May 14, 2000

Master Blaster: Ganja Drink Cured Me

The master blaster has lit a flame that is sure to ignite a fire.

Yesterday in an interview published in the Times of London, former West Indies captain Sir Viv Richards spoke of the benefits of marijuana and how it became his 'cup of tea'.

Part of the interview was extracted from the book Sir Vivian by Viv Richards, to be published by Michael Joseph on June 30.

Copies can be ordered from the Times Bookshop at>online.

Sir Viv, who led the West Indies for seven years without losing a Test series, said he had his first 'taste' of herb in Jamaica after explaining to some friends about problems with his eyes.

He said he discovered what was said to be a natural remedy without the need for surgery.

'They told me that there was a herbalist on the island who had various solutions for a variety of ailments, including mine,' Sir Viv was quoted as saying.

'The regular treatment for my problem, according to the herbalist, was a drink called bush tea or green tea; to put it simply and bluntly, it was a hot-water infusion of the fresh green leaves of the marijuana plant. Whenever I drank the tea, I felt sure it was going to do wonders.'

Sir Viv said the tea had never gotten him into 'hot water' but admitted that he had experimented with smoking marijuana as a youngster, and then trying the tea after hearing what it could do, he became convinced that perhaps this weed had been seriously misunderstood.

He explained how the weed could be supplied and how both children and adults could get their share.

There was always one of the older children who knew somebody who could get their hands on marijuana. The adults as well as the youngsters would use him for their supply.

'No one ever forced me to try it; I did it of my own free will. When you first venture into it, the experience is a shock to the system as you cough and splutter over your first one. It was an adventure, just like your first drink of rum, your first cigarette or your first fumble with a girl behind the rum shop or in the park.'

Sir Viv made 8 540 runs in 121 matches, making him the leading batsman in West Indies history. He made 24 Test centuries with a best of 291 against England. In 147 One-Day Internationals, he made 6 721 runs (average 47.00) with a best of 189 not out in England in 1984.

He added that he was lucky that he never became addicted to the herb.

'I have tried things and I have enough of my wits about me not to let any of them become a habit; I was far too focused on sport.'

Sir Viv said he was not advocating the free-and-easy recreational use of marijuana, but the whole matter needed serious consideration.

The outspoken Anti-guan ended by saying why he never 'committed' himself to marijuana.

'Having tried smoking the drug when I was young, I quit because I did not think it would be good for my cricket - it's hardly performance-enhancing.

'I didn't want to do anything illegal, something you think about seriously when your father is a strict prison officer.'