Viv Richards: Cricketer who knew no fear

Born on March 7, 1952, to Malcolm and Gretel Richards in St. John’s, Antigua, Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards discovered cricket early in life. His brothers, Mervyn and Donald, both of who played the game and represented Antigua as amateurs, encouraged him to take up cricket. Viv initially practised with his father and Pat Evanson, a neighbour who had also captained the Antigua side.


He attended St. John’s Boys Primary School and then Antigua Grammar Secondary School on a scholarship. Richards left school aged 18 and worked at D’Arcy’s Bar and Restaurant in St. John’s. He joined the St. John’s Cricket Club and later the Rising Sun Cricket Club, where he remained until his departure to play abroad.


Richards made his first-class debut in January 1972 aged 19. In 1973, his abilities were noticed by Len Creed, vice chairman at Somerset who arranged for him to play league cricket for Lansdown C.C. in Bath as part of the second XI. After his debut, he was promoted to the first team. Lansdown all-rounder ‘Shandy’ Perera was a major influence on Richard who eventually offered a two-year contract with the county side Somerset. On April 27, 1974, Richards made his Benson & Hedges Cup debut for Somerset against Glamorgan in Swansea. Richards made his Test debut for the West Indies against India in Bangalore in 1974. He made an unbeaten 192 in the second Test in Delhi. The next year, he helped the West Indies win the inaugural Cricket World Cup final.

1976 was perhaps Richards’ finest year, during which he scored 1,710 runs at an astonishing average of 90, with seven centuries in 11 Tests. It stood as the world record for most Test runs by a batsman in a single calendar year for 30 years until broken by Mohammad Yousuf of Pakistan on November 30, 2006. The West Indies also won the World Cup in 1979 thanks to Richards’ century in the final at Lord’s. Richards captained the West Indies in 50 Tests from 1984 to 1991. Even though he continued in club cricket, his performances declined due to the rigours of international cricket. The county also finished at the bottom in 1985, and next to the bottom in 1986. His contract with Somerset for the 1987 season was not renewed. Towards the end of his career, he returned to county cricket to play for Glamorgan and helped them win the AXA Sunday League in 1993.


Richards is a commentator on BBC’s Test Match Special. He was featured in the 2010 documentary movie Fire in Babylon. He joined the Delhi Daredevils as their mentor in The Indian Premier League in 2013, and mentored the Quetta Gladiators in the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 Pakistan Super League.


In 1994, Richards was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to cricket. In 1999, he was made Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation by Antigua and Barbuda. In 2006, he received Antigua and Barbuda’s highest award, Knight of the Order of the National Hero. The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua, is named in his honour. It was built for use in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.


1. Viv Richards is godfather to former England all-rounder, Ian Botham’s son. His daughter with actress Neena Gupta — Masaba is a fashion designer. Richards’s son Mali too played first-class cricket.

2. In 1991, Richards had published his autobiography that is titled — Hitting Across the Line. In the book, Richards describes how his life revolved around sports, particularly around cricket. To hit across the line of the ball is considered to be a taboo. However, Richards’ explanation of the conditions in which he played cricket as a child, explains how this particular technique came to be.

3. He is the only West Indies captain never to lose a Test series and it is said that his fierce will to win contributed to this achievement. His fearless and aggressive style of play and relaxed but determined demeanour made him a great crowd favourite and an intimidating prospect for opposition bowlers all over the world. Interestingly, he had played his entire 17-year career without wearing a helmet.


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