The Calypso King walked the walk,  head held in high, jaws chewing gum with his paraphernalia sans shield with roaring applause from his subjects.  His armoury includes a Slazenger bat, a maroon cap. After surveying the field, taking guard and getting ready for the battle.  No choreographer, with arc lights and deafening sound effects would have improved upon his natural entrance as this King did.  

The King would walk a few yards down the battle arena  and see the opponent in the eye.  And the battle lines are drawn. The opponent hurled the weapon at a high speed and the King menacingly charged  forward and the missile disappeared  at double the speed into the pavilion much to the chagrin of the opponent.  And his subjects’ thundering applause rent the air.  And the King was elated and ready for the next missile.  The King is none other than the “Blaster” Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards and the battlefield is the Cricket ground.

The King Richards made his international debut against India at Bangalore way back in 1974-75 under the leadership of Clive Lloyd.   And in his very next Test, Richards exploded with his willow in a blistering attack  hit a magnificent 192 runs.  In 1976, Richards scored a whopping 1710 runs at an average of 90 with 7 centuries from 11 Tests.  It remained a record for 3 decades, until it was  broken by Mohamed Yousuf in 2006. 

 He was  predominantly a front-foot player .He was able to plant that left foot outside the line of off stump, at once eliminating lbw and creating his own leg stump line from where he would flick bowlers relentlessly through midwicket and he seldom missed the line and the bowlers running the risk of being hit. 

For many who grew up in the Caribbean during the 70s and 80s, totally taken by the great game and the great team, there was nobody like the broad-shouldered Antiguan. Nobody had ever strode onto the scene and played with such audacity and aplomb. We doted on his every stroke.

 His century off 56 balls at St. Antigua in 1986 against England is still the fastest ever century in Tests. The hapless English bowlers bore the brunt of the savage batting.

I read somewhere once that it was worth the price of admission to see Frank Worrell walk to the middle. The same  could be said of Richards for his measured walk to the middle, often accompanied by thunderous cheers, was enough to ruffle many a bowler.

Chewing gum was an ever-present part of the West Indian’s armour.  In fact he said in an interview in a lighter vein that it was a surprise for him that no chewing gum company approached him to endorse their product. 

No matter the ferocity of the bowler he faced it was the bowler who was more likely to be daunted, not Richards. His mannerisms in the middle suggested he was the cynosure and everyone else there playing looked pale.

His career best test innings came in The OVAL , London in 1976 when he hit a mammoth 291 runs clobbering English bowlers all around the ground with 38 boundaries and he forgot to hit a six in this knock.  When he was asked which shot he remembers dearly, he told in a lighter vein, “Yeah, the one I got out to Tony Greig ” he says. “The ball I got out to, I can remember, I went to drive and maybe a little tiredness would have maybe set in, and I wasn’t quite to the pitch. Got a little inside edge and got bowled. Tony behaved like he had got me out for nought, you know?”.

In ODIs, Richards had a strike rate of 90+ when he retired, a feat which wasn’t too easy in those days. He was part of the World Cup winning West Indies sides of 1975 and 1979.  

In the 1975 World Cup though he didn’t do much well, but the rookie player with his athletic reflexes helped his team with 3 brilliant Run-outs in the Final with Australia  and West Indies won the World Cup with just 17 runs.  

In the 1979 World Cup Finals against England Richards scored a brilliant century (138 runs) and won the World Cup for the second time.

The name Viv Richards is often associated with his destructive batting style (and rightly so), but not many remember him as one of the best captains for West Indies. In the period between 1985 and 1991, when he was the captain for 50 Tests, West Indies never lost even a single Test series.

 He was also widely respected for refusing a blank-cheque offer to play for the rebel West Indies tour to South Africa during the Apartheid period in 1983-84.

Richards also played international football for Antigua, having represented them in the qualifying matches for the 1974 World Cup

In 1994, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to cricket [Source: Wikipedia]

Richards had a brief affair with Indian actress, Neena Gupta and fathered a child – named Masaba.

The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium is a cricket stadium in North Sound, Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda, which is named in honour after him. It was built for use in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

His son, Mali also took to cricket like a fish to water but has very little to show for when compared to the stellar feats of his father. Mali, a left handed batsman, has represented Middlesex and Leeward Islands.

In the ICC Cricket World Cup 1983, he  was out hooking and no other India fielder other than Kapil could have taken that catch. It showed the belief in him. India won and he will never forget the celebrations at the hotel that night. There were tablas and drums, dancing and everything, and I didn’t feel too disappointed. When you beat the world champions twice in one tournament, you deserve to win it.

Thanks for those vivid  memories Viv Richards and wish you a happy birthday!

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