Lord of the pitch: Sir Viv Richards on cricket, fashion and Masaba
Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards taught the world that cricket is not a game of numbers, but also of attitude.
Significantly, the 66-year-old Caribbean's much-discussed attitude was not only confined to intimidating the best of bowlers with swagger, looks, furiously chewing gums and strokes, but also extended to what he wore off the turf and how he carried himself. Though he scored 8,540 runs at an average of 50.24 runs with 24 centuries in test matches and 6,721 runs in 187 one day internationals at an average of 47, Richards has become immortal for the way he scored rather than how many he did.
Indulge caught up with the legend on a winter morning in Kolkata when he came on a promotional tour of The American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine, of which he is the brand ambassador.
You are now an ambassador for American University of Antigua, quite different from being a cricketer?
I’m batting in a different direction now. It’s great to be a part of such a good initiative. The College of Medicine, is a part of Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) and it’s great to work with Manipal group, and spread word about our university’s education programmes.
On the field the world has equated Viv Richards with style, what's your style quotient off field?
I am pretty casual in style and love comfortable clothing that brings out the cool Caribbean in me. On our first visit to Kolkata, we went out for dinner on Christmas Eve to a club and were turned away since I didn't have a tie on. The colonial stigma was still very much present. The guy there offered me a tie to put on, but I turned it down and went somewhere else instead. I'm not a stickler for ties and I feel those, who emphasise on ties, they wear it to reflect their ambitions. We have clothes which are comfortable to us, why should I be following others?
Has Masaba designed anything for you? Does she occasionally advise you on what you should wear?
I had a few shirts from her, but I'm still waiting for some more stuff that she was supposed to make for me. She gets me all those polo T-shirts because I am never overly dressed.
She thinks I should have a collection, but I still feel I need to get a little older and skinnier to fit into some of the stuffs she makes.
Have you ever tried any Indian ethnic wear?
I loved donning the Maharaja look with those funny looking pointed shoes (Nagrai) for a Christmas party thrown by Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) and because of the size of my feet I had to force my way into it.
Have you seen Neena Gupta’s (mother to his daughter Masaba) latest act in Badhai Ho Badhai?
I heard it's a huge hit. I haven't watched it yet, but certainly it's in my must-watch list.
Which Indian foods do you love?
I love pomphret fish and malai curry, shagalu, potatoes and spinach and also the delectable yellow daal. We have Indian restaurants in Antigua as well and we frequently eat out.
Was chewing gums a some sort of statement for the bowlers, that you would chew them up like the gum?
I felt it was my companion since there are 11 guys on the field and you only have your partner, who's at the other end. So, chewing gum was my third buddy, it made me feel very relaxed and comfortable and it felt pretty cool to be chewing and playing. So yes, it played a huge part in my cricketing life.
Do you still chew gums?
Not any more (laughs).
Did your swagger on field become a part of your persona?
That's the way I live. I'm a confident guy, who doesn’t get intimidated by people quite easily. Some find me to be the most arrogant guy in the world, but I'm confident about myself as a person. That's the way I have lived my life, it's pretty similar to the way I bat.
Do you think values are the ultimate fashion statement of an individual? Are your children carrying on that legacy of values?
It is, especially for some of us it’s everything. If someone thinks differently then he or she might be coming from somewhere I’m totally not in touch with.
Of course, and I hope they continue to do that. Recently Masaba had some issues , the social media especially can get nasty at times, so I tell her, “You got to be a strong individual, give respect and hope that you get that back and if you don’t, don’t be afraid to make your statement as an individual, just stand up for what you believe in”.
How do you spend your free time?
I don’t play cricket anymore, I am into golf now. Golf balls are not as big as the balls we used to play but they’re interesting and stand there to be hit. I like swimming and fishing, too.