Sir Vivian Richards is one of the greatest batsmen, the world of cricket has ever seen. He had his own style and the game has seen several greats in modern times but Richards’ presence at the crease was truly extraordinary. There was an aura around Richards, a certain sense of fearlessness which enthralled all. The modern times have been blessed with the grace of Brian Lara and the skills of Sachin Tendulkar, but along with the flair, Richards possessed the raw passion and an unmatched power to intimidate. Ultimately a cricketer gets judged by the numbers he leaves behind at completion of an outing, but Richards gave an impression that he didn’t care about those and more important to him was the present, the time he spent at the wicket.
Richards has been quoted saying, “My bat was my sword.” Truly he did wield it like one and to the sport he was much more than a great batsman. The documentary, Viv Richards – King of Cricket, made in 1987, when Richards was still an active cricketer and among the best in the world, captures the legacy of the great West Indian.
The documentary is set in 1985, when Richards took over the full-time captaincy from the great Clive Lloyd. West Indies undoubtedly was the best cricket team and in Lloyd they had an inspiring leader who had led the team to several glories. Even the career of Richards prospered under Lloyd and now the question was would Richards live up to Lloyd’s legacy as the captain or would the captaincy pressure will have an effect on his batting.
Darcus Howe, the writer and the narrator begins with the difficulties that Richards faced right at the start of his career.
(The figures in bold are the portion where readers can go directly in the video and watch it)
04-05 minutes: Richards says that his Test debut came early than he expected due to Lawrence Rowe’s illness but it turned out to be a nightmare. Richards says, “I was drafted into the team but it was a nightmare to begin with. I had scores of three and four. I was very disappointed and very low. But it was nice that we had so many loving people on that tour who helped and gave the required guidance that every youngster on a tour needs.”
Richards, though a dominating batsman, did have occasional trouble while facing the best of bowlers. While India’s Bhagwath Chandrasekhar troubled him early on, facing the likes of Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thomson was never easy. Thomson shares a moment of duel between him and Richards.
05 to 07 minutes: Thomson says that he bowled a fast one to Richards, which caught him by surprise and hit his fingers. The next one, he bowled was a slower one which Richards smacked away. Angry, Thomson said to himself that it was the last slower ball he ever bowled to this batsman. Next ball, Richards was dropped and the bowler couldn’t believe the fact that here the best batsman in the world creates a chance and the fielder puts it down. Anguished, Thomson decided to knock Richards off with a fast bouncer. The Australian, who was the fastest bowler in the world, bowled a quick bouncer “as fast I could” by his own admission, and the Master Blaster pulled it away for a flat six. Thomson acknowledged Richards’ ability to anticipate and get inside the bowler’s mind.
Well that’s not just it, during the span of 07 to 10 minutes, Richard’s best friend, legendary English cricketer Ian Botham recalls his majestic 189 not out at Old Trafford in a One-Day International (ODI). Botham said Richards has the remarkable ability to produce strokes, recalling an instance from that innings when the bowler had bowled a good ball outside off-stump but Richards had flicked it on the leg for a boundary. “It was unfair,” said Botham and he told that Richards, who smiled back. The England all-rounder said that the wicket wasn’t great for batting and that’s why his team had put West Indies in but then admitted, “The wicket wasn’t good for mere mortals,” but something Richards isn’t.
Even Bob Willis remembered that onslaught and feels he is lucky to survive as several balls went past him. When Graeme Fowler fielding at boundary asked about how to stop Richards, Willis snapped back, “Make him English.”
West Indies scored 272 and Richards scored 189 out of that.
Malcolm Richards, his father hailed his son’s eyesight. “I think the most valuable thing in cricket is eyesight. He [Richards] has a very very good eyesight.”
Later in 19 to 20 minutes, Malcolm, who was a disciplinarian shared some anecdotes about Richards. Role of parents is the crucial most in a child’s development and Richards’ parents did play a major part. Malcolm was a fast-bowler from Antigua and a prison officer. He is glad that he brought the discipline of the jail home as he proudly marks, “Glad I did it, my son is the greatest in the world today. Thank God for that.”
Away from the rigours of international cricket, Richards maintains an inseparable bond with his roots. He attributes lot of his success to a game called ‘one bounce’, a form of beach cricket, where the batsman is out even if he is caught after one bounce. The greatness of Richards lies in him not changing as a person despite the heights he has reached. A Street is named after him and he is an international celebrity, but he still spends time playing beach cricket, playing with young kids in his school – Antigua Grammar School and spends time with his friends watching local cricket in an attempt to spot talent. After all, he too was spotted the same way by Len Creed, Vice-Chairman at Somerset CC.
23 to 32 minutes: The video takes us to Richards’ journey at Somerset, his association with Botham and his parents. Even after a few decades, Botham and Richards remain as close as brothers. Such close are the two, that Richard’s is the godfather of Botham’s son, Liam. The segment is about how the Antiguan, who was brought up in a completely different culture made a foreign land his home!
34 to 38 minutes: This segment takes us to the history of West Indian cricket and features an interesting discussion between Richards and the legendary Trinidadian CLR James, where the latter enquires what makes West Indies excel in this sport with such a small population where countries like England have the best of everything. Richards acknowledges the rich history of West Indian cricket and hails Lloyd as someone who instilled the ‘winner’ in the team. In one of the points, Richards mentions, “What was soccer to Brazilians, I believe that’s cricket to West Indies.
49 to 50 minutes: Willis, at his straight-faced humorous best, discusses a plan to counter Richards, “He sees the ball twice as quick as everybody else so we should be able to bowl from half the distance at him to even up the contest.”
The documentary features several interesting comments and insights on Richards, by the likes of Peter Short, Wes Hall and other eminent personalities. It was released during the Antiguan’s early days as a captain but 30 years later, Richard’s as a captain will be remembered as someone who never ever lost a Test series. In fact, won 27 out of his 50 Tests and though as a batsman, he wasn’t as impactful as he was under Lloyd, he had well enough to still be the best batsman in team. The proud Antiguan, the proud black man is a true inspiration to many around the world and one of his biggest fans happened to be a young Tendulkar, who wanted to replicate his feats!