Image courtesy © PA Photos
Many of us have true passion in watching sports and games and see our favourite stars performing. But many sports and games are dangerous than we think. Many players will follow and pounce on a player in Rugby which may lead to injuries. Inadvertent kicks can be dangerous in football. Hockey players hit the ball more than ninety miles per hour. In many cases nothing will happen. But there are certain rare cases where the players suffer injuries and sometimes it can be serious.
In cricket during old days, bowlers were allowed to bowl more bouncers than now. When helmets were not introduced it was very tough for many players to go for a pull shot or a hook shot. Many bowlers had used that as a tactic to curtail the run flow and sometimes to intimidate the batsmen. Afterwards, helmets were introduced during the late seventies. Some players used to wear it regularly and some others opted not to wear it. But Viv Richards is one player who was very aggressive against genuine fast bowlers after opting not to wear a helmet. When Richards celebrated his sixtieth birthday I was reading an article about him and was so eager to know his reason for not wearing a helmet. As usual I was at the receiving end for the untimely business, though my parents didn’t know exactly what I was doing. Because many of my colleagues were busy searching for a job after applying for membership from a professional body, and I was engaged in some other serious stuffs.
About not wearing helmet Richards said, “I never wanted to make the bowlers feel that they are intimidating me”. Also that is the way I wanted to play. Richards had the ability to handle any fast bowler at will when he was in form. Many times he had pulled and hooked very quick bowlers both on the front foot and back foot, and in his entire career he never wore a helmet. He would have faced the fearsome Caribbean bowlers during practice sessions. Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall were a deadly combo on any track with pace and bounce.
Richards had dominated fast bowlers means those guys who were really quick. They were not “medium fast bowlers” or “fast medium bowlers” and they were “fast bowlers” who could deliver eighty five to ninety miles per hour on a consistent basis and sometimes more than that which can be very dangerous for the batsmen in the absence of a helmet. In many matches we can see him pulling and hooking very quick bowlers and it can be devastating if he misses the shot. He himself said in an interview that one bad mistake will be the end of it and it is similar to that of a driver driving a high speed car and making one bad mistake. So it is not his talent but his courage without any protection along with talent is what stands out. Many legendary players had rated him as the best batsman they had witnessed ever.
During old days there were no speed guns to measure the bowling speed. So many times the bowlers had exceeded the speed than recorded. Many players felt Jeff Thomson had exceeded the hundred mile mark many times, though there is no official record for all of them. Thomson and Dennis Lillee formed a deadly pair of fast bowling. Viv Richards had faced all of them without a helmet. I remember in a very old video Bob Willis said the English players had no clue when Richards was batting against them in a match and Willis said to the players, make him English.
Those players who had played during the olden days had shown the real character when they literally risked their lives. I doubt in the near future a legend like him with so much courage, talent and determination will come and such a camaraderie with the above features is also a distant dream.
(Boycott wrote this before Hughes died. Like all of us he was also hoping for his recovery)
Written on December 2014