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An eagle of the Caribbean

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Viv_Richards_West_Indies_CricketIn 1968, an exciting war thriller set flame to movie screens across the world. Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton led an elite unit of Commandos who daringly made their way into a Bavaria crawling with Nazis to rescue a captured officer in ‘Where Eagles Dare’.

There’s so much more to an eagle than simply preying on its quarry. Beyond the magnetic pull of its regal anatomy, the cunning glint in its eyes and the sheer speed at which it dives, it’s the sheer confidence of the bird, an almost subliminal hint of invincibility about it, that makes it a scorcher in the skies.

Back in the 1970s & 80s, an eagle soared through Caribbean skies

This eagle was such that, to this day, tales of its flights are recounted as inspiration for conquering greater heights. To its mind, nothing ever seemed daunting. No pinnacle appeared unconquerable and no other bird of prey came close to impinge on its wingspan.

Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards is flying high and steady at 64. March 7 marks the completion of his 65th year, another spent in the lofty clouds for this eagle, whose manner has for decades been uplifted by his cool, undeniable charisma.

As royal and imperial as Richard Burton’s Mark Anthony in the epic Cleopatra, Viv Richards cut a daunting figure on cricket’s luminous circuit.

He wasn’t just a cricketer. He exuded an air of invincibility that echoed in whichever team he was in. Hell, the Windies weren’t actually a team when he was there. They were an army of giants, boasting the likes of Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, and Michael Holding and many more of yesteryear’s merciless victors.

They were freak forces of nature, hardened by a resolve to illuminate cricket with milestone achievements. They were out there to settle scores against white domination, so much a part of brutal colonialism and slavery.

Glorious winning streaks, defeating everyone from England to Australia

And at the heart of West Indies’ triumphs, attained regularly with the ease of a lion swatting aside a rat from its path, was Sir Viv Richards’ batting. Quite like Clint Eastwood, a cool cat of utmost elegance, Viv thumped blistering cannons into his opponents’ dugout.

During his reign, dominant in an era known for being brutally competitive yet absurdly honest, quite an anomaly compared to the commercialism of modern cricket, it won’t be right to say Viv merely collected 15000 runs.

He broke the spirits of his opponents.

Richards doesn’t hold a record. He owns a record store of cricketing achievements.

121 Tests. 8540 runs. 24 hundreds (with a top score of 291) & 45 fifties.

What’s missing?

In front of the brute power of the Antiguan – who would make light work of spin and pace alike – Richards’ batting average often escapes the eye.

At 50.23, Sir Viv wasn’t just a destroyer of the red and the white ball alike. Rather, he was a luminary whose key to success was the consistency with which he took out everyone- Botham, Hadlee, Kapil Dev, Lillee.

Wanted! A current West Indian cricketer with Sir Viv’s DNA

Given the downward spiral of Windies cricket, it seems no inspiration from past legends can soothe the ache that West Indies have become.

The present day narratives, marked by abysmal conduct of the WICB, the fleeing of national talent to cricketing leagues world over, the mediocrity of failings in international competitions- it’s all become so miserable that the comforting symphony that Richards’ bat conjured looks either too good to be true or a dream like scenario that exited many centuries before when gods ruled cricketing fields and when there was no place for mortals.

But even then, the current West Indian cricketer should realize that Viv too was all brain, brawn and muscle. Flesh and blood. Will above brute power. Purpose above plaudits.

Greatness isn’t a habit. It is cultivated. The moment Windies attempt to think that way- one could say- the hurt from watching their cricket deteriorate for Sir Richards, Lloyd, Sir Sobers would begin to heal.

 

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