Viv Richards: stats analysis

In a league of his own

Despite his outrageously aggressive batting style, Richards' numbers stack up well against those of the world's best batsmen

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan

August 16, 2010

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Viv Richards pulls, England v West Indies, Lord's, World Cup final, 23 June 1979
Richards: outstanding in both forms of the game © AllSport UK Ltd
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Players/Officials: Sir Viv Richards
Teams: West Indies

There are very few batsmen about whom it can be said that their impact on the game was greater than the sheer weight of the numbers they achieved. Viv Richards was surely one of them.

This isn't to say his stats aren't impressive - a Test aggregate of 8540 at an average of 50.23 and an ODI average of 47 at a strike rate of 90 are outstanding numbers in any era, and more so during an age when bowling attacks and conditions were far more challenging than they have been over the last decade. Over and above these numbers, though, was the manner in which Richards approached the game: his swagger and sheer presence at the crease unnerved the best bowlers. He revolutionised the art of batting during his era, with his sheer aggression and the intent to dominate bowling attacks. That he achieved such outstanding stats despite this approach speaks volumes for his skill with bat in hand.

Richards scored only seven runs in two innings on his Test debut in Bangalore in 1974, but an undefeated 192 in the next Test was an emphatic way to announce himself on the world stage. The next year was disappointing, but that only slightly delayed his reign on the world stage. Nineteen-seventy-six was his watershed year: he scored 1710 runs, including a remarkable 829 in the series in England despite missing one Test match. This aggregate in a calendar year remained a record till it was surpassed by Mohammad Yousuf in 2006. Richards made two double-hundreds in that England series, which included his personal best of 291 at The Oval, as West Indies trounced England 3-0. In World Series Cricket he was the best batsman on view against top-quality fast bowling, scoring over 1200 runs at an average of almost 60.

His average dropped marginally over the next five years after 1980, but he scored centuries in 10 out of 12 series between 1980 and 1986. His form fell away drastically towards the end of his career, though, and he averaged only slightly over 36 in his last 19 Tests, with just one century and 10 fifties. Over this period his career average dropped from 52.88 to 50.23.

Viv Richards in Tests
Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s
Overall 121 182 8540 50.23 24 45
1974-1980 40 63 3629 60.48 11 16
1981-1988 62 89 3933 47.38 12 19
1989- 1991 19 30 978 36.22 1 10
Viv Richards in World Series Cricket
Matches Innings Runs Average 100 50
14 25 1281 58.23 4 4

Richards' best years were between 1976 and 1988. In 92 Tests during this period he scored 22 hundreds and was the only batsman to average more than 55 (among those who scored more than 4000). That was an era when several all-time greats were around - Greg Chappell, Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar and Javed Miandad are all listed in the table below - but Richards' average was marginally higher than theirs (though he obviously didn't have to face his own bowlers, who were easily the most fearsome attack during that period). He averaged more than 50 in 13 out of the 23 series he played during this period.

Performance of top batsmen in Tests between 1976 and 1988 (Qual: 4000 runs)
Batsman Matches Innings Runs Average 100 50
Viv Richards 92 135 7091 55.39 22 34
Greg Chappell 50 87 4233 54.97 13 18
Javed Miandad 95 146 7033 54.94 19 35
Allan Border 100 175 7670 52.17 23 35
Sunil Gavaskar 108 180 8655 51.51 29 36
Gordon Greenidge 83 139 6025 48.58 14 30

The table below summarises Richards' career series averages. Of the 29 series he played, 14 times he averaged more than 50, and less than 30 on just seven occasions, most of them coming either during the early years or at the end.

Viv Richards' series averages
Total no. of series Ave > 70 Ave between 50-70 Ave between 40-50 Ave between 30-40 Ave < 30
29 5 9 3 5 7

Of the 24 Test hundreds he scored, 12 were in wins. Between 1974 and 1991, which is when Richards played his 121 Tests, only Greenidge scored more centuries in wins. Richards also averaged nearly 54 with six centuries in away wins. Unlike some batsmen who struggle to score in the last innings of Tests, his stats were remarkably consistent over the four innings of a match: his average in the first innings of matches was 53, while his average in the fourth innings was nearly 48, which represents one of the lowest variations among top batsmen. (Click here for his career summary.)

Richards saved his best for England, against whom he scored 2869 runs at an average of over 62 with eight centuries. Among those who've scored at least 2000 runs against England, only Don Bradman has a higher average. Richards also leads the list of batsmen with the mosthundreds against India - he added seven more to the century he scored in his second Test. His most destructive knock against them, though, was arguably in Kingston in 1983, when he scored a rapid 61 off 36 balls to lead West Indies to an unlikely win; his fifty came off just 32 balls in that innings.

Richards batted at various positions during his career but was at his best at the pivotal No. 3 spot. Of all the batsmen who've played a minimum of 50 innings in that position, only Bradman and Wally Hammond have a higher average.

Best Test batsmen at No. 3 (Qual: 50 innings)
Batsman Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s
Don Bradman 40 56 5078 103.63 20 10
Walter Hammond 37 52 3440 74.78 14 4
Viv Richards 45 59 3508 61.54 12 14
Brian Lara 45 66 3749 60.46 9 13
Kumar Sangakkara 84 131 7355 60.28 22 31

In the 1985-86 home series against England, which West Indies won 5-0, Richards smashed the fastest Test century, off just 56 balls, in Antigua, which remains the quickest in terms of balls faced. He stands fourth on the all-time list of batsmen with the most sixes in Tests.

Richards took over the West Indies captaincy following Clive Lloyd's retirement in 1985 and led them in 50 Tests, winning 27 and losing 15, but more importantly he didn't lose a single series. Among captains who have led in a minimum of 50 Tests, Richards' record as captain is next only to Steve Waugh's and Ricky Ponting's.

Highest win percentage as captains (Qual: 50 Tests)
Player Span Matches Won Lost Drawn W/L % wins
Steve Waugh 1999-2004 57 41 9 7 4.55 71.92
Ricky Ponting 2004-2010 71 47 12 12 3.91 66.19
Viv Richards 1980-1991 50 27 8 15 3.37 54
Mark Taylor 1994-1999 50 26 13 11 2 52
Michael Vaughan 2003-2008 51 26 11 14 2.36 50.98

Richards' style of batting suited one-day cricket perfectly. He set himself apart from the rest of the top batsmen of his era with his exceptionally quick scoring in a period where the average rate was much lower. The table below compares the strike rates of top batsmen between 1975 and 1991. Richards was by far the most dominant of the lot, and among players to have scored more than 2000 runs in ODIs, he still remains the only batsman to average more than 40 and possess a strike rate of over 90.

Comparison of strike rates of top batsmen between 1975 and 1991 (Qual: 4000 runs)
Batsman Matches Runs Average Strike rate % better than average SR for period (65.92)
Viv Richards 187 6721 47.00 90.20 36.83
Dean Jones 120 4690 48.85 75.07 13.88
Allan Border 228 5766 31.68 70.26 6.58
Javed Miandad 180 5795 41.69 68.16 3.39
Gordon Greenidge 128 5134 45.03 64.92 -1.51

Richards played 187 ODIs in all, but only 33 of those were in the West Indies. On the other hand, he played more than twice that number in Australia, where he scored 2769 runs in 73 matches. He was by far the finest overseas batsman in Australia between 1975 and 1991.

ODI Performance of overseas batsmen in Australia (1975-1991)
Player Matches Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s 50s
Viv Richards 73 67 2769 44.66 84.54 3 24
Desmond Haynes 76 75 2459 35.63 60.32 4 17
Gordon Greenidge 43 43 1731 43.27 64.51 3 12
John Wright 57 57 1541 27.51 53.78 0 12
Javed Miandad 45 44 1390 33.90 59.40 0 10
David Gower 42 41 1248 32.84 84.32 4 3

Throughout his ODI career, Richards was the man for the big occasion. He scored a brilliant unbeaten 138 in the 1979 World Cup final, and played several crucial knocks on major occasions. His overall ODI record and performance in World Cups and finals is summarised below. He averages the highest among batsmen who have scored over 1000 runs in World Cup matches.

Viv Richards' ODI record
Matches Innings Runs Average 100 50
Overall 187 167 6721 47.00 11 45
World Cup 23 21 1013 63.31 3 5
Australian tri-series 65 60 2563 46.60 3 22
Tournament finals 18 17 836 55.73 1 9

In the 1984 series against England, Richards made an extraordinary unbeaten 189 out of a total of 272, which is still the highest percentage contribution to a completed team innings. He shared a last-wicket stand of 106 with Michael Holding, which is a record for the 10th wicket. In fact, West Indies did not lose a single ODI when Richards scored a century.

While batting was clearly his best suit, Richards was also a more-than-useful contributor with the ball, especially in ODIs. He picked up 99 wickets at an average of 32.05 and an economy rate of 4.43; against India his 33 wickets came at fewer than 20 runs apiece. In 1987 against New Zealand, he became the first player to score a century and pick up four wickets in an ODI.

Richards has the astonishing record of winning 31 Man-of-the-Match awards in just 187 games, which is one award every six games, easily the highest among all players to win more than 25 awards. The table below summarises this record for the top players and clearly establishes Richards as one of the greatest match-winners in ODIs.

Players with the best rate of MoM awards in ODIs (Qual: 25 MoM awards)
Player Total Matches MoM awards Matches per award
Viv Richards 187 31 6.03
Sachin Tendulkar 442 61 7.24
Saeed Anwar 247 28 8.82
Nathan Astle 223 25 8.92
Sanath Jayasuriya 444 48 9.25

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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