Every now and then, a country produces a once-in-a-generation athlete who takes the world by storm. Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, or simply Viv Richards as he is better known, is Antigua’s shining example. Richards is a legend of cricket, not only in his native Antigua but on a global scale, such was his ability as a batsman.
Like many Antiguans, Richards discovered cricket at an early age. He began playing for St. John’s Cricket Club when he was 18 before joining Rising Sun Cricket Club a few seasons later, where he stayed until he left the country to play cricket abroad. Richards had begun making a name for himself as a talented batsman, but English county team Surrey turned him down after a brief trial in 1972, when Richards was 20, stating they did not think he was good enough. How wrong Surrey was.
Two years later, Richards’ game had further developed to the point he made his Test match debut for the West Indies. He scored an unbeaten 192 in the second test against India, and the world knew it had a potential superstar on its hands. Richards helped the West Indies win the first-ever Cricket World Cup before enjoying a remarkable 1976, where he scored 1,710 runs, including seven centuries, in 11 Tests. Had the top online sportsbooks for Americans been around back then, they would have priced Richards to top score in every game he played.
The West Indies made Richards their captain in 1984, a position he held until 1991. Richards captained the team in 50 test matches and remains to this day the only West Indies captain to never lose a Test series. By the time Richards called time on his international test career, he had represented the West Indies 121 times, scoring 8,540 runs at an average of 50.23. Among those runs were 24 centuries, 45 half-centuries, and a top score of an astonishing 291.
Across his First Class career, Richards scored 36,212 runs at an average of 49.40 across 507 matches, which is quite phenomenal when you think about it.
Richards is not a giant of a man – he stands at 5ft 10in – but his fearlessness and aggression struck fear into opposing bowlers. Richards almost always seemed relaxed, even in the face of adversity, and never wore a helmet during his 17-year career.
In addition to his supreme batting skills, Richards gained a reputation for punishing bowlers that sledged him. Sledging is the term used for when bowlers needle a batsman in an attempt to make them angry or put them off their game by getting into their heads or under their skin. Richards’ reputation for punishing sledgers was such that many teams banned their bowlers from the practice.
However, during an English county game for Somerset against Glamorgan, Greg Thomas attempted to sledge Richards after he had missed several balls bowled at him. “It’s red, round, and it’s about five ounces, in case you were wondering,” quipped Thomas. Richards remained stoic before smashing the next delivery out of the ground and into a river nearby. Richards then said, “You know what it looks like; now go and find it!”
Richards was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to cricket in 1994. Five years later, Antigua and Barbuda made him a Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation (KCN).
In 2009, Richards was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, with Richards receiving the Order of the Caribbean Community (OOC) in 2022.
Richards, now 71, is still involved in sports, and often commentates for the BBC. In addition, he has given motivational speeches and has served as a tourism ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda: a true gentleman and a true legend.