Indian players are not afraid to fight back: Vivian Richards

The West Indian legend shares his sporting memories and what he is up to now

Sir Vivian Richards struts around the business centre at Courtyard Marriot with the same swagger he held decades ago when he walked out to a cricket field. “I love coming to this part of the world,” he says, “It’s a place that appreciates cricket.”

The West Indian cricketing legend, in the country on a multi-city tour as part of the ‘Made for Medicine’ tour of Manipal’s American University of Antigua College of Medicine, is still burly but has a gentleman’s smile. In a chat with MetroPlus, he chats about his cricketing memories, outlook on life and why he loves coming back to India. Excerpts:

You are no stranger to India. What are the changes in the country you’ve observed from the first time you played here to now? And how different is it back in the Caribbean?

India’s growth is a remarkable feat; not just in the cricket side of things, but in the whole aspect of life, and that’s heartening. Some of the stuff you see in the billboards today is so different to what I saw when I first visited India in the Seventies. India is more diverse that West Indies because of the volume you possess here. I love the culture and food here. We were in Hyderabad the other day, and the IT sector is huge there. The West Indies, on the other hand, is a smaller nation, with many states separated by water.

You mentioned food. How much have you experienced Indian cuisine?

I was never much of a breakfast person; I usually make myself toast with some peanut butter. But I have tried out stuff during lunch and dinner — I’ve tried the aalu with spinach here. I love my yellow dal. My favourite would be a mild chicken curry. This time, in Hyderabad, I tried the chicken and mutton biryani... oh, it was very special.

How much do you follow the IPL?

The whole West Indian public appreciates the IPL. To us, it’s the best T20 tournament played on earth.

Cricket came quite early in your life. Could you describe your childhood practising the game and coming up the ranks?

It was just like that of any other Indian cricketer who grew up passionate about the game. I’ve had the opportunity to play with Sunil Gavaskar, who I consider the godfather of Indian batsmanship. I say this with no disrespect to Sachin and Kohli. The most amazing thing about all these guys is that they ain’t the biggest guys on earth. They’re just about 5’5, 5’6! Maybe Indian parents don’t want their children to be over six feet... looking at the tremendous things these guys have achieved on the field.

What gave you the confidence that you could make it big in the cricketing field?

I remember a time when I watched a cricket team from England travelling to Antigua. I was told that they were professional cricketers. Watching them play, I told myself, ‘If these guys can be professional cricketers, so can I, given the opportunity.’ That’s where it all took off.

We attach a lot of pride to playing for India. How big was the feeling to represent your country?

It was a privilege. I’m now at the twilight zone of life and to be asked to an ambassador for an institution on my island... what can give me more happiness?

You were known to go against conventional choices, both in cricket and in life.

Maybe that’s why people thought I was arrogant. But it was confidence. If I am reasonably good at something, it needs to be showcased. My job was to score runs and defy the fielders, and I tried doing that as best as possible. If I wanted to be Geoff Boycott, I could have been that. But there are things more exciting than that.

Imran Khan once wrote this about you: “I admired him because he loved challenges. The bigger the occasion, the more he loved it.” How did you handle pressure at that time?

That was the time when I didn’t have a suit of armour (laughs). I love confrontations; that was my attitude. If someone was successful as a bowler, then I felt I would have to be the one to take him down. My game was all about what went on in the head... not one that is played only with bat and ball. If you’re thinking well enough, everything falls in place.

Everything is falling in place for Virat Kohli now. We hear that you are a big fan of his...

I see little things that are similar between us. I remember the days in the past when India would say, ‘Show the other cheek’. But then, we only have two cheeks. There are times you have to fight back and the modern-day Indian players are doing that. Virat is good enough to let his bat do the talking at times... apart from doing his own bit with the mouth.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 2:50:33 PM |

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