'That was the most competitive cricket that I played'
Barry Richards was contacted too late to play for the Rest of the World's matches in Australia and England in 1971-72. He did, however, play in the Packer Super Tests later in the decade. In what many believe to be some of the most fiercely-contested and high quality matches in modern-day cricket, Richards scored heavily against the likes of Lillee, Imran and the West Indian pace attack. He talks exclusively to Cricinfo about those contests and the ongoing Super Series battle between Australia and the World XI.
What do you think of the idea behind the SuperSeries?
I quite like idea. It is something that I wouldn't like to see happen every year, but every now and again its got some merit, like in between World Cups or following World Cups.
Do you think these matches should have official status?
That is a difficult one. I think probably if the matches are going to be played for hard prize money, they deserve official status. Players will always have their reputations at stake - something they cannot afford to mess around with.
Do you think by giving official status the ICC has ensured that it will be played in a competitive spirit?
Yes, it certainly helps. We only can actually find that out once they come out in the park and play, but one would presume that it would.
Do you the think the Tsunami relief matches and Afro-Asian games deserved official status?
Tsunami games, or any fundraisers, and the Afro-Asian games can't have official status. It's not so much that they don't deserve it, but where do you draw the line? I would draw the line at the Rest of the World; anything less than that I wouldn't give official status because it doesn't mean enough.
Having played in Rest of the World matches, do you feel cheated that those matches didn't have official status?
I think everybody knows [about it]. The people who made the decision to not make those matches official obviously didn't know anything about cricket because that was the most competitive cricket that I played.
Do you want the ICC to give those matches official status with retrospective effect?
I don't think it is for me to say, but if you are asking my opinion should they be, it's an unqualified yes. But the ICC makes some very funny decisions at times.
What are your best memories of playing against Australia for Rest of the World?
There were lots of things in terms of the innovations that came into cricket: white ball, night cricket and the uniforms which were different. All those things plus it was an added bonus for the South Africans because we weren't allowed play anybody so it was an opportunity for us to prove ourselves.
Did you take those matches as seriously as you would a Test match?
Oh, yeah. There was lots of reputation at stake and we were trendsetters for what we accept as normal cricket now. I don't know any Australian side that has gone on to the field and hasn't tried their hardest at every single game they played at anything. The quality of cricket and the competitiveness warranted it being first-class.
Is it easy for a player to motivate himself when he is not playing for his country?
It is easy to motivate because you have your reputation at stake. If you keep performing badly in whatever game it is, whether it is a club game, shield game or a Test match, it's not going to do your reputation any good.
Off the field, what was the equation like between the players? Did you make any lasting friends as a result of that tour?
For me it wasn't all that difficult because most of the players I played against or with were involved in county cricket so I knew them anyway.