In 1969, merely a 16-year old Antigua lad refused to walk off the field after getting dismissed for a duck, which sparked a riot. At the expense of two-year ban from first-class cricket, the boy, Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, made sure he would pick up the willow to engrave his greatness in Cricket.
In 1972, Richards began club cricket for the Leeward Islands. However, in his maiden competitive match against Jamaica, he fetched the highest runs in the second innings for Leeward and Windward Islands.
His consistent performance for St. John’s Cricket Club and Antiguan Cricket team was paid off as Len Creed, a Somerset committee member, helped Richards to play for Lansdown Cricket Club along with serving as a groundsman to meet his expense.
In the summer of 1973-74, Viv Richards topped the batting average list for his club and intrigued Tom Cartwright, the Somerset coach, in a benefit match with his destructive batting.
That rallied him to get a two-year contract with Somerset ultimately playing them from 1974-86.
Breaking into Test
After disappointing test debut in India in 1974, he rectified failure with an unbeaten 192 in the next match. Richards had a fantastic 1976, with scoring 1710 runs (including seven tons) and averaging a whopping 90.
During 1975-76 Australia tour, he counter-attacked Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson with great intent. Later, he demolished the English, scoring a remarkable 829 runs in four tests (two double tons).
England had always been Viv’s favourite prey. He has scored 2869 runs in 50 innings against England, at an average of 62.36.
Richards tasted most success during 1976-88 by smashing 22 tons at a remarkable average of 55+ in 92 tests.
His form took a drastic turn in last three years as his career average dropped from 52.88 to 50.23. The decorated batsman bid adieu to the test cricket in 1991 and registered 8540 runs (24 tons) in 121 matches against his name.
He captained WI in 50 tests and remained unbeaten in 15 series.
Viv Richards’ destructive batting was tailor-made for ODI with an extensive arsenal of strokes. He fetched 6721 runs in 187 matches at an average of 47, and an astonishing strike rate of 90.20.
After debuting against Sri Lanka, Richards smashed first century in the seventh match against England.
His best innings came in 1984 when he played an unbeaten knock of 189 against England. That innings held the record for highest percent (69.48%) of team’s total until 2017.
Richards’ temperament helped him to taste success in big matches too. One of the examples would be when he almost single-handedly won 1979 World Cup playing a thumping innings of unbeaten 138 against England at Lord’s.
Richards also contributed significantly to bowling, and has 99 wickets to his name.
In 1987, Richards became the first player to smash a ton and take four wickets in an ODI. He holds the record of winning the Man of the Match award a record 31 times.
At a time when batsmen were intimidated by lethal fast bowling, the gladiator annihilated them. Richards wore his passion and aggression into his sleeves, so much that he never attired himself in cricket-armour. The maestro changed the entire cricket by playing across the line shots, aggressive innings, sharpened fielding.