The Caribbean genius admired the manner Greg Chappell batted
What shone through Vivian Richards was confidence. The swagger to the middle, surveyance of the field with maroon cap on, settling into stance much like a hunter sensing the next kill, and then ruthlessly dismissing the ball with power and placement.
By not donning the helmet, Richards was showing the red rag to the quickest of pacemen, from Jeff Thomson to Imran Khan, from Dennis Lillee to Bob Willis.
But then, Richards, here to promote Manipal Group’s American University of Antigua College of Medicine, was never afraid of blood.
The legend said in a chat with The Hindu here on Wednesday: “We grew up playing in Antigua with a hard cricket ball with no pads or guards, or helmets.”
Fast bowlers thundered in full steam and unleashed short-pitched cannonballs only to see Richards swat them like a fly in front of his face. The ball would be past the ropes in a flash.
Richards said: “Helmets made me uncomfortable. There was no fear of getting hit [laughs].”
The Caribbean genius said he admired the manner Greg Chappell, his great competitor, batted. “He was tall, upright and stroked the ball so elegantly. But if I wanted an Australian to bat for my life, it would be Ian Chappell. Not as stylish as Greg but very tenacious.”
Thomson, the quickest
The most demanding fast bowler Richards ever faced was Jeff Thomson. “I have never played or seen anybody bowling as quick. He had a unique action, could extract nasty bounce.”
And Bishan Singh Bedi was the finest spinner he took on. “He was so smooth, had a lovely, natural action, flighted the ball, and was poetry in motion.”
Of course, Richards spoke about the great West Indian speed merchants of his time. “Malcolm Marshall was fast, skiddy and awkward from round the stumps, Joel Garner had accuracy and bounce.”
Richards added, “Michael Holding was fast through the air but I have seen no West Indian fast bowler hit the batsmen more on the body than Andy Roberts. He had two kinds of bouncers and one would be heading straight to the head.”
Garry Sobers was the greatest all-rounder, he felt. “There was nothing that he could not do.”
The Antiguan destroyer would not like to be drawn into a comparison with Virat Kohli.
He said, “Sunil Gavaskar was the Godfather of Indian batting, then came Sachin Tendulkar. Now we have Kohli.”
Richards signed off saying, “I think he is getting through a lot of on-field situations because he is Kohli.”