Viv Richards has expressed his "sadness" at the state of West Indies cricket, and clarified that there was no rift between Brian Lara and himself. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he said, "In any organisation, things are not always going to run as smoothly as you would like - and cricket selectors or decision-makers are no exception. But Brian is still a batting phenomenon who has served his people well, and you will never take the genius out of his batting."
But it was not all about Lara. Richards had plenty of time for England's latest pace-ace, Steven Harmison. "The last time I spoke to Beefy [Ian Botham] before the Test series in the Caribbean, his parting words were along the lines of, 'Watch out for Harmison, he's going to make the difference' - and sadly for West Indies cricket, he was correct." Richards may not be a selector anymore, but he certainly thinks he knows someone who would make a good selector. "I knew Beefy had always championed Harmison's cause, but it just goes to show that he would make a good selector."
After a couple of words of praise for his old Somerset teammate, Richards trained his sights squarely on Harmison. "There can be no doubt that England have unearthed a diamond," he said. "From what I saw in the West Indies a few months back, this particular guy is the real deal. Some of the English guys were calling him Baby Amby because his action has similarities with the way Curtly Ambrose used to bowl for us."
Richards thinks Harmison has made great strides in the recent past. "Having seen him earlier in his career, I would say he was not bowling in the right channels on a regular basis. But if England need a wicket now, the captain can throw the ball to Harmison as his No. 1 strike bowler. It's no good being 6ft 5ins and bowling at a good pace if you cannot land the ball consistently in the right zone, but that is what Harmison did in the Caribbean and he got his just rewards."
Gracious in defeat, Richards saluted Harmison's effort. "Although it was painful for us to be on the receiving end, you can only admire the way this individual bowled and the marvellous results he achieved. Yes, he did surprise a lot of people outside his own camp. But hats off to him for the way he has worked at his game."
"When you think of all the fast bowlers around the world, Harmison's performance against us was up there with the very best. He is England's main man, he's made a huge difference to the attack." Now that is fulsome praise, coming from a man who led a series of pace batteries that were right up there with the best.