Considered a true legend, Viv Richards mesmerised cricket fans around the world with his ability to flay the top bowlers of his day with disdainful ease. In an international career which began in November 1974, the Antiguan known for his destructive stroke-play represented the West Indies in three-hundred and eight games. During this time, he scored over fifteen-thousand runs which included a mammoth tally of thirty-five hundreds and an equally impressive list of ninety half-centuries.
Currently working as a mentor for the Pakistan Super League team Quetta Gladiators, Viv Richards spoke in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net where he reiterated his admiration of Pakistan as one of the toughest adversaries he played against, his opinion of Imran Khan's achievements for Pakistan cricket and why he feels that Ahmed Shehzad is ready to make a comeback to the Pakistan team.
By Amir Husain (18th February, 2017)
PakPassion.net : Tell us about your memories of touring Pakistan
Viv Richards : I have always felt that it doesn’t matter where the game is played as long as the game is loved itself. In Pakistan, the love for the game is inspirational to say the least. I remember clearly that we used to travel the length and breadth of the country. I can recall some names of cities which we visited like Faisalabad, Multan, Karachi and of course, Peshawar. One must remember that those were the days when the Russians had invaded Afghanistan and we could hear the vibrations from the bombs being dropped across the border when we played in Peshawar.
All in all, I have fond memories of Pakistan and I am very honoured to have some great friends from that country such as Imran Khan, the Late Wasim Raja, Javed Miandad and the squash player Jahangir Khan. These are some of the many players and adversaries in Pakistan I have a lot of respect for.
PakPassion.net : Were Pakistan the toughest competitors that you had to go up against?
Viv Richards : At the time when the West Indies were basically doing well against all the other teams of the world, there was one team that stood out more than any other in terms of the competition they provided to us. That was without doubt Pakistan as they always gave us a hard fight. If you ask why, then you don't need to look any further than the 1975 World Cup where we played against each other at Edgbaston. It literally took our last pair of Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts to take us to a nail-biting victory and get us into the final with just two balls to spare. The fact is that Pakistan have always been tough competitors and I have always appreciated that trait.
PakPassion.net : How would you rate Imran Khan as an adversary?
Viv Richards : In my mind, Imran Khan is one of the best that I have ever faced in terms of all-round ability at that time. We had the likes of Kapil Dev and Ian Botham around at that time but I felt that Imran was the best opponent. And I don’t say that because of what he was himself as a player alone. What really impressed me was what he did for Pakistan cricket as he helped his country by bringing together the best players and helping them fulfil the talent that they possessed.
PakPassion.net : The 2017 edition of the Pakistan Super League had a great start but then the corruption controversy took over. Are you satisfied with the way things have been dealt with so far?
Viv Richards : I would like to think that the PSL is back on track now. As with anything in life, there are always ups and downs and minor mishaps. But the good news is that due to the excellent and early decisions made by those in-charge of this tournament, it has taken away all the doubts which may have been in existence and I, for one, am extremely happy for that outcome. I would like to think that this tournament is as clean as any other and as clean as it can get in today’s world. The key is to root out the bad elements from any such tournament and it looks like those steps have been taken.
PakPassion.net : Whilst there are issues around this, but how great will it be for Pakistan cricket when or if the PSL final is held in Lahore?
Viv Richards : Holding the final in Lahore would be a great thing for Pakistan cricket. Such a game will go a long way in generating and rejuvenating interest in the game in Pakistan. It is my belief that there is too much talent in Pakistan and regardless of how good a team maybe in terms of ranking, they will always derive the greatest pleasure by playing in front of their home crowds. They want and need the adulation they receive from their home fans on their home soil. It’s just a pity that Pakistan are playing their cricket away from home albeit with some good support in this part of the world. However, just like the establishment, myself and everyone else involved would like to hope, this is just a temporary arrangement for Pakistan cricket. One sincerely hopes that in the long run arrangements are made such that cricket once again is played in that part of the world so everyone can enjoy it. I, for one, would have no problems in going to Pakistan as long as arrangements are in place and it would be more welcoming for us if Quetta Gladiators are in the final once again, “InshaAllah”.
PakPassion.net : How is the experience of having young and old players in the PSL looking up to you?
Viv Richards : I feel privileged to be in a position like this and for that I must thank the owner of the Quetta Gladiators, Mr. Nadeem Omar and his associates for getting me on board to be part of a wonderful bunch of individuals. And I must add that it is not just the Gladiators’ squad itself but throughout the tournament, it’s the players from other teams as well who have given me their respect. I am privileged and thankful for the fact that they look up to me in that sort of a way. I am also thankful that they have the respect for me as an individual and in turn I also respect them as well. For my part, I am sincerely looking to help everyone in the best way possible as that is my aim at the PSL.
The fact is that when you are part of the furniture as I am with the Gladiators, given my background and past record as a tough competitor, it is my duty to pass on whatever knowledge I have to others. In modern day cricket, regardless of the talent of individuals, it is about the mental side of things which is where I am happy to impart my knowledge as I do feel that was the best part of my game.
PakPassion.net : Ahmed Shehzad has been in and out of the Pakistan team but do you see a bright future ahead for him?
Viv Richards : I have been following Ahmed Shehzad’s progress for a few years now, even before he got a contract with the Gladiators. I have always been very impressed with his skills and I feel that there is a natural abundance of talent in him. Whilst he is definitely talented, what has really impressed me is how receptive he is to advice. He is a talented cricketer and very much a young man and I still believe that we haven’t seen the best of Shehzad as yet. Moreover, this year in Shehzad I have seen a commitment and a purpose which seems to say that 'I would like to be part of the Pakistan team and this is the way I will go about it'. I have seen that drive in him and I am very happy about that.
PakPassion.net : And a word on Pakistan’s new ODI captain Sarfraz Ahmed?
Viv Richards : Let me say that cricket is all about good thinkers. Now there are captains who are rather bland in their behaviour and thinking. But Sarfraz is different in the sense that he is very animated and very much involved, especially in terms of field-placings. He is a great motivator which is what you need from your leader and he seems to have all the attributes to fill that role and do justice to that position.