Sir Vivian Richards
The epithet “king” has always been reminiscent of only one batsman and that is none other than former West Indian cricketer Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, popularly known as King Viv. Born in St. John’s, Antigua (then part of the British Leeward Islands) Richards was the most destructive batsman of his era, and while there are many with greater records, few could take on, intimidate, and rip to shreds bowling attacks like he did.
Richards was a very powerful right-handed batsman with an extremely attacking style, besides being an excellent fielder, and a handy off-spin bowler. He is often regarded as the most devastating batsman that ever played the game and was voted one of the five Cricketers of the Century in 2000, by a 100-member panel of experts, along with Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne. He also played international football for Antigua, appearing in qualifying matches for the 1974 World Cup.
However, Richards came from a very humble background and left school at a tender age of 18 and secured employment at D'Arcy's Bar and Restaurant in St. John's. During his childhood Richards initially trained with his father and Pat Evanson, a neighbour and family friend, who had captained the Antigua cricket side. He received further encouragement from his brothers, Mervyn and Donald, both of whom played for Antigua. The owner of the restaurant, D'Arcy Williams, provided Richards with new whites, gloves, pads and bat.
At the age of 22, after having played matches in the Antigua, Leeward Islands and Combined Islands tournaments, he was scouted by Len Creed, Vice Chairman of Somerset Cricket Club who was in Antigua at the time as part of a West Country touring side and was impressed by his hitting abilities. Richards was then relocated to the United Kingdom where Len Creed arranged for him to play League cricket for Lansdown Cricket Club in Bath. He finished his first season at Lansdown with top batting averages and shortly afterwards was offered a two year contract with county side Somerset which opened the floodgates of his career.
Richards made his Test match debut for the West Indian cricket team in 1974 against India in Bangalore. He made an unbeaten 192 in the second Test of the same series in New Delhi. The West Indies saw him as a strong opener and he kept his profile up in the early years of his promising career. Richards was also instrumental in West Indies winning the inaugural World Cup of 1975 not only with his devastating batting but also with his panther-like fielding in the final against Australia. He turned the contest in favour of the Caribbeans with his well-directed missiles to run out opener Alan Turner and the Chappell brothers, Ian and Greg.
By the 1979 World Cup, Richards had built a reputation of being the most attacking batsman in the game. Playing alongside the might of Gordon Greenidge, Des Haynes, Clive Lloyd and Alvin Kalicharan helped, as it saw Richards bat with the freedom few enjoyed. The West Indies were again able to win the World Cup in 1979, due to a Richards century in the final at Lord's. The World Cup win not only made West Indies invincible in the cricketing circuit but also helped West Indies unite as a nation despite internal divisions.
1976 was Richard’s watershed year where he scored 1710 runs, including a remarkable 829 runs in the series in England despite missing one test match after contracting glandular fever ,yet he returned to score his career-best 291 at the Oval later in the summer and trounced England 3-0. This aggregate in a calendar year remained a record for 30 years till it was surpassed by Mohammad Yousuf of Pakistan in 2006.
It was Richards' exit that opened the floodgates for the Indians in the 1983 World Cup final. Chasing 184 for victory, Richards, walking in at No. 3, went about his business in characteristic style, so much so that his 33 contained seven boundaries, before Kapil brought off an astounding catch. Though the defeat disturbed Richards, his biggest disappointment was that the side he led in the 1987 edition, staged in the sub-continent, failed to avenge the '83 loss. But then, it was a rather inexperienced team that he was handling without Michael Holding, Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall.
Richards took over the West Indies captaincy following Clive Lloyd's retirement in 1985 and led them in 50 Tests, winning 27 and losing 15, but more importantly he didn't lose a single series.
Richards style of batting suited one-day cricket perfectly. He set himself apart from the rest of the top batsmen of his era with his exceptionally quick scoring in a period where the average rate was much lower. However it is astonishing that in an era stalked by the fastest and most dangerous bowlers in history, Richards never wore a helmet. While batting was clearly his best suit, Richards was also a more-than-useful contributor with the ball, especially in ODIs. He picked up 99 wickets at an average of 32.05 and an economy rate of 4.43.
He was called the Black Bradman, not so much for his capacity to amass enormous scores but for his inhuman ability to see a ball almost before it had been bowled. Such were his reflexes that the fastest of bowlers were frightened of him.
Apart from his very exciting style of play, Richards is held in great public esteem for his personal principles in refusing a "blank-cheque" offer to play for a rebel West Indies squad in South Africa during the Apartheid era in 1983, and again in 1984.
Richards remains one of only four non-English cricketers to have scored 100 first-class centuries, the others being Australian Donald Bradman, New Zealander Glenn Turner and Pakistani Zaheer Abbas. Richards was featured in the 2010 documentary movie Fire in Babylon and spoke about his experiences playing for the West Indies. Richards joined the Delhi Daredevils as their Mentor in the Indian Premier League in 2013.
However few would know that Richards had a brief relationship with Indian actress Neena Gupta, with whom he has a daughter, Masaba Gupta but the marriage ended in a divorce and Richards has married again to Miriam and has two children: Matara and Mali, who has also played first-class cricket. He is also godfather to Ian Botham's son Liam.