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Sir Vivian Isaac Alexander Richards - A true CHAMP!
by Gulu Ezekiel
Apr 27, 2005
Scourge of bowlers around the world for nearly 20 years, Sir Viv Richards was back in the Capital where he scored his maiden Test century 31 years ago in only his second Test match.

The swagger remains intact and the physique that saw him being dubbed 'Smokin' Joe' (after boxing champion Joe Frazier) is still very much in evidence. But the aggression and machismo that had an intimidating effect even on the fastest of bowlers has certainly mellowed 14 years after he played his final Test match.

Richards is today warm, friendly and amiable as evidenced by the long flight he undertook from his hometown in St. John's, Antigua to New Delhi via Barbados and London, all in the name of charity. That charity is the CHAMPS (Caring, Helping, Assisting, Motivating, Promoting Sportspersons) Foundation set up in 1999 by batting legend Sunil Gavaskar.

Richards took part in the 3rd McDowell's Signature celebrity golf tournament at Gurgaon last Saturday along with a galaxy of greats from Indian cricket. These included Syed Kirmani, GR Viswanath and Gavaskar as well as billiards champ Geet Sethi, politician Dr. Farooq Abdullah and pro golfers Digvijay Singh and Shruti Khanna, among others.

After the tournament, an auction of cricket items was held which fetched over Rs. 5 lakh for the charity.

"I feel sentimental returning to the venue of my first century", said Sir Viv. "I made a huge effort to come here as I am behind the Viv Richards Foundation and since my friend Sunny [Gavaskar] is behind CHAMPS, I thought it would be a great way to help him out."

Despite a 17-hour flight and the obvious effects of jet-lag, Richards was in sparkling form, answering a number of questions covering a wide range of cricketing topics.

"Of course as you know, I have some shares in this part of the world, but I won’t go into further details," he said, alluding to his relationship with actress Neena Gupta. He also expressed delight that their daughter had a chance to meet his son Mali for the first time recently in Mumbai.

For the first time, Richards also virtually admitted he was out early in his innings of 192 not out all those years back, an innings that set him on the road to superstardom. He survived a strong appeal from wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer when on 12 off the bowling off Indian captain S. Venkatraghavan after having failed on debut in the previous Test at Bangalore.

"I played a lot of cricket with Farokh on the county circuit in England. He was a tricky bastard and claimed plenty of catches that were iffy. So if I survived this appeal, it would have evened things out."

The man with the world record for the fastest Test century (off 56 balls v England in 1986) feels that mark will be threatened sooner or later with the likes of Virender Sehwag around in contemporary world cricket.

He also gave his support to new West Indies captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul who recently took over from Brian Lara and expressed the wish that the various controversies in cricket back home would be settled by the time the World Cup is staged in the Caribbean in 2007.

Mobbed by autograph collectors after the press conference, Richards turned to TV anchor and host of the golf tournament Charu Sharma and said: "You know, you have to get worried when they stop asking you for your autograph."

That will surely never happen in the life of Sir Vivian Isaac Alexander Richards, arguably the most exciting batsman in cricket history.
 
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