West Indies Cricket February 26, 2012

Memories of a great Test

Cricinfo
By Garfield Robinson, USA
44

By Garfield Robinson, USA

Viv Richards once surprised an interviewer by telling him that he thought his best innings was the 61 he made in 1983 against India at Sabina Park. I was there. And I can tell you that there is no innings that stands out more in my memory than the one he played that day.

Considering the many great innings that he played, why was that innings of little over a half-century so special to him? I don’t know the answer to that; I can’t recall if he gave one. I can tell you, however, why it was special to me.

It was my first time at a Test match. My friend and I decided to cut afternoon classes in order to watch the final session, despite everyone telling us we were in for an evening of boredom. Though I am yet to understand how an evening spent watching the likes of Holding and Roberts and Marshall and Garner could ever be called boring—whatever the state of the game.

The West Indies had replied to India’s 251 in the first innings by scoring 254. The entire fourth day had been lost due to rain, and the game seemed heading for a tame draw at tea on the last day with India 168 for 6. Andy Roberts thought otherwise. His rousing spell after tea, liberally sprinkled with short balls threatening rib cage and throat proved too much for the Indians and they quickly succumbed, leaving the West Indies with 172 to make and about 28 overs to make them.

Greenidge and Haynes added 46 before Haynes got out going hard for runs. His 34, it turns out, was made off just 21 balls and it was clear that he understood the urgency of the situation. Greenidge, on the other hand, was batting much too slowly for our liking, and we let him know. He had scored a painstaking 70 in the first innings and it appeared, to us at least, that he had set out to play in similar manner.

We thought assault and battery was what was required and so we were not disappointed when he was out for 42, scored without a single boundary. Lloyd, in the meantime, had decided to come in at 3 when we were expecting the Master Blaster himself. He didn’t very last long, scoring only 3, and so it was now Viv’s turn.

He strode to the wicket like he owned Sabina Park and immediately set about the bowling. His first scoring stroke was a huge 6 and the onslaught had begun. Strokes to all parts of Sabina Park served to whip the crowd into a frenzy. At one point it seemed that every fielder was manning the boundary ropes, yet Richards was still able to beat them.

One straight hit landed in our section of the crowd and my friend went berserk. He so lost control of himself that he strayed onto the playing area, and only returned to his senses after being barked at by an angry guard dog that almost escaped his handler in striving to reach him.

What an evening it turned out to be! Viv’s 61 came off only 36 balls* with five fours and four sixes, and everyone there knew that they had witnessed something truly special. He returned to the pavilion at 156 for 5 with 16 needed for an unbelievable victory. Without his awesome innings West Indies would surely not have won, and victory was still only achieved in the very last over, with Dujon hitting a full toss for six, in fast fading light. Next day at school we made sure everyone knew that we had been there.

Dedicated to Elaine Hanson, 1949-2012. She loved sports.

*This blog originally said Richards' 61 came off 31 balls. It has been corrected

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Carlyle Wildman on July 4, 2012, 10:45 GMT

    Great stuff Garfield.I remember Tony Cozier writing that Viv was lying in the dressing room with an ice pack on his shoulder not expecting to bat but when Lloyd got out he jumped up grabbed his shirt and his bat and pads and marched out in the middle and the rest is history.The sixes were so huge that any aircraft in the vicinity would have been in trouble.I was on my way to a meeting at church and radios everywhere was blasting the commentary.Unable to move I stopped at a grocery store and listened till the end of the game.Everyone was late for that meeting at church.

  • Curtis Jacobs on March 31, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    I remember that game well. I wonder why Kapil Dev decided to bowl unchanged at one end, but you did not say what exactly happened between Richards's departure and Dujon's six. It was Gus Logie who brought it within reach.

  • Kent Jones on March 23, 2012, 11:18 GMT

    Certainly, this test was one of the best victories for West Indies. Richards simply took the game by the scruff of its neck and refused to let go. He clearly demonstrated the superiority of West Indies that day and his own magnitude as a fearless, dominant batsman. His impact on opposing players was such that even before he batted there was trepidation in the opposing dressing room. To my mind the significance of Richards the batsman is the aura of invincibility that he carried with him that overawed the opposition. It is as if two armies out to battle and one contained a towering giant of immense girth, with the deadliest weapons in both hands and a earth quivering roar that could be heard from miles away that penetrated the pits of the oppositions stomach: IVA Richards at your service!!!

  • avianraptor on March 9, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    My friends and I were there in spirit from Trinidad, radios glued to our ear! it was a sublime performance and one that only the WI could contemplate and achieve! India had some great bowlers including Kapil and Venkat but Viv, Haynes, Logie and Dujon made the improbable possible!

  • Garfield Robinson on March 7, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    I appreciate the comments. It is the most exciting passage of play I have seen live.

  • Jomesh George on March 5, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    Viv's 58 ball 110 vs England in 1986 was another breath taking effort where he led his team from a possible draw to a most memorable victory.His 109 off 111 balls at a turning Feroz shah kotla track in a 4th innings chase vs india in 1988 was something more remarkable.

  • alfanso jerry on March 3, 2012, 2:47 GMT

    This is my most memorable innings by Viv. I listened live on radio and later watched highlights on TV. Another Antiguan, though, Andy Roberts was quite rightly named man of the match. He made it a match and gave Viv a chance to win it.

  • John Duchaussee on March 2, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    Those of us who followed cricket during that era will never forget our team. As I prepare to go down to the Queens Park Oval for the second test next month as I always do, I refuse to give up on WI cricket and I will continue to live in hope. WE must get it right some day.

  • Delroy Gibbons on March 1, 2012, 22:49 GMT

    I just want to say that this is a brilliant article and I hope that people are reading it (despite the lack of comments). I absolutely LOVE reports and reminiscence of pre-tv west indian cricket (or repeatable tv). I have so few visual memories of pre-1990s cricket in the caribbean and anything that paints a vivid picture like this is most welcome.

    And it's Viv, so...amazing.

  • Krishna on March 1, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    Mr Robinson: This match was the first I followed with WI. That was heartbreak for us from India, but then reconciled to the fact we were defeated by a very great side. From then on Win or lose (Mostly losses), I have followed the WI team. When will we ever a see a great side like them? Explosive batting, scorching pace bowlers with so many tricks in their bag and fantastic fielding - WI cricket was a complete package.

  • Carlyle Wildman on July 4, 2012, 10:45 GMT

    Great stuff Garfield.I remember Tony Cozier writing that Viv was lying in the dressing room with an ice pack on his shoulder not expecting to bat but when Lloyd got out he jumped up grabbed his shirt and his bat and pads and marched out in the middle and the rest is history.The sixes were so huge that any aircraft in the vicinity would have been in trouble.I was on my way to a meeting at church and radios everywhere was blasting the commentary.Unable to move I stopped at a grocery store and listened till the end of the game.Everyone was late for that meeting at church.

  • Curtis Jacobs on March 31, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    I remember that game well. I wonder why Kapil Dev decided to bowl unchanged at one end, but you did not say what exactly happened between Richards's departure and Dujon's six. It was Gus Logie who brought it within reach.

  • Kent Jones on March 23, 2012, 11:18 GMT

    Certainly, this test was one of the best victories for West Indies. Richards simply took the game by the scruff of its neck and refused to let go. He clearly demonstrated the superiority of West Indies that day and his own magnitude as a fearless, dominant batsman. His impact on opposing players was such that even before he batted there was trepidation in the opposing dressing room. To my mind the significance of Richards the batsman is the aura of invincibility that he carried with him that overawed the opposition. It is as if two armies out to battle and one contained a towering giant of immense girth, with the deadliest weapons in both hands and a earth quivering roar that could be heard from miles away that penetrated the pits of the oppositions stomach: IVA Richards at your service!!!

  • avianraptor on March 9, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    My friends and I were there in spirit from Trinidad, radios glued to our ear! it was a sublime performance and one that only the WI could contemplate and achieve! India had some great bowlers including Kapil and Venkat but Viv, Haynes, Logie and Dujon made the improbable possible!

  • Garfield Robinson on March 7, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    I appreciate the comments. It is the most exciting passage of play I have seen live.

  • Jomesh George on March 5, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    Viv's 58 ball 110 vs England in 1986 was another breath taking effort where he led his team from a possible draw to a most memorable victory.His 109 off 111 balls at a turning Feroz shah kotla track in a 4th innings chase vs india in 1988 was something more remarkable.

  • alfanso jerry on March 3, 2012, 2:47 GMT

    This is my most memorable innings by Viv. I listened live on radio and later watched highlights on TV. Another Antiguan, though, Andy Roberts was quite rightly named man of the match. He made it a match and gave Viv a chance to win it.

  • John Duchaussee on March 2, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    Those of us who followed cricket during that era will never forget our team. As I prepare to go down to the Queens Park Oval for the second test next month as I always do, I refuse to give up on WI cricket and I will continue to live in hope. WE must get it right some day.

  • Delroy Gibbons on March 1, 2012, 22:49 GMT

    I just want to say that this is a brilliant article and I hope that people are reading it (despite the lack of comments). I absolutely LOVE reports and reminiscence of pre-tv west indian cricket (or repeatable tv). I have so few visual memories of pre-1990s cricket in the caribbean and anything that paints a vivid picture like this is most welcome.

    And it's Viv, so...amazing.

  • Krishna on March 1, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    Mr Robinson: This match was the first I followed with WI. That was heartbreak for us from India, but then reconciled to the fact we were defeated by a very great side. From then on Win or lose (Mostly losses), I have followed the WI team. When will we ever a see a great side like them? Explosive batting, scorching pace bowlers with so many tricks in their bag and fantastic fielding - WI cricket was a complete package.

  • Ramus on March 1, 2012, 21:10 GMT

    Yeah, he was a good bat, but Dujie should get more credit for the winning runs man. I still like Alvin over all of them anyway. Him always bring in the winning runs all de time.

  • Kwame on March 1, 2012, 19:28 GMT

    That was a nice innings but the only thing he did not bring it home with the bat. Dujon deserve more credit for scoring the winning runs. I still prefer the innings when he made 74 against Australia and bring it home.

  • Uzair on March 1, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    Thanks for sharing such a nice story..I could only wish that i would be there at the time when gr8 viv used to bat!!

  • Shafqat Nadeem on March 1, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    Sir Viv Richard's every innings was classy. His was a great cricketer due to his superb technique and dashing personality.

  • Anonymous on March 1, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    I remember it like it was yesterday Robbo. That entire inning was spent in a packed bus as a fifth former going from Port Maria to Rio Nuevo in St Mary. Probably the best inning I've seen m'self (over the radio).

  • KGSMANI on March 1, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    yes. Andy Roberts' bouncer hits the helmet of Venkatragavan & fall on the stumps. its indeed a great innings from the master. those days all india radio's live commentary stops at tea time (in West Indies & midnight in India). They record the After Tea Session commentary & brodcast it at next early morning hours in Indian Time.

    Even The Hindu's headline has KINGSTON TEST HEADING FOR A DRAW.

    I listened to the live commentary upto tea time & slept. Then wakeup in the early morning & anxiously following the recorded commentary and getting The Hindu's headline, i felt the match ends in a draw.

    But the match ends in great victory for West Indies & its a heartbreak for indian fans.

    In todays background of cricinfo's live commentary for all matches around the world, i am unable to explain that listening to the partial live radio commentary to youngsters now. Even in the 1989 india's tour to West Indies, we did not get live commentary.

  • Pushpesh on March 1, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    loved the way you describe it...anybody would have liked it.

  • Vinod on March 1, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    Sir Viv Richards..Indeed Master of Counter Attacking.Sir Viv-All time Great...In Current Era only Kevin Pietersen of ENG have the ability and character of SIR VIV.

  • Praxis on February 29, 2012, 17:01 GMT

    Great post, somewhat unexpected from cricinfo these days.

  • Sivakumar on February 29, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    It is amusing to note that the author has not mentioned any of the Indian players by name. The Indian team was captained by KapilDev and it is his first test as captain. We, in India also thought it will be a drawn game, but with King Viv, you never know ....

    Contrary to the current times, the defeat was taken with stoic acceptance. Those are the days when Indian fans rooted for WI than India !! The series was later remembered for Mohinder Amarnath's dogged resistance and the first win against WI in a one day international in that tour. Which later laid the foundation for that famous win in Lords.

    Oh! Nostalgia .....

  • Viven on February 29, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    Wonderful writing. What a great batsmen and person. Viv Richards will always be a legend

  • imran on February 29, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    I have never seen a match winner like that great man. True Legend he proved in way past, that no one can do in modern cricket. If you have seen live batting of sir richards you will never compare him to anyone............

  • Kaustubh Acharyya on February 29, 2012, 7:19 GMT

    Thanks, Garfield, for letting us know about your first-hand viewer's experience of this famous session of Test cricket. It is something that we have read of and heard of so many times while we were growing up.

  • Mike Miller on February 29, 2012, 0:18 GMT

    In today's statistics-driven world, 50's barely rate a mention. However, the true measure of a great batsmen is the circumstances in which he makes his runs. Which is why Richards & Ponting rate alongside Tendulkar (and Lara?) when ranking the modern greats.

  • David Varney on February 28, 2012, 18:04 GMT

    Good piece, Garfield. I myself was (just) still at school when I read about Viv's innings in the newspaper and later in more detail in Wisden Cricket Monthly. I imagined that it must have been a brutal, awesome, knock - extraordinary as it was played in a period when (with very few exceptions) batsmen simply didn't score at such a rate in test cricket - even taking into account West Indies' routine dominance at the time over all opponents.

  • krishnan ramachandran on February 28, 2012, 9:51 GMT

    That's why he is rated as 'THE REAL AND ORIGINAL MASTER BLASTER'

  • Dr. Talha on February 28, 2012, 6:01 GMT

    Viv is the greatest batsman post world war 2. Dont know when will Sachin play an innings like this to win a match for india. And yet people call sachin the greatest!!

  • Emancipator007 on February 28, 2012, 0:21 GMT

    Why this victory was UNIQUE in that era was because no team DREAMED (even chasing 4-5 runs an over in the mandatory overs was unthinkable) of going for any ODI –type chase (forget a T20 approach) in the last session and always played for draws. So for Richards to attempt a brazen chase of 6.14 was almost an outlier even accounting for the average Indian bowling attack barring Kapil (who was supreme with the bat and ball against WI right thru his career). Want to point out to younger fans and even older fans in thrall about the so-called viciousness of the Bodyline Series attack (made more mythical because of the dramatized scenes in the TV series by that name), that these 4 ENTHRALLING pacers (with Holding and Marshall being EXTREME PACE in most spells), attacked the throat, rib-cage and face at will (including using all 3 bouncers) and at 85-95 MPH consistently unlike the 85 MPH which Larwood bowled at against Bradman and Co.

  • Emancipator007 on February 28, 2012, 0:10 GMT

    Thanks Robertson,lucky you saw it live.In a pre-cricinfo,pre- satellite TV era, there was no way of knowing full details instantaneously or even get to watch some occasional highlights of India’s away games and so radio was the only “live” source.Grainy memories but still vivid following this match on radio(Jimmy Amarnath’s annus mirabilis year with 500 plus runs in this series plus 500+ against Pakistan earlier)as a 9 year old in India. Problem was the last session of each day used to have a delayed radio broadcast much later (incongruous as it sounds now).So having stayed up till about tea to hear the commentary, had to go to sleep as school was at 7.30 AM.Later was shocked to know on the evening news(hardly any details of run-rate were given and so could understand the enormity of the defeat only in the day-after-next newspaper details because of the time difference not allowing detailed coverage of post-tea session of previous day)that India had been DEFEATED as it was a SURE draw.

  • Mike on February 28, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    Yea! It was the test that WI turned into a One-Dayer. Yes, the match was dead but on my way home after school that aftertoon radios were blaring from houses surrounding my school and I quickly realised WI were going for victory ... unbeleivable!!!! I thought.

    Transfixed, I stood outside the gate of one house listening to the radio ... it was loud enough for anyone on the street to hear. I did not move so my friends left me. It was like I was there at Sabina Park live. Viv was the lightning rod yes, but everyone chipped in. Going for runs as they did, WI could have easily lost too but losing was not our thing (unlike now). What a Final blast that was; a 6 by Dujon. It was pure joy.

    Thank you Garfield for the memory. I cannot believe is was nearly 29 years ago and me just 17. The rest of the series held fond memories too. I can still see Holding bowling so fast the Indian Batsmen often played at deliveries well after their stumps began cartwheeling. Oh! It was Cricket Lovely Cric

  • eddy on February 27, 2012, 21:49 GMT

    Throughout my latency years, through my teens and into my twenties Viv richards was, and still is (almost) the greatest cricketer i have seen live. My father took me several times to see the WI's during there hayday, mostly in London at the Oval and Lords. I didnt think i was possible that a batsman could so dominate a fielding team as Viv did. He was scary. It wasnt until the a year or so after the great man retired that i started watching a tiny left-handed Trinidadian that i actually realised i was watching something equally brutal yet even more run hungry.

    Eddy, London

  • Sudheer, Dehradun on February 27, 2012, 18:27 GMT

    Wonderful piece. But you could have ended the piece on an interesting note by making us know the things which you told your mates in the school. But still it was an awe inspiring piece. I once saw his innings at Dunedin and i felt that if ever there was a true legend in the game of Cricket, it had to be Sir Viv. In fact he was too talented to be called a legend. He was something else, whenever he entered in the ground and took a step at that 22 yards strip, a new story was written.

  • wasif ahmed on February 27, 2012, 18:21 GMT

    Viv ..the best ever ...........my cricketing hero

  • gerry houghton on February 27, 2012, 15:13 GMT

    Excellent piece.

    Why did Viv rate this performance so highly? I expect it was because only a few hours before there was NO prospect of a victory. Second, this was a Test match - not some transient one-day thing. Finally, that scoring rate, 61 off 31 balls, was astonishing, even by today's 20/20 standards. As we've read, the opposition in those days were able to put all fielders on the boundary and the bats in those days were not the powerhouses manufactured today.

    I went to see Viv twice in my life: first time (Taunton) was rained off. Second time against Hampshire at Bournemouth, journeyman bowler John Stephenson's first three balls were big LBW appeals: the fourth, another, got him!

    So, Garfield, I am highly envious of your experience...

  • Saumendra on February 27, 2012, 15:13 GMT

    Lovely story. And a worthy dedicate.

  • Ferty on February 27, 2012, 14:55 GMT

    What was lost , is that Viv was done with the flu, can you imagine if he was feeling well !!!

  • dr.f on February 27, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    He was the real Legend

  • Syed Ammar Saeed on February 27, 2012, 10:17 GMT

    Very nice. thanks for sharing. n its pleasant to see someone from america writing on cricket.

  • PLI on February 27, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    Loved it! Great piece!

  • Kunal Talgeri on February 27, 2012, 7:12 GMT

    A very nice ringside-view of a great batter -- and the ultimate team of champions, West Indies. Only Adam Gilchrist in recent history rivalled King Viv's bat-power, although Richards' attitude was unmatched. Thanks for that Viv-id memory. On a different note, Tests in Jamaica do produce magical innings of 60s and 70s... my own favourite is Rahul Dravid batting there to score 68 (albeit at a non-Viv strike rate) in 2006. India won! :-)

  • Bazzdert Vakes on February 26, 2012, 22:36 GMT

    I LOVE this kind of thing. The lack of good quality footage of pre-1990s cricket in the West Indies is a crying shame and any recollection is really helpful in painting a picture. When I think how amazing cricket in the West Indies used to be and compare it to today's apathetic situation, I weep.

  • Rizwan Rehmat on February 26, 2012, 21:17 GMT

    There's not one bat as dominating as the great Viv! He was truly awesome. I have seen a fair bit of Viv, and boy he was amazing!

  • umar imtiaz on February 26, 2012, 19:53 GMT

    thez kind of innings made him VIV and windies worldbeaters. he never feared and played wid an intent of smackin even the best of bowlers

  • Gerry_the_Merry on February 26, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    I remember Tony Cozier shouting repeatedly 'Richards has hacked him!!!" But strange to see an article praising richards on a website devoted to Tendulkar.

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  • Gerry_the_Merry on February 26, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    I remember Tony Cozier shouting repeatedly 'Richards has hacked him!!!" But strange to see an article praising richards on a website devoted to Tendulkar.

  • umar imtiaz on February 26, 2012, 19:53 GMT

    thez kind of innings made him VIV and windies worldbeaters. he never feared and played wid an intent of smackin even the best of bowlers

  • Rizwan Rehmat on February 26, 2012, 21:17 GMT

    There's not one bat as dominating as the great Viv! He was truly awesome. I have seen a fair bit of Viv, and boy he was amazing!

  • Bazzdert Vakes on February 26, 2012, 22:36 GMT

    I LOVE this kind of thing. The lack of good quality footage of pre-1990s cricket in the West Indies is a crying shame and any recollection is really helpful in painting a picture. When I think how amazing cricket in the West Indies used to be and compare it to today's apathetic situation, I weep.

  • Kunal Talgeri on February 27, 2012, 7:12 GMT

    A very nice ringside-view of a great batter -- and the ultimate team of champions, West Indies. Only Adam Gilchrist in recent history rivalled King Viv's bat-power, although Richards' attitude was unmatched. Thanks for that Viv-id memory. On a different note, Tests in Jamaica do produce magical innings of 60s and 70s... my own favourite is Rahul Dravid batting there to score 68 (albeit at a non-Viv strike rate) in 2006. India won! :-)

  • PLI on February 27, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    Loved it! Great piece!

  • Syed Ammar Saeed on February 27, 2012, 10:17 GMT

    Very nice. thanks for sharing. n its pleasant to see someone from america writing on cricket.

  • dr.f on February 27, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    He was the real Legend

  • Ferty on February 27, 2012, 14:55 GMT

    What was lost , is that Viv was done with the flu, can you imagine if he was feeling well !!!

  • Saumendra on February 27, 2012, 15:13 GMT

    Lovely story. And a worthy dedicate.