All great men think alike but when it comes to cricket the brothers have a common link too. Meet Donald Richards, 73, eldest brother of Sir Vivian Richards. If it had not been for him, cricket might have never got this West Indies legend. Now retired in Brooklyn, New York, Donald is happy his younger brother fulfilled his potential because while the other three brothers — David and Mervyn being the other two — played many sports and excelled in none, he outdid everyone else in cricket.
They still own the house where he grew up, on the thoroughfare now called Sir Vivian Richards Street. A modest house with a small yard where the brothers played many ‘Test matches’, it is an ode to the simple life Sir Richards used to live.
“His room upstairs is exactly the same,” said Mervyn. Just outside the house now stands a bust of him, underneath of which is written that Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards had become a national hero on November 1, 2006.
“In front of this house used to be a park where we all used to play in the afternoon till the elder fellows came and sent us home. But they always hung on to Viv because he was such a good cricketer,” said Mervyn, 62.
“But had it not been for Donald he might have never signed up for serious cricket. He started playing for Antigua at 16, just like Sachin Tendulkar,” Mervyn told HT on a balmy Monday evening sitting in the living room of their house. “Donald was playing for the St John’s Cricket Club when Viv was still young. Many people were asking him why Viv was not playing cricket seriously and so he got him registered for his club,” said Mervyn.
Much like Ajit Tendulkar, Donald was the inspiration and the reason behind Sir Viv’s rise as a cricketer. “I had seen the potential in Viv a long time back. First thing that I noticed was his commitment. He used to sleep with his bat. I played football and cricket as a form of exercise. But to him it was different. So I decided to take a chance with him,” said Donald. “We all played cricket and football for Antigua but Viv was destined for a bigger future,” said Mervyn.
While there were incidents that shaped Sir Viv’s life, Donald recalled one that probably made him a champion for life. “It was a game against St Kitts during the Leewards Islands competition. Viv was given caught out but he told the umpire that the ball hit his pad. After some hesitation, he left the field but the crowd started chanting ‘No Viv, no game’ so people were thinking about bringing him back but my father (Malcolm) was against it. There was a lot of drama about it and ultimately he got a one-year suspension. From that day till the end of his career, Viv started walking if he knew he was out,” said Mervyn.
Sir Viv Richards still comes to meet his brothers whenever he is in Antigua, still enjoys whatever is cooked for him. Despite all the fame, both brothers said the legend has not changed. “He still shows me a lot of respect. He is still the same. To us, he is a good brother,” said Donald.