Sir Richie Opens Up About Near Career-Ending Diagnosis

Sir Richie Richardson in action.
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By Neto Baptiste

Former West Indies captain and feared batsman Sir Richie Richardson, for the first time in over 10 years, opened up publicly about a diagnosis that had threatened to permanently end his career in 1994.

Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show Sir Richie, one of four knighted cricketers here in Antigua, remembered when he was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in July that year, forcing him to end a two- year contract with Yorkshire midway through the 1994 season, and his absence from the West Indies tours of India late in the year, and then in New Zealand, when Courtney Walsh adequately filled in as caretaker.

“Physically I was fine, I was fit, I was training hard, I wasn’t feeling any pain and it was just a weird feeling where I would feel very tired and mentally drained. When I wanted to sleep I couldn’t sleep and then when I should be up I was feeling like I wanted to go to sleep,” he said.

“Many times on the field of play I just couldn’t concentrate because I was so mentally tired, and when it got bad was when I was batting and I was feeling that way, then I knew something was wrong and seriously wrong, so I saw doctors wherever I went. I first saw a doctor in Australia, saw a doctor in South Africa, saw a doctor in Trinidad and nobody knew exactly what it was,” he added.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS is a disorder characterised by extreme fatigue or tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition.

Doctors knew very little about CFS in 1994, and it was only after seeing several professionals that the scorer of 5949 runs in just 86 Tests, received a diagnosis from a doctor in London, England.

“And he said to me that the only way I could recover is to take a break from the game, and I said to him, but I am not sick, and physically, I am fine, and how am I supposed to go and tell the West Indies Cricket Board that I can’t play cricket and nothing was wrong with me.  He said to me that it’s a serious situation, they are still doing a lot of studies on it, but he belies I am burnt out and I, if I continued playing or if I went to India, which was the next West Indies tour, I could be vulnerable to some diseases because it could affect my immune system and stuff like that. I thought long and hard about it, and I wrote to the West Indies Cricket Board and informed them of my situation,” the former Ottos Comprehensive School student said. 

Sir Richie resumed his captaincy of West Indies in July of 1995, three month shy of a year after he was forced into hiatus. The Antiguan led his team onto the field at Kensington Oval in Barbados for the first one-day international against Australia.

Having joined the ICC’s elite panel of match referees in 2015, Sir Richie said he is in a much better place now, having fully recovered from CFS.  

“Now, I can say that I am fully recovered, I can do whatever I want to do, practice as much as I want and I don’t seem to feel any of those symptoms coming back. I’ve had a lots of contact with people from all over the world regarding this, because a lot of athletes were suffering from it, and they didn’t know what it was at the time and I was able to enlighten a lot of people as to how I felt, and what I did to recover from it. I think today, a lot more research is being done on it and there have been a few cricketers who have suffered badly from this chronic fatigue syndrome, and I tell you something, I would not wish that to my worst enemy, the feeling was awful,” he said.

The right-handed batsman also amassed 6248 runs in 224 One Day Internationals (ODI) with a highest of 122 runs.

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