Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, KNH, OBE, famous worldwide by the name Viv Richards, is regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time, and was voted one of the five Cricketers of the Century by a 100-member panel of experts in 2000. Here are some interesting facts about the former Antiguan cricketer:
According to Wisden, the Bible of cricket, Richards is the greatest ODI batsman of all-time, as well as the third greatest Test batsman in the world.
He is highly regarded for his consistency and competitive ability which is best exemplified by being the first cricketer in ODI history to achieve 20 Man of the Match awards. He has a total of 31 to his credit.
He was born Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, on March 07, 1952, in St. John’s, Antigua, to Malcolm and Gretel Richards.
His had his early cricket apprenticeship playing for St. John’s Cricket Club and Rising Sun Cricket Club.The ‘D’Arcy’s Bar and Restaurant’ in St. John’s owned by D’Arcy Williams, provided him his first cricket gears.
He was chosen for Antigua in cricket and soccer. In 1969, he was suspended for two years whenafter being given out, he stamped off in annoyance and along with crowd support forced the decision to be overruled.
Although he made his first class debut in January 1972, in a friendly, it was against Jamaica, in the Shell Shield, that he played his first competitive match for Combined Leeward and Windward Islands. He scored 15 and 32, for losing cause.
His 82 against the touring New Zealand team and his performance in the match against a touring English club team, the Acorns, playing for Antigua, attracted interest from Len Creed, Vice Chairman at Somerset.
He made his debut of Lansdown C.C in Bath, playing for the second eleven against Weston-super-Mare on April 26, 1973, before graduating to first team. He was employed at assistant grounds man during his stint with Lansdown.
On April 27, 1974, he made his county debut for Somerset, against Glamorgan, in the Benson & Hedges Cup. He was named man of the match and received ovation from his teammates.
Richards made his Test cricket debut against India on November 22, 1974, at Bangalore, in the first test. He had disappointing start to international match scoring 04 and 3, failing to read B.S Chandrasekhar.
He stamped his class with a masterly 192 not out in the second test of the 1974 tour at New Delhi, for his first test century. He totaled 353 runs at an average of 50.43 in the series.
His exploit at the inaugural Cricket World Cup, remains his most memorable moments in his career. Out of five run out in the Australian innings, Richards accounted for three in top of the batting order, paving the way for West Indies victory.
Richards held the record of most runs in a single calendar year for 30 years, until it was broken by Mohammad Yousuf of Pakistan in 2006. In 1976, he scored 1710 runs at an average of 90.00 with seven century in eleven tests.
He once again excelled in the second edition of Cricket World Cup in 1979. He scored 42 valuable runs and took three wickets in the semi-finals and followed it up with 138 not out in the finals against England, to lift the cup.
Until 2005, he was the only player to have scored a century and went on to claim five-wicket haul in a One Day Internationals. This he performed against New Zealand on March 18, 1987, at Dunedin.
In the first ODI, at Old Trafford, during the tour of England, in 1984, he rescued his side from precarious position with 189 runs to set a target of 273 for victory. He had 106 runs partnership with the last batsman, who contributed 12 runs.
He had long and successful career in the county championship in England, in particular with Somerset, helping them to win the NatWest Trophy in 1983.
Richards was honored for his service to Somerset County for 12 long years, with naming of a set of entrance gates and a stand after him at the County Ground, Taunton.
He captained the West Indies in 50 test matches from 1984 to 1991, winning 27 matches and losing only 8. He is the only West Indies captain never to lose a test series.
His tenure as captain is also remembered for an incident in the Barbados Test against England, in 1990. He appealed aggressive, ‘finger flapping’ claiming caught behind of Rob Bailey, leading to incorrect dismissal. It was described by Wisden, as ‘at best undignified and unsightly.’
He 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 Apartheid era in 1983 and 1984.
He is one of the only four non-English cricketers to have scored 100 first class centuries, the others being Donald Bradman, Glen Turner and Zaheer Abbas.
During county game against Glamorgan, Greg Thomas taunted him ‘its red, round and it’s about five ounces’ after he missed few deliveries. Richards smashed the next deliver for six out of the stadium into nearby river and commented ‘you know what it looks like, now go and find it.’
In 1981, he published his autobiography entitled ‘Hitting Across the Line.’ It was taboo and dangerously risky to hit across the line, for which he is well known as rightly the title suggest.
Richards holds the record of scoring second fastest test century in 56 balls at St. John’s, Antigua, against England in 1986. Brendon McCullum holds the record for a century with 54 balls.
In 2000, Richards was voted one of the five ‘Wisden Cricketers of the Century.’ He received 25 votes from a 100-member panel of experts, behind Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne.
Richards is married to Miriam and they have two children, Matara and Mali. He had brief relation with Indian actress Neena Gupta and has a daughter, Masaba Gupta, from that relationship.
After almost 17 long illustrious careers in international cricket, Richards played his last match against England at Kennington Oval, on August 08, 1991.
He has played 121 test matches, scoring 8,540 runs at an average of 50.23 apart from 6,721 runs in 187 matches in ODIs. He has scored 35 international centuries and ninety half centuries.
In 1994, Richards was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his service to cricket and in 1999, he was made a Knight of the Order of the National Hero by his native country Antigua and Barbuda.