Birthday special: Sir Vivian Richards – One of the most fearsome batsmen

Former West Indies skipper and one of the greatest batsmen in the history of the game, Sir Viv Richards is celebrating his 72nd birthday today.

The mere sight of Sir Viv Richards walking up to the crease with the ever-present chewing gum in his mouth was enough to send shivers down the spines of bowlers across the world. The arrival was followed by destruction more often than not as Richards took the meaning of swagger in cricket to a different level altogether. Richards was easily the most destructive batsman of his era and one of the most destructive batsmen in the history of the game,

Few of his contemporaries had better records with the bat but no other player in his era managed to intimidate or bully the bowlers like Richards did. The legendary West Indian was nothing less than a nightmare for the bowlers as he thrilled fans all over the world for close to 20 years. He made his debut in 1974 in India and brought down the curtains on his illustrious international career in 1991 as captain during a tour of England.

Richards was the poster boy of the West Indies team that dominated the game in the 1970s and 1980s like no other team has done in the history of cricket. No matter what the situation of the game was, the field would spread straightaway after Richards’ arrival as the teams got ready to bear the brunt of The King.

A marvellous career

Richards made an inauspicious entry to international cricket in 1974, scoring just 4 and 3 in the Bengaluru Test. But it did not take him long to prove his class. In the very following Test in Delhi, he scored an unbeaten 192, slamming the Indian spinners for 20 fours and six sixes in their own backyard. Richards had announced his arrival with that knock and went on to live up to the expectations. A year after his debut, he helped West Indies win the first-ever ODI World Cup before it was followed by the humiliating tour of Australia.

Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson had wreaked havoc with the ball as Australia thrashed West Indies 5-1. The thrashing, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it marked the beginning of West Indies’ dominance. That very thrashing marked the beginning of the formula of pace dominance with four fast-bowlers tearing the opposition apart. Richards played a key role with the bat for West Indies during that phase. He scored 1710 runs in Tests with 11 hundreds at a Bradmanesque average of 90 in 1976. In the following summer, he amassed 2161 runs for Somerset with seven hundreds with three of them being double tons.

Bashing Aussies

In the 1979/80 season, West Indies took revenge when they toured Australia by thrashing the hosts in the three-match Test series. Richards was the star again as he top-scored with 386 runs at an average of 96.5. From 1979/80, West Indies remained undefeated in a series till the end of Richards’ career. Richards scored runs in both formats and scored them at a speed that was unheard of or unseen in that era.

In 1986, he became the first batsman to score a Test century at a strike rate of over 150. In the same year, he also scored the then-fastest century in Test history (56 balls). He also reached the 1,000-run mark in ODIs in just 21 innings, a record that stood till 2018. His 189*-run knock against England in the 1984 Manchester ODI is still considered as one of the greatest knocks of all time. Overall, Richards scored 8,540 runs with 24 centuries in Tests and 6,721 runs with 11 centuries in ODIs.