Viv Richards hails Virat Kohli for not letting poor scores affect leadership.
We now have four batsmen competing for the mantle of the world’s best batsman – Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson. During Viv Richards’ time there was no debate – he was The King. Richards scored 8,540 runs in 121 Tests at an average of 50.23, including 24 centuries. As captain, he won 27 out of 50 Tests, losing just eight. But he was more than just numbers, arguably the most destructive batsman in the game’s history.
In Mumbai for a short visit, he spoke to Hindustan Times on various current issues surrounding the game.
Did you enjoy the India vs Australia Test series?
I loved it. The folks who said it was too confrontational - I don’t think it was the first, it is not going to be the last. (But) when you have anything said where someone’s race comes into play, I don’t think that is good for the game, regardless of whoever it is. But confrontation and competitiveness, nothing is wrong with that.
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The series was overshadowed by sledging from both sides…
I am just saying where someone’s skin colour or someone’s nationality comes into play, that is wrong. It is crossing the boundaries, in my opinion. Sometimes you can say things to upset the rhythm of the batsmen, a particular team or player, but as sportsmen we have an obligation to compete as hard as we can, be confrontational as best as we can, but if we use words which are going to be derogatory to someone’s race then that should be looked at in a very severe manner.
Did Australia manage to upset the rhythm of Virat Kohli?
I don’t think so. I just believe that regardless of whoever you are as a player, there are times when you are going to have your bad periods.
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Let us make some comparisons to when he was in Australia - he scored four centuries out of five games. That has to be taken into consideration. This was his period of time where I think the bat failed him, but what stood out more than anything else is that he didn’t allow that to get into his way of leadership. That to me suggests he knew it was just a bad time for him as a batter, he has done it in Australia’s backyard; four centuries is a formidable achievement.
What would be your advice to Virat to balance personal performance with captaincy?
To be fair, it would be the first we have seen failures on a consistent basis (of Virat). There is going to be a time when you fail and that is when other members of your team can step up and come to the party, and we have seen that. Cheteshwar Pujara and KL Rahul came to the party and that is why it’s such a great team sport, your captain can fail and still be a strong leader. And the guys have enormous amount of respect for him.
Do you think ICC’s plan to use red and yellow cards will work?
What I think is the governing body itself has a committee, and has evidence that some things are said which is totally against the policies of the governing body of the sport. It is not about the straight red or how many yellows before that, it is about dealing with the issue. There should be zero tolerance where these (racism) issues are concerned. Regardless of who is involved, they should pay the price.
You were the undisputed king of your time. But, now we have Virat, Smith, Root and Williamson vying for the mantle of the best batsman in the world? Who’s your favourite?
It’s tough to separate; they are folks that I like. I like Virat because of his confrontational style, and (the way he) defends his right if any nasty thing comes his way. All the other guys in that category are very good players, players that I admire, but sometimes we have our favourites. And my favourite is just may be because of Virat’s leadership, plus when Virat gets going as a batsman, he is as good as any.
You were part of arguably the greatest team in history. Does this Indian team, No 1 in ICC rankings, have the potential to establish an aura like the great teams?
They do have. But I don’t think they are there yet. The next challenge will be to go to England and beat England at home, the way you demoralised England at home. In the same way go to Australia and get the job done as well. There is potential for that to happen, (but) until that happens we all will be waiting to see whether it is fulfilled or not.
First time India players are giving top priority to Test cricket. They played Tests with injuries but are skipping IPL? Does it send the right signals?
Yeah, it does, especially this series (vs Australia), the competitive nature of it. There is still such an appetite for Test cricket. No disrespect to the IPL, which is just an addition of the sport itself, a very exciting one for that matter, but it is the game (Test) in its purest form, which to me helps sort the men from the boys. And we have seen that in this last series, which was a good advert for the game with players wanting to be a part of that and not miss that, was great.
What do you make of the curb on the size of bats?
I see no problem with the size of the bats. Let’s get smart. We are moving forward with modern technology, the players are stronger to a degree, they spend a lot of time in the gym building muscles. Bigger bats are just modern-day technology. Make the boundaries a little bigger, be brave enough. The boundaries in some of these matches can be of kindergarten stuff, they should have the kids or ladies play (with them). Just extend the boundaries, and make them formidable enough. They will still hit it anyway. You can see we can solve that whole situation.
You have seen IPL from close, as part of Delhi Daredevils in 2013. It’s in its 10thyear, what is good about it and what are its negative things?
It’s not just the IPL, but T20 tournaments around the world. If we can just modify how much is played. Sometimes, you can kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Let’s try and have it in reasonable proportions rather than overkill and oversell. And, one of the things that would help to do that is if you cannot do this, you cannot do that. By that I mean the IPL, because of its attractions, the money and the dollars that’s involved.
Then you can have an influx of individuals who want to play for their country. If we can create space where individuals can be representing their countries, you can create a bigger pool of players for T20 cricket, by the players knowing the game at its purest level. Then, we can have a happy marriage.
If you are told to imagine Viv Richards at the IPL?
(I will take) the same sort of attitude that I brought to Test cricket and the limited overs. That (T20) just means to up the tempo a little bit. Having learnt the purest form, you would know exactly the requirements for the next level.
Voices are growing that we should have T20 cricket and do away with one-day cricket?
No man. The various forms must have a role to play. If we go that way, we will not have so many great players, you will have only a few. That means some guys will miss out coming in the great category.
The West Indies have not qualified for the Champions Trophy. It’s the first time a West Indies team will miss out on a global event of ICC. How does it feel?
Very scary; it is sad. it is pretty hard for me to accept that and guess with all the issues that we had… the administrative side of things. If the player has made a remark against the leadership of the administrators, they have paid the price, (but) we have not seen the administrators pay a price for their failures.
That’s part of the problem, the administrators can criticise the players but when the players hit back, all of a sudden he gets kicked out. Administrators should just stick to administration and forget about players. But the administrators want to be part of everything, which is of no use to the development of the game.
With T20 leagues mushrooming in the last 10 years, a lot of West Indies cricketers are turning into freelancers. Is that a concern?
It is. Why? Because of the dictatorial style of the administrators. The administrators should remember it’s the players who make administrators and not the other way around. That is the issue we have in the region: too many personalities at the very top. I want to warm them, that the real pioneers of West Indies cricket are the ones who have gone on the field and won things and given administrators the opportunity to administrator. Until they know their place, we will continue to have confrontations.
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