Home Caribbean 'A' Listers Caribbean ‘A’ Lister: Sir Vivian “Smokin’ Joe” Richards

Caribbean ‘A’ Lister: Sir Vivian “Smokin’ Joe” Richards

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Sir Vivivian Richards.

Photo courtesy nevispages.com

Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, KNH, OBE (born 7 March 1952) is a former West Indian cricketer.

Known as Viv (or King Viv), Richards was voted one of the five Cricketers of the Century in 2000, by a 100-member panel of experts, along with Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne.

In February 2002, he was judged by Wisden to have played the best One Day International (ODI) innings of all time. In December 2002, he was chosen by Wisden as the greatest ODI batsman of all time, as well as the third greatest Test batsman of all time, after Sir Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar.

Personality and playing style

Richards was a very powerful right-handed batsman with an extremely attacking style, besides being an excellent fielder, and a handy off-spin bowler. He is often regarded as the most devastating batsman that ever played the game by cricketers, journalists, fans and others alike, and played his entire career without a helmet, across the 17 years from 1974 till 1991.

Several prominent personalities including former cricketer and legendary fast bowler and all-rounder Imran Khan and noted writer John Birmingham are of the opinion that Richards was the best ever batsman against genuine fast bowling.

Many other former players of the game rate him extremely high overall as a batsman. For Barry Richards, Ravi Shastri and Neil Fairbrother, he remains the best batsman they ever witnessed.

Wasim Akram rates Richards the greatest batsman he ever bowled to, ahead of Sunil Gavaskar and Martin Crowe. Martin Crowe, arguably the greatest batsman to have ever emerged from New Zealand, rates Viv Richards as the best batsman he played against along with Greg Chappell. Richards was also Crowe’s cricketing idol along with Donald Bradman, Garfield Sobers and Greg Chappell.

The ICC came out with their rankings for the best batsmen and bowlers in the history of the game for both the longer and shorter versions. The ratings for Test Cricket had Vivian Richards ranked at 6 equal after Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Len Hutton, Sir Jack Hobbs, Ricky Ponting and Peter May.

The ODI ratings again had Richards comfortably perched at 1 followed by Zaheer Abbas and Greg Chappell. These rankings were based on the level achieved by the batsmen at their respective peaks.

In 2004, in a poll by ESPN, participated in by 15 of the leading names in cricketing history, Richards was voted the third greatest ever player after Bradman and Sobers, and the second greatest ever batsman after Bradman. He was also voted the greatest cricketer since 1970 by another poll ahead of Ian Botham and Shane Warne.

That poll saw both Botham and Warne vote for Richards, and in the opinions of both, Richards is the greatest batsman they ever saw. In 2006, in a study done by a team of ESPN’s Cricinfo magazine, Richards was again chosen the greatest ODI Batsman ever. Former cricketer Derek Pringle also rates Richards to be the best batsman ever in the history of Limited Overs Cricket.

His fearless and aggressive style of play, and relaxed but determined demeanor made him a great crowd favourite and an intimidating prospect for opposition bowlers all over the world. The word “swagger” is frequently used to describe his batting style.

His batting often completely dominated opposing bowlers. He had the ability to drive good-length balls from outside off-stump through midwicket, his trademark shot, and was one of the great exponents of the hook shot.

International career

Richards made his Test match debut for the West Indian cricket team in 1974

Photo courtesy cricketvideo.com

against India in Bangalore. He made an unbeaten 192 in the second Test of the same series in New Delhi.

The West Indies saw him as a strong opener and he kept his profile up in the early years of his promising career.

In his Test career, he scored 8,540 runs in 121 Test matches at an average of 50.23 (including 24 centuries). Richards also scored 5 centuries in World Series Cricket between 1977–79.

These are not recognised by the ICC as “official” Test centuries, but the high standard of cricket played in this series means that they can arguably be ranked alongside his 24 Test centuries.

Richards won 27 of 50 matches as a Test captain, and lost only 8. He is also the scorer of the fastest-ever Test century, from just 56 balls against England in Antigua during the 1986 tour. He hit 84 sixes in Test cricket. His highest innings of 291 is sixth on the list of West Indies’ highest individual scores.

In 1975 Richards helped the West Indies to win the inaugural Cricket World Cup final, a feat he later described as the most memorable of his career. He starred in the field, running out Alan Turner, Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell.

The West Indies were again able to win the following World Cup in 1979, thanks to a Richards century in the final at Lord’s, and Richards believes that on both occasions, despite internal island divisions, the Caribbean came together.

He was until 2005 the only man to score a century and take 5 wickets in the same one-day international, against New Zealand at Dunedin in 1986–87. He rescued his side from a perilous position at Old Trafford in 1984 and, in partnership with Michael Holding, smashed 189 to win the game off his own bat.

1976 was perhaps Richards’ finest year: he scored 1710 runs, at an astonishing average of 90.00, with seven centuries in 11 Tests. This achievement is all the more remarkable considering he missed the second Test at Lord’s after contracting glandular fever; yet he returned to score his career-best 291 at the Oval later in the summer. This tally stood as the world record for most Test runs by a batsman in a single calendar year for 30 years until broken by Mohammad Yousuf of Pakistan on 30 November 2006.

Richards captained the West Indies in 50 Test matches from 1984–1991. He is the only West Indies captain never to lose a Test series, and it is said that his fierce will to win contributed to this achievement.

His captaincy was, however, not without controversy: one incident was his aggressive, “finger-flapping” appeal leading to the incorrect dismissal of England batsman Rob Bailey in the Barbados Test in 1990, which was described by Wisden as “at best undignified and unsightly. At worst, it was calculated gamesmanship”. This behaviour would nowadays be penalised according to Section 2.5. of the Rules of Conduct of the ICC Code of Conduct.

Viv’s featured in the documentary movie Fire in Babylon and spoke about his matches.

English county cricket

Photo courtesy worldinfostore.com

Richards had a long and successful career in the County Championship in England, playing for many years for Somerset. In 1983, the team won the NatWest Trophy, with Richards and close friend Ian Botham having a playful slugging match in the final few overs.

However, despite his totemic presence at the club, over time his performances declined and the county finished bottom of the County Championship in 1985, and next to bottom in 1986.

New team captain Peter Roebuck became the centre of a controversy when he was instrumental in the county’s decision not to renew the contracts of Richards and compatriot Joel Garner for the 1987 season, whose runs and wickets had brought the county much success in the previous eight years.

Somerset proposed to replace the pair with New Zealand batsman Martin Crowe, and consequently all-rounder Botham refused a new contract and joined Worcestershire.

After many years of bitterness and the eventual removal of Roebuck from the club, Richards was honoured with the naming of a set of entrance gates and a stand after him at the County Ground, Taunton.

After his sacking from Somerset, Richards spent the 1987 season in the Lancashire League playing as Rishton CC’s professional, in preparation for the West Indies tour the following season. Richards returned to county cricket for the 1990 season towards the end of his career to play for Glamorgan, helping them to win the AXA Sunday League in 1993.


Apart from his very exciting style of play, Richards is held in great public esteem for his personal principles in refusing a “blank-cheque” offer to play for a rebel West Indies squad in South Africa during the Apartheid era in 1983, and again in 1984.

Richards remains one of only four non-English cricketers to have scored 100 first-class centuries, the others being Australian Donald Bradman, New Zealander Glenn Turner and Pakistani Zaheer Abbas.

He was chosen as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year for 1977.

In 2000, Richards was named by a 100-member panel of experts one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. He received 25 votes, behind Sir Donald Bradman (100 votes), Sir Garfield Sobers (90 votes), Sir Jack Hobbs (30 votes) and Shane Warne (27 votes).

He also played international football for Antigua, appearing in qualifying matches for the 1974 World Cup.

Richards is frequently heard on BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS).

Personal life

Sir Vivivian Richards

Photo courtesy cricturf.com

Richards and his wife Miriam have two children: Matara, who currently lives in Toronto, Canada, and Mali, who has also played first-class cricket.

Richards had a brief relationship with Indian actress Neena Gupta, with whom he has a daughter, Masaba, born in 1989.


In 1994, Richards was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to cricket.

In 1999, he was made a Knight of the Order of the National Hero (KNH) by his native country Antigua and Barbuda.

The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua, is named in his honour. It was built for use in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

Article courtesy Wikipedia.org



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