A stadium and a street are named after him. In front of the stadium’s main entrance also stands his statue that he had unveiled two years back. From ‘Sir’ to ‘King’ and ‘Champ’, the people of Antigua are spoilt with choices to greet their hero. And yet Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards stays rooted to the ground, sharing fist bumps with anyone who walks up to him. Anyone. He has no personal security. Maybe because he knows people love him to the extent that they can’t even imagine causing Richards any harm. And if someone pesters him too much, he just says ‘you don’t want to make me angry.’ That works like a charm.
There was guarded anticipation that he might show up any day. Richards had already paid the India team a visit at their hotel. But this being the first time India are playing a Test at a ground named after him, the West Indian legend had to come here some time. It was an unexpected rendezvous, bumping into the legend himself at the waiting lounge of the stadium. “How’s Kolkata now?,” he asked upon learning that one hailed from the city that had witnessed West Indies’ latest world triumph.
The customary exchange of greetings followed with other reporters from India before he was finally requested to make an appearance in a video that should enhance the profile of this Test series. Nearly two hours later was Sir Viv finally left to his own. He didn’t waste a minute to go to the quiet corner of the stadium complex where West Indies were training for the first Test. Carlos Brathwaite almost immediately went up to him, sat down and listened with rapt attention to whatever Richards had to tell him. When he was finally done, Richards couldn’t have looked happier. “Those are my boys you see. I am proud of them,” said Richards as he started walking towards his statue.
And how was the experience of meeting Virat Kohli? “Great! It was actually a privilege to meet Virat. He still has that hunger after achieving so much. Having seen him play over the years, I am an admirer because I like guys who are aggressive, guys who know they are good enough and can confront any hostile attack. I am happy to see guys with some skill who have got a serious will to prove themselves,” he said.
A living example of how aggression tempered with little patience can reap both runs and wins, Richards thinks that the present crop of players who get dismissed too quickly might have got issues with their defence. “Sometimes adjustments that need to be made are not made quickly,” he said. But he sounded both happy and relieved that some have players have shown how it can be done. “Look at Virat, AB de Villiers or David Warner from Australia. All of them are attacking players who have been able to accomplish themselves well. Some guys will adjust to the various formats much quicker than the rest,” he said.
Notwithstanding his love for aggressive players like Kohli, Richards’s heart beats only for West Indies. Once mates with some of the fiercest pacers ever, Richards’s words dripped with sarcasm when asked if the pitch for the first Test could assist fast bowlers. “I was told that the wicket is going to be a quick one and is going to have some bounce. Sometimes the results never quite suggest that. Here’s another opportunity again so let’s see what happens,” he said. But Richards has no doubt that despite all predictions that West Indies would be no match to India’s might, the home team might just pop a surprise. “I think it’s going to be a much more competitive series. I think this is the opportunity for (West Indies captain) Jason (Holder) to get his side of the coin right,” said Richards.