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Thread: Richards The Perfectionist - A Genius of His Generation - Imran Khan

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    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    Richards The Perfectionist - A Genius of His Generation - Imran Khan

    Someone said the other day that Viv Richards is overrated on this forum and I was shocked to read it, How can someone as good as Sir IVA Richards be over-rated ? Not only one watched him in the 80s but also heard and read what his contemporaries and legends of the game had to say about him. So I started to look for a piece that was written by Imran Khan , One of the best fast bowlers of Sir Richards' time, who wrote this around the time Viv Retired .

    After much research I was able to locate it on CricInfo and here is this piece in full :-

    Richards The Perfectionist - A Genius of His Generation - Imran Khan (Pakistani Cricketer, Oct 1993)

    I was privileged to bowl to some of the greatest batsmen during my 21-year international career. Each had some outstanding qual- ities that made them so successful. Sunil Gavaskar had the most compact defence and managed his in- nings better than any other batsman of his time. Javed Miandad and Allan Border were great accumulaters and, like Gavaskar un- derstood the art of making runs. Gordon Greenidge had an orthodox defence, yet when it came to attack was devastating. Ian Chappell was best in a crisis, pos- sessing mental strength, while his brother Greg was a powerful driver off the back foot. Barry Richards was the most orthodox batsman of my time, who never seemed out of balance and played his strokes with the minimum of effort. Zaheer Abbas was the best timer of the ball.

    Compared to Vivian Richards, however, all those were mere mor- tals. He was the only true genius of my time. He never had the defence of Gavaskar or the balance and poise of Barry Richards but the Almighty had gifted him with reflexes that no other had. These lightning reflexes enabled him to get into position so quickly that bowlers never quite knew what length to bowl to him. His other strength was that he combined timing with brute force. Zaheer Abbas, Barry Richards or Majid Khan were great timers of the ball but on slow wickets, where the ball did not come to the bat, they were neutralized. Viv Richards could be devastating on all types of surfaces. Because of these unique qualities of extraordinary reflexes and the combination of power with timing, Viv Richards could get away with a faulty batting technique. He would commit himself on the front foot much too early yet he was gifted enough to move on to the back foot and still play a stroke with time to spare.

    In 1976, I had an opportunity to bowl to the two great players of the time, Viv Richards and Greg Chappell. Both were predom- inantly front-foot players but the difference was that while I could surprise Greg Chappell with a bouncer, it was completely wasted on Richards. No matter how much I disguised the bouncer he still had time to lean back and hit it over midwicket. He would come so far on the front foot that it was virtually impossible to get him lbw with my wicket-taking delivery, the inswinger. I could only command respect from him when a few years later I perfected the leg- cutter. Richards was the only batsman who took on fast bowlers and des- troyed them. Sheer pace was cannon fodder for him. Because of his tremendous reflexes he was the best hooker of my time. Con- sequently, pace bowlers had a very small margin of error.

    In World Series Cricket from 1977 to 1979 all the top batsmen, with perhaps the exception of Gavaskar and Geoff Boycott, were on show. Never were so many fast bowlers gathered in one country at the same time. Many batsmen were injured and helmets began to be worn for the first time. The only batsman to take on the fast bowlers was Viv. All the others just tried to survive. I admired him because he loved challenges. The bigger the oc- casion, the more he loved it. The more demanding the occasion, the harder he tried. And often, when there were no challenges, he would entertain the crowd and get out rather than play to im- prove his average. This is why, for me, statistics are meaningless. They can nev- er reflect the true genius of Viv Richards. Had he wanted, he could easily have scored twice as many Test runs as he did. There were times when his 60s and 70s were far more useful to his team than big 100s scored by others.

    In the 1980 match against England at Old Trafford, he scored a 60 so violent that it shattered the confidence of England's main strike bowler, Bob Willis. Richards' strategy was simple: he would come in at No. 3 and launch an all-out offensive against the opposition's main strike bowlers. It was not uncommon to see a one-day field setting shortly after the fall of the first wicket on the first morning of the Test. He never used to rely on his defence. Instead, he would put the bowlers on the defensive. Once he had achieved that, he would relax and pick off runs. His onslaught was of enormous benefit to his team. It would demoralise the opposition's strike bowlers and take the pressure off his team. His innings never followed the pattern like, for instance, those of Gavaskar and Boycott. The last two would get themselves in, pick off the bad balls adn defend themselves against the good ones. They would also know the bowlers they wanted to score off and the ones they had to keep out. If there is a pattern with Richards it ws the complete opposite to that of Gavaskar and Boycott. He would take on the strike bowlers and try to hit everything, including the good-length deliveries, then suddenly decide to become defensive and start harmless half-volleys. Then, as if he had enough rest, he would resume the offensive. I felt that he was never as effective at No. 5 as he was at No. 3.
    When he took over the captaincy, No. 5 was even more of a pressure position for him and since he did not have a strong de- fence he would at times fall between two stools. As an all-round fielder, I felt he was again the best of my time. He could catch and throw as well as anyone. Often with his quick reflexes he would run out batsmen from midwicket when they had backed up too far. His strategy as a captain was straightforward: to lead from the front. But as with Gary Sobers, the problem was that a genius always struggles to deal with mere mortals. They also make less use of their brain, and function more on instinct. He could get impatient with his team-mates who could not live up to his high standards. His explosive temper would put them under pressure when things were not going well. As long as he was a genius, the players accepted it, but after 1988, as often happens in life when the power of a strong individual begins to wane the discontent began to surface.

    His personality was a bit more complex. To understand it fully one must read C.L.R. James's book Beyond A Boundary. He epitom- ises the West Indian who, through sport, wanted to dispel the sense of inferiority suffered by blacks in the Caribbean through years of colonialism. Therefore, the No. 1 rivals for him were England and he took great pride in establishing supremacy over there. The second most important were Australia, mainly because of the humiliation suffered by the West Indies from Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee in the 1975-76 series. Not that he spared other nations. He was the most competitive cricketer I played against. I found him shy, and to cover it he would appear arrogant at times. I also found him to be tense at the beginning of his innings. To cover it up he would exaggerate his swagger and put on a snarl. When he became captain he had the pressure to preserve Clive Lloyd's record of West Indian invincibility and to protect his own legendary status. Because of this, he became more prone to outbursts, never more visible than on England's last Caribbean tour. I know it is the most difficult decision for any sportsman to know when to leave and it is always sad to see geniuses reduced to the level of mere mortals. Romantically, I would have like to have seen Viv Richards leave cricket in 1988. Since then, although he played some great innings, the reflexes were not as sharp and playing fast bowlers off the back foot, he became much more vulnerable. Sportsmen often hang in there because they feel they do not have a better alternative, even though they are way past their prime. Although he has said that he would consider offers to play for a new county after Glamorgan, my suggestion to Viv is not to fall into the trap and do something like go into politics in Antigua. For me, he remains the greatest batsman of my generation. The one stroke I will always remember was in a one-day match in Aus- tralia in 1981 when he advanced down the wicket at Thomson, at his fastest and armed with a new ball. He smashed a short ball from him to the mid-on fence.

    http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/ci/c...ory/60019.html

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    Global Moderator Fusion's Avatar
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    Great article, thanks for posting it! I specially agree with the following:

    "The bigger the oc- casion, the more he loved it. The more demanding the occasion, the harder he tried. And often, when there were no challenges, he would entertain the crowd and get out rather than play to im- prove his average. This is why, for me, statistics are meaningless. They can nev- er reflect the true genius of Viv Richards. Had he wanted, he could easily have scored twice as many Test runs as he did. There were times when his 60s and 70s were far more useful to his team than big 100s scored by others."

    Richards is my favorite non-Pakistani cricketer of all-time. To me, he's second only to Bradman in the batting department.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion View Post
    Great article, thanks for posting it! I specially agree with the following:

    "The bigger the oc- casion, the more he loved it. The more demanding the occasion, the harder he tried. And often, when there were no challenges, he would entertain the crowd and get out rather than play to im- prove his average. This is why, for me, statistics are meaningless. They can nev- er reflect the true genius of Viv Richards. Had he wanted, he could easily have scored twice as many Test runs as he did. There were times when his 60s and 70s were far more useful to his team than big 100s scored by others."

    Richards is my favorite non-Pakistani cricketer of all-time. To me, he's second only to Bradman in the batting department.
    Sobers for my second best
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    International Coach adharcric's Avatar
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    Excellent article. Good work Sanz.


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    Richards, Lillee, Imran....my favs. They played and entertained with nary a thought for personal stats.
    I'd lean towards Viv as 2nd best batsman. He exuded confidence to his teammates, something which few batsmen could do.
    Sobers came in later down the order, after Kanhai, Lloyd, Butcher had weakened the bowling.
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    the best I have seen
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    RTDAS pasag's Avatar
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    Excellent article, great find Sanz. Another reason why people commenting on players they haven't seen play, solely based on statistics is so very flawed.
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    A Must View Clip of richards who here was alomst at end of International career.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9lRNXqtLpA


    This inning describes what Imran said about Richards all out attack in start of his innings, 100+ runs chased in 14 overs...at 3:39 his six over Covers is as un-imaginable as any thing
    Last edited by Bouncer; 27-07-2007 at 12:01 PM.
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    I even remember an atricle written in Cricketer magazine in Pakistan in 1984 in which it was said that DOn would give more in quantity but Viv would give more in quality.
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    International Coach adharcric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pasag View Post
    Excellent article, great find Sanz. Another reason why people commenting on players they haven't seen play, solely based on statistics is so very flawed.
    Agreed. Yet, it is equally flawed to deny that statistics play an important role in judging a player.

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    RTDAS pasag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adharcric View Post
    Agreed. Yet, it is equally flawed to deny that statistics play an important role in judging a player.
    Yes, it factors in to the overall judgement of a player if done correctly, which it isn't often. However, at the end of the day it's a sport not a science and there is a human element that numbers will never, ever, be able to pick up. That is why I will always rate what I can see, anecdotal evidence and the word of fellow players above statistics which should only be used to compliment the former. Just the way I see it anyways and cricket as whole, I know guys like SS and Richard might vehemently disagree with me but it's a damn shame, imo, when people start rating players and making judgements based on a quick look at their stats on cricinfo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pasag View Post
    Yes, it factors in to the overall judgement of a player if done correctly, which it isn't often. However, at the end of the day it's a sport not a science and there is a human element that numbers will never, ever, be able to pick up. That is why I will always rate what I can see, anecdotal evidence and the word of fellow players above statistics which should only be used to compliment the former. Just the way I see it anyways and cricket as whole, I know guys like SS and Richard might vehemently disagree with me but it's a damn shame, imo, when people start rating players and making judgements based on a quick look at their stats on cricinfo.
    Don't think he would tbh...stats didn't seem to matter much with his Hussain v Hayden argument
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    International Coach adharcric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pasag View Post
    Yes, it factors in to the overall judgement of a player if done correctly, which it isn't often. However, at the end of the day it's a sport not a science and there is a human element that numbers will never, ever, be able to pick up. That is why I will always rate what I can see, anecdotal evidence and the word of fellow players above statistics which should only be used to compliment the former. Just the way I see it anyways and cricket as whole, I know guys like SS and Richard might vehemently disagree with me but it's a damn shame, imo, when people start rating players and making judgements based on a quick look at their stats on cricinfo.
    Absolutely. Of course, anecdotal evidence can be severely biased or sometimes based upon strange standards (if Afridi played in 1900 and someone called him an explosive batsman who was a pleasure to watch and riled up the fans, you might just go by that and end up rating him above the equivalent of Dravid back then). Even fellow cricketers can fall prey to such things and sometimes it's a product of the times. You simply cannot deny that the essence of cricket, apart from entertainment for the masses, is to score runs and take wickets for your team's success. That said, both anecdotes and statistics should be taken with a pinch of salt.

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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pasag
    I know guys like SS and Richard might vehemently disagree with me but it's a damn shame, imo, when people start rating players and making judgements based on a quick look at their stats on cricinfo.
    I don't disagree with that at all. I think stats are massively important and probably the single most important criteria in judging a player (not the only one) but no one (least of all me) is saying a stat sheet tells you anything (it may even mislead you). You need to break it down and look much deeper.

    Let's face it, we are all biased to some degree (even, believe it or not, me). You can look at a player all you like, but he still has to score runs and take wickets. The personal opinion comes into it when comparing across eras, so unlike what some people here seem to think, I don't look at Viv's average of slightly over fifty as comparable to anything, least of all Ponting's average of 58. If you think I (or others who like stats) think of them that way, I would say you are mistaken. But if two people played roughly the same opposition and faced roughly the same type of opposition, you will have a hard time convincing me that a player who ended up averaging 21 with the ball is better than someone who averaged 29*. Simple as that.

    * Assuming you break it down by places and opposition and the difference still remains. If someone averaged 6.60 in country A but 70 everywhere else and ended up with an average of 21 cause 80% of their tests were in country A, then the guy with 29 might be better. The flip side is that you can massage the stats anyway you like, but they are the great equalizer IMO. In the end, over a player's entire prime, the stats will even out assuming there is a body of work that you are analyzing (i.e you can forgive Lillee's 3 Tests in the subcontinent, but I find it harder to look past Ponting's 8 Tests).

    In any case, I know people are going to disagree with me, but that's ok. As long as they understand what I am actually trying to say.
    Last edited by silentstriker; 27-07-2007 at 01:31 PM.
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    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silentstriker View Post
    Let's face it, we are all biased to some degree (even, believe it or not, me). You can look at a player all you like, but he still has to score runs and take wickets. The personal opinion comes into it when comparing across eras, so unlike what some people here seem to think, I don't look at Viv's average of slightly over fifty as comparable to anything, least of all Ponting's average of 58. If you think I (or others who like stats) think of them that way, I would say you are mistaken.
    No, I dont have a problem with your logic and totally understand what you are trying to say. But the main reason for starting this thread was basically to understand how/why someone thought Viv is 'Overrated' on this forum.

    He did average 50+ despite having couple very rough reasons towards the end of his career, he is rated very highly by his peers, by fans and also by those who played cricket before him. So on what basis he is 'overrated'.

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