By Neto Baptiste
In 2003 and at the age of 19, Mali Richards, broke a long-standing scoring record in the Leeward Islands Cricket Tournament, hitting 319 for Antigua and Barbuda against a combined US & British Virgin Islands.
The effort eclipsed the previous record of 318, which was held by Alex Adams of Anguilla and placed much attention on the young Antiguan and son of successful former West Indies captain and batsman, Sir Viv Richards.
Many thought this was the beginning of what would have been a fruitful regional and international career for the young Richards. He however went on to score only 376 First Class runs in 18 matches between 2004 and 2014.
Asked why he thought it did not quite work out for him at the next level, the straight talker said he could only blame the man in the mirror.
“It still comes back to you and I think I just wasn’t good enough to overcome whatever and that’s just what it is at the end of the day you get opportunities and even if it’s one, it’s still an opportunity and it’s just whether you take it. There has been a lot of times in First Class cricket where I’ve shown that I have what it takes to do it but for whatever reason I just wasn’t really good enough to overcome all the obstacles thrown, I’d say,” he said.
Having played for Middlesex County Cricket Club and also for Oxford UCCE and the Gloucestershire second 11 in England, where he was born, Richards revealed he had turned down an opportunity to play for England under-19s in hopes of one day, representing the senior men’s West Indies team, a decision he still does not regret.
“When I first moved to England I had a good two years of cricket there. I was Wisden’s schools player of the year my first year and I had scored the most runs with Alastair Cook, placing second, so I was, along with him, Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year because they had picked the top five cricketers,” he said.
“After those two years, I was approached by the England under-19s but at that time, if I was to play for the England under-19s then it would have meant that I would have had to play for England throughout and at that time I didn’t think it would have been a wise decision to just declare my allegiance to England because, at the end of the day, I wasn’t ready to just declare my allegiance to England. At the end of the day, I was in England but I always had the intention of playing for the West Indies,” he added.
As a fast bowler, Richards claimed 15 wickets in 18 First Class matches, having bowled 223 overs and giving up 855 runs. Richards, at age 17 and playing for Cheltenham College in England, scored 958 runs at an average of 56.35.