. However, nevertheless, a lot of hope was invested in his performances and he rarely let his public down. In fact, he improved pretty much every team he played for, including Somerset (whom he helped win their first trophies before the relationship soured and he was controversially sacked), the Leeward Islands, Queensland, and Glamorgan.
Sporadically, his pride spilled over into strange territory, with him once failing to lead out his West Indies team because he had gone to the press box to harangue an English journalist about something he had written, but he was by and large a principled man with a fiercely competitive streak. There was so much more to him than simply his batting and captaincy, useful off-spin bowling and brilliant fielding, initially in the covers, later at slip.
The first-time thousands of people were aware of him was when he executed three brilliant run-outs during the 1975 World Cup final. He remains the only West Indian to score 100 hundred in first-class cricket. In 1986, he was the first batsman who scored a Test century with a mind-blowing strike rate of 156.
Vivian Richard was born on March 7, 1952, in Antigua. Viv was the greatest batsman of all time, voted one of the five cricketers of the Century by a 100 members panel of cricket experts in 2000. The other two were Sir Donald Bradman, Shane Warne, Sir Gary Sobers, and Sir Jack Hobbs. Viv Richard was the first ODI batsman, who won 20 Man of the Match awards.
Viv Richards was very impressive in both forms of cricket. He managed to score 8,540 runs in 121 Test matches with an average of 50.23 including 24 centuries and 45 fifties. As a West Indies captain, his record is so impressive winning 27 Test matches out of 50 Test matches and just losing 8 matches.
More than 36,000 runs in first-class cricket with 114 centuries with the highest score of 322. Also, nearly 7,000 runs including 11 hundred with the 189* highest score in One Day cricket truly speak of his greatness. Moreover, Vivian Richards was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009. Furthermore, he was a very useful right-arm off-spin bowler, and occasionally he took priceless wickets. He took 118 wickets at 35.83 in 187 ODI matches.
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