There are cricketers who tend to leave an imprint that is remembered in the years to come. Sir Donald Bradman with an average of 99.94 remains the epitome of batsmanship till date. It was a proud moment for Indian cricket when Bradman himself stated that Sachin Tendulkar reminded him of his heyday. You can’t bigger praise than that and Sachin did live up to those high words of praise.
We have heard of how great the West Indies were in the 1970-1980s and how it saddens them to see the state of their cricket in recent times. Most of us have heard of the anecdotes from the greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Ian Botham, praising the West Indian fast bowling attack comprising of Charlie Griffith, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding.
But there was a flamboyant Antiguan who was set to take the world cricket by storm. The strut, the swagger, the swing of the arm, the gum, the cap, can there and will there ever be anything that could match about how Sir Vivian Richards went about his batting? According to people who had the privilege to watch him live, Vivian Richards gets extremely high words of praise.
He came from humble beginnings in Antigua to dominate the cricketing world as one of the most fascinating batsmen ever born in cricket. Such was his impact on the game, there can be doubts raised as to whether he was the best batsmen to have ever graced the game. Well, that’s a tricky question to answer- but one thing is for sure is that he remains the ‘Mr 360’ since he started playing the game.
Richards ensured that even the toughest balls were hit with sheer disdain, something that was not possible for others who played in his era. He possessed all the shots in the book and could bat for long periods. But what set him apart from the rest was his swag with which he went about his batting. That remains unmatched till date.
Personally, I have seen lots of his brand of batting on YouTube and TV and have to admit that especially square of the wicket, there could be very few in the game that comes close to what the great man could in his prime. Those cuts and pulls can be watched again and again!
He was not just a fantastic batsman in Test cricket, he was equally devastating in ODI cricket. He was instrumental in helping West Indies lift three World Cup titles- 1971, 1975 and 1979. He almost managed to win it for them in 1983 World Cup final against India, but his mistimed hook off Madan Lal ensured that the dream was shattered.
Richard's impact on the game can be summed up in this glowing tribute to his on-field swagger: ‘’I never wore a helmet. It made me much more aware watching the ball. I knew that one small mistake and it could be fatal. If it happens on the cricketing field, the place I love and adore, I wouldn’t mind one bit. That’s the way I would’ve loved to have gone”.
The swagger was not just in his words and walk to the crease, but in his batting too. Sir Isaac Vivian Richards still remains the most feared batsmen in the history of the game. During the time when the boundaries were huge, the West Indian legend smacked them higher and longer than anyone does with all possible factors going in their favor.
Statistically, many other batsmen around the world will have better numbers than Sir Viv Richards in both Tests and ODIs, but through the sheer impact, he remains the best ever. That confidence and self-belief in his stride to the crease was at times enough to intimidate oppositions in his days.
To sum up his impact, here’s an excerpt from Sachin Tendulkar's narration in 2007, when the state of cricket in India was not so good. It was seriously giving him a lot of pain, he wanted to quit the game. A 45-minute conversation with the man who defined ‘swagger’ in cricket changed everything.
Sachin then went on to play a huge role in India's World Cup-winning campaign in 2011. His legacy will and can never be untouched. There may have been players before and after him with better techniques, records and fan following, but no one can even match his swagger in a West Indian jersey.
Thank you, Sir Vivian Richards, for being yourself in the crease! It was a pleasure watching highlights of your batting. However, one of the biggest regrets still remains that not many people could see you live in action.