By Neto Baptiste
At 17 years old, Sir Viv Richards was banned for two years following an incident during a Leeward Islands Tournament match in Antigua against rivals St Kitts at the Antigua Recreation Grounds.
Although at the time the issue was a rather vexing and serious one for a young and probably overzealous Richards, he now looks back at the incident in a jovial manner.
Sir Viv who, at the start of the 1969-70 season, was the talk of the town here in Antigua, was included in the Antigua squad for the first time and carded to make his debut against St Kitts. The contest drew a large crowd of an estimated 6,000 with many just wanting to get a firsthand view of the young batsman in action.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned with his first delivery flying to short leg, who appealed for a catch. The umpire gave him out, much to the displeasure of both Richards and his supporters.
“Everyone was raving about this young batsman and what he was going to do and all of that and so there is a whole lot of expectations from folks. I think folks were just disappointed that I played forward and the ball wasn’t nowhere near the bat, hit the pad and everybody went up. I think it was a plan and the umpire responded with putting up his finger and I just sort of made a gesture [stomping my feet]. It was something you saw every time whenever you’re given out and I couldn’t believe it how quickly people started setting the stand on fire; I just couldn’t understand how quickly that happened,” he said.
The drama did not end there, however, as Richards, after given an opportunity to return to the crease in an effort to appease the near-rioting spectators, the Antiguan again fell for a duck.
The batsman said this did not go down well with the thousands of spectators who had protested for him earlier, some even holding up makeshift placards insisting the match would not go on without Richards out in the middle.
“They decided that in order to restore play to give me an opportunity again [to bat] and you won’t believe it, I went back and got out for another duck and the real second innings didn’t come yet. After that and the banning factor came into play — and you know we are hardcore here in Antigua — so I am banned from playing cricket for two years and the next thing you know, the same people who once were saying hosanna in highest started throwing stones on my house after that, so it goes to show you how quickly things can change,” he said.
The iconic batsman and one of the most successful captains in the history of West Indies cricket, however, takes blame for the way things went down on that day.
“It’s a bad feeling about it; you’re disappointed with your decision at the time in stomping your feet and showing some dissent which would have help [in getting banned]. I held my hands up [to take responsibility] and you know I am not afraid to do that and maybe I was the instigator in the whole affair but I had my football, so I started playing a lot of football until the time was up for me to come again,” Sir Viv said.
Richards went scoreless in the dramatic contest as in his second innings and batting for a third time in the match, he also went for a duck.
Ironically, in the Jamaica Test against India in 1988-89 Richards struck his 24th and last Test hundred. When given out he made clear his disappointment at the decision, sparking a 35-minute delay while the crowd showed their disgust. Overall, Richards scored 8,540 runs in 121 Test matches at an average of 50.23, including 24 centuries. As a captain, he won 27 of 50 Test matches and lost only eight. He also scored nearly 7,000 runs in One Day Internationals and more than 36,000 in first-class cricket.