Viv Richards: ‘Twenty20 has given cricket the kiss of life’

“All formats can co-exist. The youngsters should know what cricket represents. Why the 50 overs game was started and why the Twenty20 version has come in,” days Viv Richards..

Sir Vivian Richards, the master batsman of yesteryear, who was in Mumbai recently, spoke with clarity of thought about the current state of cricket.   -  PTI

Vivian Richards had a trademark swagger. And that itself made him quite an intimidating batsman. This was even before he took guard and surveyed the field. He made his debut against India in 1974, scored his maiden Test century at the Feroz Shah Kotla and thereafter went on to amass runs against Indian bowlers. And like many West Indians, he became quite popular. Easily one of the greatest batsmen of modern times, Richards looks as fit as one can be at 65. He had been invited for the Goa Fest as a guest speaker by the entertainment, media and communication company, ITW Playworx, and he spoke many things cricket, including his view that the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been instrumental in keeping the interest alive in traditional Test match cricket.

Excerpts from an interview:

Question: The IPL is in its 10th year. What has it done for world cricket?

Answer: In my opinion, the IPL has sent a great message. I think it came at a time when Test match cricket was on a downward spiral. What it has created more than anything else is the family sort of environment around the matches. It’s just been phenomenal. Twenty20 itself has given the game, on an overall basis, the kiss of life.

Almost all the countries have embraced Twenty20. There is the Caribbean Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League, Pakistan Super League and two more big leagues are to be established in South Africa and England...

As I said the IPL and Twenty20 have given a kiss of life to the game itself. But in my opinion, certain individuals are jumping the gun and making a false start. The governing body must step in to provide the right balance. All formats can co-exist. The youngsters should know what cricket represents. Why the 50 overs game was started and why the Twenty20 version has come in. It’s encouraging to hear Virat Kohli say: “I still enjoy playing Test match cricket.” There is nothing wrong with them wanting to play the Twenty20, but they should be told what the game was before Twenty20. They should know what the bigger picture is and what the great game has given to Twenty20. If the governing body can provide the stimulus for this, then the youngsters will get to the bigger picture (of first class and Test match cricket).

Do you think the administrators should make first class and Test cricket a little more lucrative? The franchises tend to pay more than most cricket Boards...

I would like to see the game go ahead. We cannot remain stagnant. We all know what stagnant water does. Twenty20 is good for the game. But as I said, the youngsters should know what cricket actually represents. There have been many great players who made the game what it represents and they should not be lost. Sometimes you could have the situation of putting the cart before the horse wherein these youngsters would not be thinking what the game represented before; what would have given the Twenty20 its birth... we all saw that in the magnificent series between India and Australia. It was exciting and thrilling. And so, rather than the youngsters saying, “Let me get into the IPL,” they should at least have an understanding of what the great game of Test cricket in itself is. They should understand, why we got to 50-50, why we got to Twenty20; this understanding would send a greater message. When I say put the cart before the horse, it means getting into the Twenty20 tournaments forgetting about what the great game itself represents.

Without success in first class cricket one cannot be successful in Twenty20?

Playing first class cricket will send a greater message which I think will help preserve why we have Twenty20 at present.

Ravi Shastri said recently that for Test cricket to survive, you need a cash cow and that’s the Twenty20?

To be fair, we can come to all sorts of conclusions. But to me it (playing first class cricket) would send the same message as college basketball and college football in America where the guys go to college first before they become full-fledged professionals. First class and Test cricket is the birthplace of the game.

The focus in India in the last 12 months was on Test match cricket. India played 13 Tests at home.

Yes...There were some exciting matches and series. You still have great interest in the Ashes, phenomenal in terms of bums on seats; you see the spectators come to the venue itself. If one can get the governing body at the highest level to stimulate the process, then the kids would be introduced to the game, seeing what cricket actually represents and the great players who made a serious contribution to the sport.

There are some fabulous shots played by batsmen in Twenty20?

Yes, the reverse sweep... a batsman plays it off the first ball. But in order to do that without fear with the ability they have today, that I think is of great help. 

The West Indies won the Twenty20 World Cup in Kolkata. Has it triggered interest for cricket in the Caribbean?

The Twenty20 win has created that environment and the youngsters want to play the game. Normally youngsters want to play for their country, but ever since Twenty20 came, some are diverting their interest in the “cart” before the “horse.”

Vivian Richards pulls one from Erapalli Prasanna in the Delhi Test of the 1974-75 series between West Indies and India. It was Richards’ debut series and he scored his maiden Test hundred in Delhi. Youngsters, who are used to instant cricket now, should be made aware of the history of cricket, especially the Test matches, so that they are aware of the larger picture, says Richards.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

Has West Indies cricket declined because it does not have a clutch of fast bowlers? Only Jerome Taylor has taken 100-plus wickets in the last 16 years.

The quality that we had before is certainly missing. But the question that should be asked to the administrators themselves is are they doing the right thing to make sure that these individuals come through on a regular basis. I would say ‘No.’ 

We have issues with our administrators. We have players defecting... they don’t want to represent their country any more. They go for the easiest process... all the leagues around the world. There is too much infighting in terms of players versus administration. So there must be a reason for individuals to divert their interests. There is a huge problem there. 

There are personality issues at administrators’ level which have gone to an all-time high in my opinion. They should start governing the game properly for which they are elected. In our society there is no one who has respect, if he has failed to do something... and so why not eliminate them from the whole administrative process? There has to be a change. I don’t know, if that’s all because of money. But it’s been going on for too long. No one is willing to say: “Okay we have failed in this and that, let me resign.” I guess sometimes, that it’s too attractive and lucrative for individuals at that particular level to let go.

Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo... they should have been regulars in the West Indies side?

They have had issues. We have seen the players go and not the administrators.

The ICC has decided to empower the umpires to send off players for violence on the field — from club matches to international cricket — from October 2017. Yellow and red cards are to be introduced?

I think I have an issue about that. With some of the foul things that have been said to one another, in particular reference to race, I think the administrators of the game have to step in. It’s not about a red card... these individuals should be dealt with in a harsh way. There have been racist calls in soccer... I don’t think it will go that far in cricket. 

The India-Australia series had its rough times...

To be fair with some of the stuff I saw with my own eyes clearly... I would not say “cheat,” but “naughty,” and could be warranting not the yellow card, but the red card. I saw the Steve Smith incident, looking at the dressing room for advice (on DRS) and that’s naughty, when we know what exactly the rules are about.

The ICC and its chairman Shashank Manohar have resolved to the “equity, good conscience, common sense and simplicity” theme to share the ICC gross revenue over a period of eight years...

The ICC chief Shashank Manohar’s new revenue model for cricket-playing nations should be supported, feels Richards.   -  PTI

 

“Well, to be fair, if that’s what he (Manohar) thinks, then I think that may be a new avenue for us to try and explore... and in order to maintain that level of fairness, that’s not a bad idea. If it can be achieved, good luck and hopefully he can do it. 

The West Indies as a strong team used to help improve the financials of the countries that it visited. It is not in the same situation now. Every member must be given as much help as possible. You are going to have a level playing field. To me that’s huge. And he (Manohar) should be given all necessary support in trying to achieve it. And this would send a message that we are all part of this great game. I would applaud him for that.