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Power, panache, presence and pride; this phenomenon had it all.

It would be safe to say that no other batsman, save the indomitable Donald George Bradman, made bowlers' hearts wobble even as he walked in to bat. Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was a champion cricketer who was determined to assert his superiority on the field of play with the most outrageously offensive methods. It must be clarified that the methods he employed were well within the rules of the game, and delightful to watch, unless you were a firm supporter of the team at the receiving end.

The son of a prison warden was only the second Antiguan after his legendary contemporary Andy Roberts to represent the West Indies in Test cricket. Richards flew to India with Clive Lloyd's team in 1974-75, after making waves with his batting in the Caribbean. His remarkable batting talent had already prompted the Somerset County Cricket Club in England to offer him a contract.

Richards was expected to make the most of an 'apprenticeship', but injuries to some frontline players resulted in his being picked for the Tests. He scored 192 in the second Test of the series at Delhi and never looked back. West Indies' victory in the inaugural World Cup final in 1975 was shaped by Richards' quicksilver fielding as much as it was by Lloyd's murderous hundred. Richards ran out Alan Turner and the renowned Chappell brothers at critical stages of the match. The enormity of his contribution in the field can be judged from the fact that the Australians fell short by only 17 runs.

Richards then had a torrid time on the hard and bouncy pitches in Australia on West Indies' 1975-76 tour of that country. His lack of form led to a diffident attitude, and he was shaken enough to seek the help of a psychologist. The results were staggering. He rediscovered his run-hunger in the fifth Test of that series and set out to make the year 1976 his own. He plundered almost 2000 runs in that calendar year, more than 800 of them on the 1976 tour of England. Richards' 291 in the final game at the Oval was his highest Test score.

His extraordinary career that ended in 1991 witnessed several such stirring feats. His 189 in a one-day international against England in 1984 was the highest individual score in a limited-overs game until Pakistani Saeed Anwar surpassed it in 1997. But even Anwar himself will agree that Richards' knock was the better of the two. His onslaught on the English bowlers made watchers pity the ball. Two years later, he annihilated the same team to score a Test hundred in only 56 balls. This remains the fastest Test hundred of all time.

His technique was entirely original, yet quintessentially West Indian. Like several West Indian cricketers before him, he benefited from the penchant of senior cricketers in the Caribbean to allow talent to express itself without being constricted by the intricacies of technique. He treated the game like a battle that had to be won; the bowler as an opponent who had to be subjugated, and in the process, humiliated.

Richards' consistency with the bat in official international cricket and Packer's World Series Cricket in the late 1970s induced the selectors to elevate him to the vice-captaincy in 1980. As a one-drop batsman, Richards was the most important component of an outstanding West Indies team led by Clive Lloyd, which was ruling world cricket. Lloyd retired from international cricket in 1985 and the inevitable happened. Viv Richards performed the captain's job so splendidly that he ended up being one of the few captains not to have lost a single series at the helm.

Richards became a role-model to an entire generation of prospective cricketers that grew up in the 1980s. They observed him keenly and made intense efforts to emulate his style and passion for tearing bowling attacks apart. Among those who watched him very closely was a boy by the name of Sachin Tendulkar.

Richards has had terms as Chairman of Selectors and even coach of the West Indies team since his retirement. However, he and his erstwhile colleagues of the 1970s and 1980s have suffered from a bizarre reluctance on the part of the West Indies Cricket Board to involve them in the process of reviving cricket in the Caribbean. With Gordon Greenidge, one of Richards' teammates, having become a selector, it does appear that things are improving.

Nothing will give the Prince of Antigua as much joy as the return of the West Indies team to victorious ways against quality opposition.

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