Sir Viv: ‘Kohli is driven and that’s why he is the captain’

Legendary batsman Sir Vivian Richards discusses the upcoming Test series between India and West Indies, his favourite Virat Kohli and the importance of T20 cricket.

Former West Indies batsman Sir Vivian Richards feels the World Test Championship is a great start to involve more spectators in the longer format.   -  FILE PHOTO/ RAJEEV BHATT

Sir Vivian Richards, who is a panelist on Sony Pictures Sports Network for India’s tour of West Indies, analyses the Test series starting in Antigua on Thursday.

How do you view the forthcoming Test series? Other than Virat Kohli, who are the players you are keen to watch?

I would love to see the West Indies. Both the teams have the same kind of fireworks and the seam attack to exploit these conditions. We took on England with its firepower and we won and everyone says ‘Aah! but India has got the Bumrahs, all the Shamis and the Kumars’. So, we should be prepared to take some knocks. We got to give some, take some. And that to me would create some sort of vehemence where it is going to be competitive.

How do you look at the World Test championship?

If we speak about the point system from here, I would love to see wickets conducive to competitive cricket, where you have the bowlers in themselves who can get results and batters will have to do the best, nothing is wrong with that. Too many times we see a draw in Test matches, that’s why I believe folks may be saying ‘let’s get rid of Test match cricket because this sort of stuff is so exciting on the other side’. We should stick to this particular format because I believe you need results. It depends on who is better on that day, who has the better tactics, who handles the pace better. I think that will be a great period start. And I am hoping it starts in this series here, at home, at the Vivian Richards Stadium.

How relevant is this India-West Indies series in view of the Test championship?

I think it is a great format, if you are good enough with all the various versions that have been introduced. And to be fair, this is where I think the ODI and T20I was born. It has created a little more for the crowd to be involved, a little bit more.

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How has Test cricket evolved amid the competition it faces from T20?

It has evolved in a very big way. And to me, because of that particular foundation called Test match cricket, and all the other little versions coming to the T20, which I think is the most popular at this stage, it has given cricket an avenue. It has bought families out in a very big way, little kids too. And I think it is a great format. There are some folks who are totally in denial of T20, and I am not one at this particular point.

I am very appreciative seeing cricketers in themselves because there was a whole other work done in the past with Test match cricket and the duration of the game. But now it has taken cricket to a different level. And when I say another level, as any other sporting activity around the world, the T20 can be a competitor. And I am proud in a big way and very satisfied; having played the game and seeing the way it is at present, it is just marvelous.

Do you agree Test cricket faces a threat?

I will not want Test match cricket to disappear. I was fortunate in a big way to be around Sunil Gavaskar and all the great players, and that is why I think we have the T20. It has evolved and I believe if we need to preserve this format, we have to make sure that the point system in World Test Championship compensates for all the various activities that Test match cricket would have given you.

What kind of future do you see for cricket as a whole?

People still mention cricket legends Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. I would say in a big way that Test match cricket is the father, ODI is the mother and then we have the kids who play around so, it is a family environment. And if we enjoy family in such a huge way, we should never ever lose this family collection. Test cricket should be preserved and folks involved with the game should ensure that we do not get lost because of the excitement that we have now (in T20 cricket). I’d be very disappointed.

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Where would you place Tests between India and West Indies when you were playing?

I don’t see any difference. To me they are no different eras. In Test match cricket, there were a lot of folks who would be sorted out, if you were not equipped to deal with the challenges, you would be found out. What makes the game easier now is the umpire making a signal on you — that’s 1 or 2 for the over — and it is too predictable in my opinion, and those days, it wasn’t. So, players of today do have an advantage especially if you are a batsman.

How was it earlier?

I remember in the older days, when the batsmen didn’t have the armour; there were guys who used come out and take one and in the next delivery, that particular individual won’t be as brave as the previous delivery because of the hurt that he had but now the guys get hit, they look at the bowler and laugh, smile and are ready to go again. Nowadays, it is in the law, where the batsman would say OK that’s your lot (bouncer) for the over; that does not send the message to the public in my opinion that it is fear and that it is real. The bowlers know that 'oh I am only allowed this so…'. It makes batting sometimes just a little bit easier.

You always praise Virat. How much of yourself do you see in him?

I have a lot of respect for Virat. I see a lot of similar attitudes, we are both so passionate about our leadership, we are passionate about how our fieldsmen behave. He is driven and I have always felt that is why he is the captain. And also the respect you have that sometimes there are captains that do not quite represent why they are captain. But this guy leads from the front and I enjoy that and appreciate that. I love the passion. I made a statement once, where I had seen him on the long on boundary in a match, and it was an appeal for a leg before, he is a long way from the square. He is hands on. So, because of that you can see that this guy is involved 24/7. I just love the energy that he brings. I have sometimes been accused of being hard on my players and the other day I saw him doing the same, I thought to myself “man… yeah I have done it too”.

Sir Vivian Richards and India captain Virat Kohli.   -  FILE PHOTO/ BCCI

 

Is he a bit of you as captain?

As a captain, I would not ask a player to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do myself. And I think Virat has all these attributes. Sometimes we all get a little bit over excited. Sometimes I have been in that lane where I have rebuked my player, not in a big way. At the end of it, you sort of feel hurt about it but I think sometimes the players understand that the captain would not put him in a position or situation where the captain wasn’t comfortable himself. And this is what I appreciate about him.

What about Virat’s aggression?

To have a captain who fights and gets in the opponent's face, because that is part of the deal, is great. At times, you may be beating them with all these skills but then verbally sometimes they hurt you, and Virat is prepared to stand up. I remember those days when Indian cricket would turn one side cheek, give me the other side, and walk away. Virat has brought some spice and has changed the whole parameter. Everyone felt that India was soft and Virat stands up for what he believes in. And that to me is huge and that’s what I think leadership is all about. You can bring all your players on board, feeling that same energy, take for instance Australia, Ponting with his behavior, who won in the end. Maybe he has won for Australia even verbally, and now India is just not giving it back but making it count with talent. Having a leader like Virat tells everyone to be highly competitive. If they give it, we are going to give it back.

Do you believe Ashes is the best in terms of competition today or you would want to watch an India-Australia Test as priority?

To be fair, that is something personal. Those two teams, there is much more substance than that in world cricket. That is something to do with the Englishmen and the Australians. And there are times when you will hear some of these individuals speak about the ashes (‘oh the ashes’ *excitement*). There is lot more cricket to be played here, much more high profile games to be played in terms of beating the best teams in the world rather than two teams going at it. Yes we all appreciate that but there is a bigger picture in my opinion.