Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, affectionately known as ‘King Viv’, ignited his Cricket World cup glory trail in 1975, when West Indies defeated Australia by 17 runs to lift the inaugural Cricket World Cup trophy at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
Despite under-performing with the bat, Richards reaped havoc; his three run outs destroyed the Aussie top order. It was the attacking batsman’s debut World Cup tournament and his test bow came a year later.
But you hadn’t seen anything yet. Viv Richards would go on to become one of the greatest batsmen in history; no-one could scare bowlers like Viv; no-one could adopt the same “swagger” as the big man; and no-one could execute such effortless power and class. The world of cricket had a game changer.
Claiming it to be the most memorable of his career, Richards’ miraculous batting performance in the 1979 Cricket World Cup would secure his places in the annuls of World Cup history. It was technique, swagger and sheer brute force in all its glory.
After a sluggish start to the World Cup with only two group matches fit for play, Richards was yet to be granted his stage. But this big man was made for big games. He posted a respectable 42 in the semi-final to help guide West Indies past Pakistan, but he had had a relatively poor World Cup with the bat thus far, including 28 not out and nine in his first two games. England could not have anticipated what was about to unfold in the final at the Lord’s.
At 99-4 West Indies were in a sticky situation. The world champions were at the mercy of England’s bowlers: Botham, Old, Hendrick and Edmonds. With Collis King and ‘The King’ at the crease, the Lord’s faithful were about to witness Calypso cricket at its very finest. This was pure Caribbean gold.
The duo managed to put on 139 runs together with a flurry of boundaries, as England’s fielders were made to toil in front of a crowd of 25,000. King posted an entertaining 86 off 66 balls, but it was the great Sir Vivian Richards who did the bulk of the damage, finishing undefeated on 138 as West Indies posted 286.
When we look back at Richards’ enterprising innings, you could say he was a little subdued until he reached three-figures. Once King was superbly caught by Derek Randell at deep square leg it felt as though Richards decided the time was right for an onslaught.
His century was secured by a mouth-watering on-drive with jaw-dropping perfection, before an attacking flurry that simply took the wind of of England’s sales. England’s bowlers had already been outwitted and outclassed, but before innings’ end they would be well and truly battered.
Whilst England’s openers made a positive start to the chase, England soon found themselves six wickets down for just 186. Despite both openers making half centuries, the rest flattered to deceive with many falling victims to the express pace of Joel Garner and Colin Croft. A team-mate of the latter once said, “Crofty would bounce his grandmother if he thought there was a wicket in it.”
Richards’ valiant performance had once again sealed World Cup victory for West Indies. Named man of the match, Richards was solely responsible for denying England a victory in what was the closest they have come to getting their name scribed on the World Cup honours list.
Richards’ innings of 138 in the World Cup final was more than just a run-of-the-mill hundred that deserved a firm pat on the back. Richards had given a whole new meaning to the term “power hitting”. Producing a new catalogue of strokes and making boundaries appear smaller, when viv was in full flow, bowlers could do nothing but watch in awe or take cover.
Even the most destructive of bowlers were threatened by Richards’ aggressive batting. Viv was fearless, never to be seen wearing a helmet (though that is not something we recommend!), and even the likes of Sir Ian Botham or Dennis Lillie looked clueless at times when lining up against the big-hitter.
Richards revolutionised the art of batting and played with a sense of freedom, creativity and sheer brute force that has now become acquainted with the modern game. His air of arrogance was a welcome injection into a game soaked in gentlemanly tradition.
With 217 runs to his name, Richards ended up as the second highest run-scorer of the 1979 World Cup behind team-mate Gordon Greenidge, and also took three crucial wickets against Pakistan in the semi-final.
The Viv Richards World Cup masterclass was not confined just to one showpiece tournament. As well as his athletic fielding efforts in the 1975 World Cup final, his sparkling knock of 181 not out against Sri Lanka in Karachi in the 1987 World Cup well and truly cemented his legend status.
Having scored eleven centuries in ODI cricket and 114 first-class tons, Richards deserves to sit in cricket’s hall of fame in both limited overs and Test matches. His achievements as one of the world’s greats continued during his captaincy of the West Indian cricket team, when he became the only captain never to lose a Test series.
Picking bowlers outside off-stump and flicking them to the leg-side boundary was Viv Richards’ specialty. It precipitated contemporary trademark strokes like the “Dilscoop” and “helicopter”. Richards was a colossal batsman and leader, and will be celebrated for years to come as the ultimate cricketer pace-setter.
Did you know that Sir Viv Richards is currently endorsing his very own blade in the 2015 range of Spartan cricket bats?
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