February 26, 2012

West Indies Cricket

Memories of a great Test

Cricinfo

By Garfield Robinson, USA

Viv Richards on his way to 180, West Indies v England, Barbados, March 1981
Viv Richards hit 61 off 36 deliveries  © Getty Images
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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

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!!!

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

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