Regarded as one of the greatest and most aggressive batsmen of all time, Sir Vivian Richards career is an impressive knock. In his second game against India he smashed an incredible 192 not out. From there he quickly established an unrivalled reputation on the international cricket scene, scoring 8,540 runs in his 121 test matches and becoming the first West Indian to score 100 centuries in first class cricket. But if he had not had role models “of our colour” when he was young, Sir Viv might not have made it to such heights.
Speaking to Mark Ella for NITV’s Awaken program, Sir Viv said his role models were all-powerful figures who “paved the way in a big way for what you wanted to achieve as a youngster”.
In a time when casual racism was commonplace, he drew on inspiration from his father, who also played international cricket, along with prominent African American leaders, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Mohammed Ali.
"I believe when someone denies you the right as an individual to live regardless of whatever colour, creed or race, that to me is extreme"
“All these guys were of an inspirational force… people of our colour. In that part of the world, I guess, (they) had a hard time in trying to achieve and get to where they wanted to get too... You see people of your colour rising to such heights, you know, that to me was an inspirational factor on some of the stuff I wanted to achieve.”
The adversity toward public figures of colour was experienced firsthand by Richards during the West Indies 1975-1976 Australian summer cricket tour. Teammate and star opening batsman Gordon Greenidge criticised the Australian team of on-field racist sledging. Nine years later, in another incident involving the Australian team, Sir Viv made a complaint over a racially motivated incident between himself and fast bowler Geoff Lawson.
In 1983, Sir Viv famously refused a blank-cheque offer to play for a West Indies squad in South Africa, in a stand against the racially segregated Apartheid regime.
“I believe when someone denies you the right as an individual to live regardless of whatever colour, creed or race, that to me is extreme, that is seriously extreme, and to me I’ve always felt that if there was something worth fighting for, it was the fact that a human being wanted to feel like a human being,” Sir Viv said.
“You would have guys who were skin heads, walking the streets, saying abusive things to you, I just felt that they didn’t know as much as I do at the time, and I felt I had maybe some trump cards where the educational factor is concerned… sometimes you’re dealt a hand of cards that you must play with. You gotta find ways of maneuvering those particular cards.”