One of the most aggressive and destructive batsmen ever to play the game, Sir Vivian Richards writes that although West Indies were not considered contenders for quite a while now, but his heart will always beat for the West Indies and his thoughts and prayers will always be with them.
Viv Richards won the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1975 and 1979 with the West Indies. He played in the 1983 final and captained the side in the 1987 World Cup. Richards featured in 23 World Cup matches and scored 1,013 runs at an average of 63.31. One of his three World Cup centuries was in the 1979 final when he scored 138 not out off 157 balls. In 21 World Cup innings, he belted over 85 fours and 20 sixes.
“When I look back at the time when ICC Cricket World Cup first came into being in 1975, I remember a time that was completely different from what it is today. There was no coloured clothing or white balls or black sightscreens. In fact, we wore cream-coloured tracks back then,” he wrote in his exclusive column for ICC.
“As a team we were very excited because we had just started coming into our own in terms of belief and that we were not too bad as far as cricket was concerned. We had some very good players in our team at that time – Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Alvin Kallicharran and Rohan Kanhai. All of us had a lot of experience playing county cricket. We had a magnificent team ability-wise but even then knowing those conditions helped a lot.
“At that time, a lot of one-day cricket was played in England, 40-over, 55-over and 60-over tournaments. That is where I was first introduced to this format and it was the same for most of us. As such this format of the World Cup wasn’t strange to us, and we were in a good place physically and mentally.
“Through that ICC Cricket World Cup 1975, we had one hiccup against Pakistan where we were nine-down and Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts got us through that. That was the one sticky moment for us. Then in the final against Australia, we had a good score on the board but they had a couple good partnerships and were looking threatening.”
“What happened next is something I cherish to this day! I was just a rookie then and with so many great players, I only batted at number five or six. But I wanted to contribute to the team’s cause and in the final, I helped run-out Alan Turner, Greg Chappell and Ian Chappell.”
“When we went home as champions, we were treated like royalty. Even though the Caribbean Islands are separated by water, you could feel the energy in Barbados or in Trinidad & Tobago or in Jamaica or in Guyana. Anybody who played or witnessed that first ICC Cricket World Cup win will remember it forever.
“In the ICC Cricket World Cup 1979, I had gained a little more prominence with my batting. Again, I wanted to play my part for the team, but this time for what I was picked. In the final against England, our top-order was in disarray. But then Collis King came in and played magnificently to take all pressure off me.
“It is not often when someone outdoes Vivian Richards but King came and did just that. There was no point playing like him, so I just supported him at the other end. When he got out for 86, I decided to take charge and teed-off from there. But King was the man responsible for my hundred (138 not out) in that final and his knock made me look good.
“In the ICC Cricket World Cup 1983, we had the opportunity to win the tournament for a third time. There was another team with a different idea. At that time India wasn’t known for its one-day cricket. But Kapil Dev, a cricketer whom I admire a lot, instilled a new belief in them that certain dreams can be achieved.
“During the final we were in control of the match, but when we batted it went overcast a bit. And India had just the right bowlers – Madan Lal, Balwinder Sandhu, Roger Binny and Mohinder Amarnath – for such conditions.
“I was out hooking and no other India fielder other than Kapil could have taken that catch. It showed the belief in him. India won and I will never forget the celebrations at the hotel that night. There were tablas and drums, dancing and everything, and I didn’t feel too disappointed. When you beat the world champions twice in one tournament, you deserve to win it.”
“I was the captain in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1987 and scored 181 runs against Sri Lanka. It was a great knock. But I take it as a personal disappointment that West Indies couldn’t reach the semi-finals.
“There is one other memory from that tournament. Against Pakistan, Saleem Jaffer was backing up a fair bit and Courtney Walsh asked if he could run-out (Mankad) him. I told him to warn Saleem but not to run-out him. Because if he had done that, it would have been a stigma attached to West Indies and this is not what our cricket was about. As captain, I was ready to play fair even if it meant losing. Walsh won the fair-play award but we lost the match.”
“Things changed after that for West Indies cricket and we started going downhill from there.
“The ICC Cricket World Cup 1992 was a different one with coloured clothing and white balls, and matches under lights. It was a very open tournament but other countries had much more belief. The players were very competitive and perhaps fitter as well.
“West Indies were not invincible anymore and the loss to Kenya in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 was the biggest proof. I was sad to see the team lose but it was great for the game for minnows to beat the two-time champions.
“West Indies did not compete well in the ensuing 1999 and 2003 events. They did not reach the Super Six stage. A team that was the trend-setter of cricket once upon a time was beginning to get left behind.
“It was clear to everyone who saw or followed West Indies cricket. We were not contenders anymore. But I think when you are participating in ICC Cricket World Cup you are never out of contention. Because sport is unpredictable and anything can happen. You just have to play with an open mind.
“In 2007, we were the hosts for the ICC Cricket World Cup for a first time and I was the ambassador for that tournament. It was a great opportunity playing in front of home crowd, the environment and support of the West Indies’ people was very good.
“In 2011, the ICC Cricket World Cup was hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was a different format and West Indies lost to Pakistan in the quarter-final. It is always disappointing when your team loses. But I felt a different sentiment for that tournament, for India cricket, because at that time Sachin Tendulkar was just starting to think about retirement.
“I believed that an individual who has given so much, not just to India cricket but also to world cricket, he deserved to have some silverware on his mantelpiece. I felt that it was the best opportunity for India to win the ICC Cricket World Cup. And I was very pleased for this batsman who was so good at what he did, that when his career finished, he had something to show for his hard work and commitment. He was a magnificent player and winning the World Cup at home was an icing on the cake for Sachin.
“We were not considered contenders for quite a while now, but my heart will always beat for the West Indies, my thoughts and prayers are always with them.” Courtesy ICC