This was a quiet county game. Greg Thomas, a former English bowler, defeated the batsman with an outswinger. To add to the insult, Thomas chirped to the batsman, “It’s red, round and weighs about 5 ounces.”Next ball, the batsman smashed a six out of the ground and replied, “Greg, you know what it looks like. Go ahead and find it.”The batsman was none other than Sir Viv Richards.
Bowlers quaked in their boots when this West Indian giant walked out to bat. Swagger personified, this batting great from Antigua revolutionalised World cricket with his playing style.
In an era where fast bowlers terrorized batsmen by their life-threatening tactics, Richards instilled fear in the bowler’s mind with his ferocious batting. Walking out to bat like a majesty, he would confront the best of the lot while chewing gum. It was that simple for him. His nonchalant demeanour at the crease oozed with supreme self-confidence and it wasn’t misplaced. His 15,000-plus international runs prove that.
Born in Antigua, Richards made his first-class debut at the age of 19. He was sent to England next year to grasp the professional side of the game. The youngster, brimming with talent, impressed the locals and secured a two-year contract with Somerset. Runs in English first-class cricket helped the 22-year make his international debut.
India was Richard’s first assignment as a West Indian cricketer. He struggled in his Test debut at Bangalore but hammered 192 in the following Test at New Delhi. Richards then had an ordinary World Cup campaign in 1975 but starred in the final against Australia by affecting three run-outs. The World champions were later humbled by the same opponent as Lillie-Thomson pulverized them. This 1-5 loss forever changed the face of West Indian cricket and World Cricket.
West Indies now added fiery pace bowlers to the roster and became a fearsome unit. The batting unit of Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards could attack the opposition without any fear. Richards led the way of this batting revolution and the year 1976 marked the beginning of it.
In a single year, Richards piled up a mountain of 1710 runs, a record that remained unbroken for the next 30 years. 829 of these runs were scored in a single series against England where Richards also achieved his highest score of 291 at the Oval. The swashbuckler registered a total of 11 centuries in the calendar year of 1976.
The world’s best batsman at that point, Richards was wooed by Kerry Packer to play in the ‘World Series’. Returning from the Australian tournament, he smashed 138 in the 1979 World Cup final at the Lord’s to secure consecutive titles. This win started the West Indian era in world cricket and they dominated every opponent they played against.
In 1984, Richards played what Wisden recognized as the greatest ODI innings of all-time. Batting first against England at Old Trafford, West Indies was struggling at 166/9. From there, the champion batsman carried the team to a final total of 272/9, scoring an unbeaten 189 in the winning cause.
The legendary hundred
Two years later, the West Indian legend scored the fastest century in Test cricket. In the fifth Test against England at Antigua, Richards completed his hundred in just 56 balls and justified himself as the most destructive batsman of his time.
Richards retired from international cricket at the age of 39. His last Test appearance was at the Oval against England in 1991. The ferocious striker retired as a phenomenal Test batsman and the greatest ODI batsman. He accumulated runs by breaking the bowlers’ confidence. Fielders would take two steps back when Richards was at the crease.
In 1994, Richards received an OBE for his services to cricket. He was knighted in 1999 by his native country, Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua has also named a cricket stadium after this legend. Wisden later acknowledged him as the greatest ODI batsman ever.