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The Man They Called The King: A tribute to Sir Viv Richards

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To have watched Sir Viv Richards reduce opponents into lifeless mortals was as ennobling an experience as to be watching Muhammad Ali take down an opponent in the ring during his prime.
He would appeal to a rare DNA of aesthetes: who saw beauty in butchery.
Viv offered West Indian spectators a possible gateway out of cultural ignominy. Even short, punchy fifties that lasted less than a session carried enough weightage and attraction akin to an artistic creation that stood the possibility of enjoying a bicentennial celebration.
But we must be wary of reducing the Viv enigma to his eccentric skills with the bat.
He wasn’t all attack, hit, explode and plunder. Viv’s straight faced defences carried the same magnetic pull as his dismissive instincts when it were only fours and sixes that his receptive mind conceived of the game. Rarely have aesthetics so joyfully accompanied a batsman as in the case of Vivian Richards.
Whether batting in pressure or extending some, Viv was a sight to behold. Calm. Collected. Soothing; but enormously enthralling at the same time. Inarguably, without an effort, there was style minus loudness.
There was this euphoria minus the madness.
Funnily, the crackling sound his blade made as wood engaged with leather, carried no possibilities whatsoever to distract his attention even as to his mind, the customary gum chewing was the only sound from the jukebox. The equation regarding Viv was fairly simple; and it’s math, easy to calculate. Bowler rushes in- fielders all set, Viv popping in a gum, muscles flexed- ball crosses the boundary.
He was, in the exact same moment- of batting and breathing on 22 yards- a bit of both- an active volcano and a slab of chilled ice.
Adventurously in the contest but away from shenanigans. A head and shoulder above the rest.
And let it not be forgotten that Viv’s opponents were equally legendary. Jeff Thompson. Bob Willis. Dennis Lillee. Kapil Dev. Sunny Gavaskar. Imran Khan. In cricketing lexicon, Viv was an offspring the sport birthed when fire bred ice. But to tumultuous repercussions for those who dared to challenge its authority. Or waged a war to test its potential. You didn’t sledge Sir Viv Richards; you merely muttered a few words that hadn’t cheated on you when the ball bashing served upfront had snatched away all your energy. The others, you felt, were just a tiny mutant spark, Viv, a layer of fire. Even fiery words could no more than falling at the feet of this masterful aggregator of runs.
A prolific scorer 
Lest it be forgotten that Viv didn’t have to accumulate runs. He’d plunder them anyway and the saga continued whether it was Jamaica or Old Trafford, Lahore or Delhi. You instantly understand Sir Viv Richards prolific standards when you fathom that of his 6721 ODI runs, he struck in excess of 5900 on overseas tours. But that said, it wasn’t that in every contest during their halcyon days of 70s and 80s that the West Indies were always invincible. Among their strongest opponents were Australia and England who challenged their might and against whom the Windies forged many great successes.
But even in a team wherein a wicket of biggies- Lloyd, Kanhai or Kalicharan- fell cheaply, Richards’ fireworks would convert the hitherto ordinary show into being something extraordinary, needing no more than a customary pull of those muscles and that commanding presence.
Ironically, Viv’s batting didn’t warrant the man to follow it up with antics.
Sir Viv didn’t have to appear aggressive.
For his bat was already assertive. On most occasions- you felt- it functioned as a shovel for digging the graves of his opponents.
There are few names in the game whose arrival to the crease so keenly united fans. Viv’s lordly walk to the middle has been lionised rather poetically with parallel’s embracing comparisons with a tiger setting out for a kill- slowly but surely.
It sent out a prescient warning to bowlers and, a pleasurable announcement to fans. That destruction would soon follow.
In an era where there was no dearth of great cricketing technique- consider Gavaskar, David Gower, Hanif Muhammad- Richards essayed an exhibition of arresting brutality where nearly every cricketing stroke offered both- a perplexing reminders to bowlers about the carnal dangers they willingly withstood in opting to bowl at him and a great elevation sensed from witnessing an absolute rain of runs. As fans, you often wonder, watching a slice of contemporary cricket, given the sledges, mockeries, rebukes and mind-games if it has any significant meaning to the results the balls and bat produce. Cricket today turns up in an often coloured fabric, painted deliberately to fetch excitement.
Back in Viv’s time- an era as strange in sight as is a gathering of esteemed gentry staring down a bloke wearing ripped denim- there were no brain fade moments.
Nor did men colour their hair yellow or blue to add gravitas. You walked in with a clear intent of achieving your team’s goals and gave everything in the process, whilst not compromising in ethics. You didn’t tamper with the game’s incorruptible spirit. You attempted to add to its glory.
There no base prices then. Or things like the DRS. Just beefy men with broad shoulders possessing rock solid focus who played for pride. Viv did just that, from debut in 1974 to his eventual walk-back in 1991- with an immense humility and inexhaustible focus. By exuding some class whilst being engaged in an uncompromising warfare in the middle whose only aim was pillaging of the West Indian opponent. England, Australia, India- it didn’t matter to Viv.
He took them all head on but minus the headgear.
In his case, it could be said, resorting to a helmet would have pointed to an innate weakness. The rudimentary custom of running in fast, attempting to take a dig at Viv’s stumps could be likened to bowlers being coerced to endure a saga of great retribution at the expense of playing cricket.
Great men achieve the onerous with silken ease. Sir Viv Richards added a dash of style to all he achieved. Yet, it is rare for a hammerer to emerge ‘enemy-free’ from a pitch where despite gnawing his opponents- he enjoyed their respect.
It’s a rare case of an assaulter being offered a healing balm by the assaulted. None of his contemporaries- Kapil Dev, Lillee, Thompson- are scornful of Sir Viv Richards. Instead they seem garrulous when the subject of Richards’ astounding craft is put before them.
Viv’s legacy and the lesson it poses
Thankfully, Sir Viv Richards has remained in great touch with the cricketing community. It speaks well of a legend who the public is not willing to declare a ‘have-been’ just yet. It also pays homage to the classic adage alluded to souls with tough exteriors; those who are softies within.
This is an irony that doesn’t hurt but touches cricket sensitively. Perhaps with the possible exception of Viv’s own current day West Indies who seem to be carrying on while conveniently ignoring the great legacy they are representing, a great contributor to which was the inimitable Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.
Viv’s Test scores against the then formidable sides

Opposition Matches Runs Average Highest Score Centuries
Australia 54 2266 44.3 208 5
England 36 2869 62.3 291 8
India 31 1927 50.7 192* 8
Pakistan 41 1091 42 123 2

Viv’s ODI records against the then top sides

Opposition Matches Runs Average Highest 100’s
Australia 54 2187 50 153* 3
England 36 1619 57 189* 3
India 31 997 47 149 3
Pakistan 41 1079 30 83 0
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