Batting legend Viv Richards has revealed that Nelson Mandela, the former South Africa president, told him personally about his happiness that the West Indies batsman chose not to tour the country during the apartheid regime.

South Africa were suspended from international cricket in the 1970 by the ICC for their policy of apartheid. However, a rebel West Indies team, led by Lawrence Rowe did tour the country during that era.

Richards revealed that he was given a blank cheque to agree to play in South Africa, an offer he rejected.

“We had our retreat in I think it was Monaco at the time and he (Mandela) came as a chief guest. Nelson walked up to meet everyone,” Richards said on a podcast hosted by Australian Shane Watson.

Richards continued, “He stopped right in front of me, shook my hand and said, ‘Vivian I want to let you know that we are extremely pleased with the decision that you made of not coming to our country.’ Long before that I had made the decision not to go to South Africa during the Apartheid regime.”

The 68-year-old played 121 Tests and 187 ODIs between 1974 and 1991 scoring over 15,000 international runs.

Richards also revealed that he loved cricket so much that he wouldn’t have mind dying while playing and looked at other sportsperson for inspiration who also put their life on the line while pursuing their respective passions.

“The passion for the game I felt was such that I wouldn’t mind dying playing something that I love. If this is what I chose and I go down here, what better way is there to go,” Richards said.

“I have looked at other sportsmen and women who I have a lot of respect for doing it to an extreme level. I see a guy driving a Formula 1 racing car, what could be more dangerous than that?” he added.

One of the lasting image from Richards’ playing career was him chewing gum, a habit he couldn’t give up because it calmed him down and made him ‘look cool.’

“One of my dentists made me a mouthpiece and all and I tried it a few times but I always enjoyed my chewing gum. You have 11 men out there and the umpires — you felt outnumbered. And that was my little piece,” he said.

“It made me sort of look cool, calmed me down, it gave me sort of a rhythm. That was a companion for me at the time. I made sure every time before I walked out there I had a chewing gum in my mouth. It got a bit stale if you are batting long enough but it was all good. So I did away with the mouthpiece.”