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SK Flashback: When Richie Richardson engineered a dramatic turnaround at the 1996 World Cup

ANALYST
Feature
315   //    10 May 2019, 17:26 IST

Richie Richardson was seen by many as the successor to 'King' Vivian Richards. The similarities were many. Both hail from Antigua, they were both exciting strokeplayers, and even their names are similar.

But that is where the comparisons ended.

Richards was self-assured, bristling with confidence and a destroyer of bowling of all types. Richardson was brilliant on his day, but also tentative at times, and couldn't come anywhere near filling the massive boots of his great predecessor.

Skipper Richie Richardson's brilliant knock salvaged Caribbean pride.
Skipper Richie Richardson's brilliant knock salvaged Caribbean pride.

West Indies' last league match against Australia in 1996, however, brought the best out of Richardson. With the Windies desperate to qualify, Richardson showed not only what he was capable of, but also what he might have been had he realised his full potential.

This was Richardson at his very best. His team had performed indifferently in the tournament, as they had done since the fading away of the giants of the 70s and the 80s. In that sense Richardson was a victim of circumstances, just as perhaps Clive Lloyd had been a beneficiary of the riches that came his way. 

Lloyd's era had begun with the emergence of the likes of Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Andy Roberts, and continued to be bestowed with a wealth of talent in the form of Desmond Haynes, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Jeff Dujon among others. Richards, when he became captain, had the services of some of these greats, and got splendid replacements in men like Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

But Richardson was not so lucky. Only the latter two pacemen remained to carry a huge load, and just two gifted batsmen, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, arrived to bolster the middle-order. Four or five players, no matter how brilliant, do not make a great team.

That was Richardson's tragedy, and the side under him performed, at best, sporadically. 

World Cup 1996 was a microcosm of the Richardson days at the helm: a miserable defeat against no-hopers Kenya, then this brilliant win, and finally the semi-final at Mohali - grabbing defeat just when they had victory in sight. But here at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Richardson was the star of the day, determined as he was to win for himself and his team some self-respect.

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After Australia had scored 229 for six, the early loss of the openers did not worry Richardson as he sauntered out to join Lara. Luckily, Lara flowered in his company, while Richardson himself dug in to play a captain's innings.

They put on 87 for the third wicket in 17.4 overs, but after the left-hander's departure Richardson assumed total command. In this form he was irresistible, thumping his drives with gusto, as was his wont. He did not hesitate to improvise, leaving the Aussies at their wits' end.

His was the wicket they wanted, and that was the wicket they could not get. Richardson had useful partnerships with Chanderpaul, Roger Harper and Jimmy Adams. All this while he looked better than he had for a long time, as he guided his team to a four-wicket victory.

Richardson's brilliant unbeaten 93 enabled the West Indies to advance to the quarterfinals. He hit 10 boundaries and a six in his glorious 133-ball knock. 

If the humiliating defeat against Kenya earlier had threatened to knock the West Indies out of the competition, skipper Richardson ensured that Caribbean pride was salvaged at Jaipur. This was one of the great batting displays of the 1996 edition. 

Australia 229 for 6 wickets (50 overs), West Indies 232 for 6 wickets (48.5 overs) (CWC 1996)

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