Home Sports Sir Viv Richards talks racism, rubbing shoulders with Botham and Hurricane Higgins and Scotland’s T20 World Cup chances

Sir Viv Richards talks racism, rubbing shoulders with Botham and Hurricane Higgins and Scotland’s T20 World Cup chances

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Sir Viv Richards in his swashbuckling heyday with the West Indies

The king is in his castle. Or, more precisely, a trendy bar on Duke Street in Glasgow. Sir Vivian Richards awaits due tribute from hundreds of fans.

He spends his time making sly, dignified, and downright shocking proclamations to the masses of the press. An audience with the 72-year-old cricket legend is as fascinating as his performances for the West Indies as a batsman so arrogant that he could have reached the crease of a steed and spurned his cap for a hat with a jaunty plume.

Of course, there is more to man. He stood up to racism, looking at it with the same cold gaze that chilled fast bowlers.

He talks about racism in cricket with a force reminiscent of his coverage campaign. But there is also mischief in the king. He can talk about fish dinners in Forthill, salmon fishing with Ian Botham and a round of golf with Alex Higgins. He may also pay tribute to an Airdrie supporter who was his friend and died at his home in Antigua.

There is a lot to take in as Sir Viv prepares to speak on stage to help publicize tourism to Antigua, the island where Scotland will play in the World T20 in June in a stadium named after the great man.

The most pressing issue is racism in cricket and he is slightly optimistic about the progress being made following scandals in the game in Scotland and Yorkshire. But he knows what it was like before. He was there.

Sir Viv Richards in his swashbuckling heyday with the West Indies

Richards (right) speaking at an event in Glasgow to promote tourism in Antigua

Richards (right) speaking at an event in Glasgow to promote tourism in Antigua

“I hope cricket continues. Who needs this in regards to any sport we are playing? The way I see it, as long as you’ve been given life, then you’re the same,” he says.

“I’ve experienced that,” he says of racist abuse. I was at Headingley and I was on the ground when they threw banana skins at you.

‘I will share this with you. We were playing a semi-final match against Yorkshire at Headingley. Crowded crowd. I understand him as a black guy in the crowd, a section of the crowd. I remember Yorkshire got a total and we were in trouble, but I started to do well. I stole one and took the lid off. For some reason the referee didn’t listen to him.

‘I am an individual who always walked, always walked. Because of the nature of the fans, I decided to stay there, man. He was about 60 and I stole it and David Bairstow (Yorkshire goalkeeper) was going crazy and saying, “You bloody cheater.” ‘I told him: “You guys are fine. This is not for you. This is for the fucked up fans you have sitting in the crowd.”

‘We won the match. I went bang, bang. Game, set and match. They had a lynch mob waiting for me at the back of Headingley. That didn’t bother me. But sometimes that’s how it happened. ‘

There is another story. He remembers speaking to a Yorkshire cricketer whom he “once respected”. Richards refuses to mention his name because the person is dead. But he wonders why Yorkshire didn’t have many players of Asian descent.

‘This guy turned to me and said, “Can you imagine, Viv, how stinky the curry room would be on a Sunday?” That tells you. However, he is pleased with the changes made in Yorkshire. “I’m glad to see where they are now,” he says. he denies with the head. ‘Sport doesn’t need any of that. Life in general doesn’t need it.”

He does not comment on any issues in Scotland, probably because the controversy of institutionalized racism in Cricket Scotland, revealed in an independent report two years ago, is not an issue he knows well, if at all.

The legend makes his last Test appearance at the Oval in 1991.

The legend makes his final Test appearance at the Oval in 1991.

Richards with his great friend Ian Botham enjoying a day at the beach

Richards with his great friend Ian Botham enjoying a day at the beach

Her weary memory of the abuse and gentle optimism provide some context to a problem that is being addressed, if not overcome.

Richards also retains the ability to surprise, whether in stories of tragedy or triumph. When he is asked about Glasgow, he immediately remembers that “a good friend” was from Airdrie and a Diamonds fan. The joy provoked by this revelation suddenly turns into silence when he adds: “he is no longer with us.”

Richards adds: ‘When I first went to Taunton, as a person coming from the Caribbean to a new environment, I decided I wanted to go to the cinema. This guy was there, he came up and introduced himself. That was it.’ The man was Peter ‘Jock’ McCombe, who was a ‘fixer’ for Richards and his friend and team-mate, Ian Botham ‘It was unfortunate the way his life ended because he passed away while on holiday in Antigua, at my house. He was only 43. He was a big fan of Airdrie. He went to one of the resorts, came back and that was it.

‘I was involved in cricket. He took care of everything we wanted to do, especially with the schedule being as busy as it can be, having a person like that was great. He was someone in life who you appreciate.

The cricket great remembers the aftermath of that sudden death. “When I got home, I remember being able to see the evidence in terms of the ambulance, etc.”

The mood changes dramatically as Richards is pressured to recall more optimistic memories of Scotland. There is the story of the match at Forthill against Forfar in July 1980. It includes a tennis match and fish dinners. Richards was called up from the first when the West Indies were in batting trouble. The latter was the emergency culinary substitute when Clive Lloyd, the West Indies captain, said his boys didn’t fancy a salad.

Richards struggles to remember precise details, but suggests that both elements are true. “That could happen,” he says of the summons from the tennis court. “Richie (Sir Richard Richardson) used to take part in these long tennis matches with me, so that might have been the case.” And the food? When told that he scored 69 and the Windies won by 80 runs, he says: “The fish dinner must have worked.”

He is equally cheerful when reminiscing about salmon fishing with Botham on the Tay and golfing with Higgins in a pro-am at St Andrews. Fishing was not a pleasure. “It was boring in the long wellies,” she says. ‘Waiting for a bite. What I enjoyed more than anything else was that when Ian caught something, it was always the best thing to eat. When you eat something someone else catches, it tastes better than your own.

And coming into contact with the chaos that was Hurricane Higgins? ‘Yes, I played with him. Oh man. God bless his soul, he was a happy guy,” he says of the Northern Irishman who died in 2010.

‘Later, because I met him, I followed his career and saw him at the pool table and saw how restless he was. It was like that on the golf course. He couldn’t sit still. He moved everywhere. He had a complex personality, but he seemed like a good man to me.

Legends Botham and Richard at a golf event in New Zealand in 2015

Legends Botham and Richard at a golf event in New Zealand in 2015

The big striker of a cricket ball, however, has found himself reprimanded by the game featuring the smaller variety. “Golf certainly humbles you,” he says. ‘You think because you’re a baseball player you can do the same thing. The ball is still so you can hit it wherever you want. You would think it would be easier but it isn’t. I have a lot of respect for golfers.

There is time to get the big man back to cricket and to the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup to be held in the West Indies and the United States in June.

He believes Scotland has a great opportunity. “It’s great to see the teams in the so-called lower divisions and see where they are at,” he says. “I think the dimension of the game has changed a lot. The introduction of T20 has given more teams (teams that are normally not attractive) the opportunity to have a day as well. If the other team does not turn up, they can have a chance. T20 gives the chance for something to happen. Teams you don’t really like can create an upset. We’ve seen it a few times where they will be able to get there. And Scotland got to Antigua beating some teams, so it’s all there. good.

‘The only thing we have to protect your boys against is that I know you make some of the best whiskey in the world here, but in Antigua. We make some of the best rums in the world. You guys have to be careful.’

In cricketing terms, the West Indies have suffered a long-term hangover from the great teams of the 1970s and 1980s that reeked of distilled genius.

“Honestly, I think we created a legacy, a serious legacy, and that legacy has deteriorated a little bit along the way,” Richards says. ‘Now we have the T20 tournaments that give us the opportunity to show our face a little more. Maybe not in Test matches. “In any limited tournament we will be fine, but we still have work to do in the long term.”

With that, the king’s court has to move forward. Another audience waits. As he rises majestically, he glimpses more than the wonderful athlete of the past. He has more than good looks.

‘Thank God for that. I am very grateful and do everything I can to stay as fit as possible. It is important. I always maintain that you look at athletes from the past and people can say: “That guy played sports” and it seems… ‘He makes an expression that suggests someone out of shape.

“I do the best I can,” he says. She always did it, whether in front of racists, fast bowlers or fish dinners. It was always more than enough.

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