Richards despatches Hendrick
London, 23 June 1979
You don't need to see Vivian Richards' last-ball six off Mike Hendrick in the 1979 World Cup final through your plain-tinted glasses; you need to see it through the prism of the time.
The world was an innocent place in the late seventies. There was no live TV being beamed into drawing rooms in the subcontinent; our visual understanding of Richards was courtesy Patrick Eagar in Sportsworld, or through Reuters in Sportsweek, or fuzzy API pictures in newspapers.
It was a good four years before we actually saw how Richards did hit Hendrick. You slimed up to someone who gloated in the possession of cricket videotapes, you bought a VCR for Rs 20,000, you pleaded for the tape for a day, you invited the select to a private showing, you basked in the reflected glory of being "close" to Richards' six, you analysed it to death thereafter, and you emerged as an authority in a community that had been condemned to only read about it.
Replay Richards' coup de grace in your mind's eye, and you can see the magic even now. Richards stepped away to the off even before Hendrick had delivered; Richards dictated to Hendrick which line to bowl; Richards leaned to the off; Richards lifted the full-toss off the middle stump; Richards hit it over midwicket for six.
It is nearly three decades later and the world has since been corrupted by reverse sweeps, paddle sweeps, 180-degree bludgeons, glances picked from outside the off stump, and hoicks over midwicket. But Richards is still, well, Richards. For leaning to the off. For hitting over leg. And for flicking a six in the process.
When he had finished, he swung in one motion, made a complete rotation, smiled and ran out of sight.
Some decades down the road someone may well write a case study about how some people could actually enjoy themselves in the 60th over of a World Cup final.
This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine