By Neto Baptiste
Considering the way he punished bowlers throughout his illustrious career as a West Indies player, former captain and Antiguan, Sir Viv Richards, may have come over to many as probably the most fearless batsmen to have ever graced the pitch.
Although this may have been true in many instances, there was a time when the “Master Blaster” need some help in picking himself off the floor….literally.
Scorer of 8,540 runs in 121 Tests, the successful former captain said one such time was during his first Test against India on 22 November, 1974 in Bangalor.
“You had 70,000 plus people in the ground, you had firecrackers going off everywhere, so every time there is a wicket, firecrackers would go off and they are flying across the field. I just could not watch from the beginning so I used to go and have a little lay on the physio table and somebody would come and say, ‘Viv your turn mate’ and you would ask ‘who is it gone man’ and they would say Fredo [Roy Fredericks], Chandrasekhar just clean him up man,” he said.
“As I am walking down for my first innings, there is no feeling in my feet. I made the first step and it’s a sort of bamboo steps and the very first step that I made you know where I ended up? At the bottom man, on my face,” he added.
Remembering the incident in a jovial manner, Sir Viv recollected he had to be helped to his feet by two officers standing at the door.
As if it wasn’t difficult enough just getting to the middle, Sir Viv said that in itself presented another challenge.
“You gone in to bat, you take your guard, you look up into the crowd and all you see is mirrors shining in your face and these are very timely because guys just stay there and they are shining these mirrors in your face just to try and distract you and stuff like that, and I am saying no man, this can’t be Test cricket and it was like Viv, what did you put yourself into,” the former player said.
Still, the Antiguan said he would not give that moment up for anything, adding that it gave him the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in both the West Indies and the world at that time.
“That was a serious baptism because after I would have left county cricket I was to be the person to replace Morris Foster whom, I think, couldn’t tour and when I got the call it was the greatest feeling to know that you were going to be around the Clive Lloyds, the Alvin Kallicharran and the Rohan Kanhai and Roy Fredericks and these are guys I looked up to as a little boy,” Sir Viv said.
“When I got over there — and first of all you’re a little bit gun-shy so you try and keep the peace — you listen a lot and stay in the background, but on the field of play itself there are things that happened on that first tour that you’d go to your room in the nights and say to yourself, ‘man, do I really want to be part of this?’” he added.
Richards was dismissed for scores of four and three, respectively, in the two innings. Barbadian cricketer, Gordon Greenidge, also made his debut on that day, slamming 93 and 107 respectively in the two innings.
In the process, Greenidge became the first West Indian to make a hundred on Test debut overseas.