A fearsome sight for bowlers throughout the 1980s, Viv Richards’ nonchalant stance at the striker’s end provided little warning of the fireworks that would invariably come. The maroon cap perched on his head, the bat twirling insouciantly in his grasp; Viv in his pomp had a presence and a swagger like no other.
Richards was ahead of his time thanks to the aggression he showed with the bat, particularly in one-day cricket. Known as the ‘Master Blaster’, his most memorable knock in the shorter format was his 189* against England at Old Trafford in 1984, the highest individual score in ODIs at the time. It was a record that would stand for 13 years. His ODI strike rate was in excess of 90 – exceptional for the era he played in given that only Kapil Dev could boast a higher figure at the time of Richards’ retirement.
Success seemed like a constant for the West Indies team of that era and Richards featured in the World Cup winning team in 1975 before becoming an integral part of their 1979 triumph. Richards scored 217 runs in the tournament – only his team-mate, Gordon Greenidge (253) scored more – and his crowning moment was the unbeaten 138 he scored in the final against England.
However, it was not just the international arena where Richards made an impression. Somerset signed the then 22-year-old in 1974, beginning a 12-year association with the county. Richards scored 1000+ runs in nine of the ten full seasons he spent at Taunton before moving to Glamorgan and passing the milestone in two of his three seasons there. Many of those years were spent alongside his West Indies team-mate, Joel Garner, as well Ian Botham, with whom he developed a great friendship during County Cricket’s golden era.
Since retiring, Richards has forged a successful career as an occasional commentator as well as offering his expertise to T20 franchises such as Melbourne Stars and Quetta Gladiators in mentoring roles. In 2000, Richards was named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Century alongside Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne. He was knighted in 2014 for his services to cricket and his position in the game as one of the all-time greats is more than secure.