There were many cricket legends at St. James’s Park on Wednesday’s World Cup Opening Party, but one figure attracted the most attention and was the most sought after for interviews during the mixed media zone. Sir Vivian Richards, the West Indies legend nicknamed ‘King Viv’ was pulverising bowlers as early as the 1970s, before any of the current crop of batsmen palely imitating his aggression were even born. The Daily Star’s Sakeb Subhan was lucky enough to be in one of the groups that got to ask the humble Antiguan a few questions about the game of cricket today. The following are excerpts from the Q&A session:
Question (Q): You played the first World Cup here in 1975, how much has the game changed since then?
Viv Richards (VR): Well, the fielding. I think batting and bowling has been the same, but I think the fielding has been massive. The competitiveness in the fielding today, among all the players today… maybe a few players in the past who were really great fieldsmen, but nowadays you have the whole team, you cannot hide guys these days at this level.
Q: You said that batting and bowling has remained the same, but don’t you think the batting has started dominating?
VR: Well, I guess when you play on smaller boundaries, I guess that does help. That is a plus. I guess the boundaries compared to yesterday are totally different. When you have 65-yard boundaries, that is a license for batters to have a great time.
Q: How many sixes would you have hit today?
VR: No, I wouldn’t put myself in that position, but this is what the folks want in terms of excitement. But I believe sometimes the boundaries can be extended, which gives every bowler that bowls an opportunity do well as well.
Q: You are considered one of the greatest, most destructive batsmen in ODI cricket. Do you think you missed out on T20 cricket?
VR: Not really. It’s nice to see what’s happening in the game. I had an opportunity to spend some time in the Pakistan Super League. It’s been great; I’ve been around some magnificent people. As a cricket fan I’ve been a lover of great batsmanship. I do appreciate what I am seeing now; as a lover of the game, I am happy to see the direction that cricket is heading.
Q: How are you rating West Indies for this World Cup?
VR: I never ever count us out. You will never ever hear me, even though we may not be having the best time, you never count any team out when it comes to the World Cup. This is a limited-overs tournament and you have to bring your best. It’s the World Cup; it’s only played X amount of years. It’s an opportunity for individuals… you never know, you may never be here again, so now that you have your chance, you have to grab it with both hands.
Q: Talking of franchise cricket, Bangladesh have the Bangladesh Premier League, so if you have an opportunity to work there, would you?
VR: I had an opportunity, but due to some circumstances I could not make it. I think it was Tamim Iqbal who invited me at the time and I was looking forward to coming because I do believe that Bangladesh are blessed with some enormous talent. Their batsmen are as good as any. It’s an emerging cricketing country. From the passion that I do see, it looks like it can only get better.
Q: Can you pick four possible semifinalists for this World Cup?
VR: No, I would never, never (laughs). That’s when you start losing your resume, when you predict and you lose. If Bangladesh has come here believing that they can win, that’s the top factor. In one-day cricket on the day anything… conditions can be so dismal that it can be beneficial to your team. You never know, there are going to be some upsets, there will be some upsets and I hoping for that. But I think it will be great for the game.
Q: Any young players you have your eyes on?
VR: There are a lot of young players around. Bangladesh have a whole lot of young, good batters. Windies have some good young batters, power-packed. India… Jesus! We are spoilt for sure, in terms of all these magnificent individuals who will come here to do their duty.
Q: Is there any current pacer you would consider challenging?
VR: There are a lot of guys around. Every guy who bowls a ball stands a chance.