West Indies legend Viv Richards has revealed the reason he never wore a helmet when facing some of the most fearsome fast bowlers the game has ever seen was that he never minded dying on the pitch.

The Master Blaster was certainly adept at sending the best deliveries of huffing bowlers crashing back into the stands.  But surely, any slight miscalculation, particularly with no restrictions yet implemented on bouncers, could have sent a 90mph delivery crashing into his skull.  Richards, however, believes the risk was simply a part of the game.

“The passion for the game I felt was such that I wouldn’t mind dying playing something that I love. If this is what I chose and I go down here, what better way is there to go,” Richards told former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson on a recent podcast.

The big West Indian was known for relying on reflex, quickness of eye, and technique to keep him out of trouble.

“I have looked at other sportsmen and women who I have a lot of respect for doing it to an extreme level. I see a guy driving a Formula 1 racing car, what could be more dangerous than that?” said Richards, to which Watson jokingly replied, “Facing 150kph without a helmet?”

Richards who scored 8540 runs in Test cricket, had a high score of 291 and averaged 50.23.  In ODIs, he scored 6721 with a highest of 189 and an average of 47.

West Indies legend Sir Vivian Richards has come on out in strong support of the decisive measures taken by the government of Antigua and Barbuda in battling the COVID-19 epidemic.

As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 19, with 2 deaths recorded so far.  In a bid to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the disease the Antigua and Barbuda government took the stringent measures, with seven-day lockdown with began on April 2.  Prior to that, the country had closed the island's ports to passenger vessels and ferries.

During the curfew, only persons who transact essential business such as to seek medical attention or to purchase essential food or medical supplies have been allowed to move freely.  The move has been criticised in some quarters as damaging to the economy, but the legendary West Indies swashbuckler was in full support of the move.

Richards compared it with a decision he made several years ago not to take part in the infamous rebel tours of South Africa, despite being offered a blank check.  He has never regretted it.

“I am one of those individuals that when I make my mind up in terms of the decision making and all that, then that’s it and that, to me, was worth much more than money,” Richards said in an interview with the Antigua Observer.

“Take for instance the decision made here by our leaders in locking the place down, that’s totally correct and people look at the economic side of things but if you don’t have life then you can’t work on the economics. So the most important thing is to preserve life and if we can do that in a collective way, we can achieve our goals,” he said.

 

Veteran cricket commentator Michael Holding has revealed that he plans to hang up his microphone very soon.

Roger Harper, the Chairman of the West Indies selectors believes the team needs many more world-class players if it is going to be able to consistently compete with the best teams in the world. He also believes the individual territories need to a better job of creating those types of players.

When the West Indies were knocked off their perch by Australia at Sabina Park in 1995, the team’s performances, at first, gradually declined and then from about 2000, it plummeted to the point where the Windies have been wallowing in a quagmire of mediocrity.

Since 2010, the West Indies have won nine Test series. They lost 20 over the same period. Counting the ODI losses would make the numbers even worse, so I won’t even get into that.

What we have seen during that period are batsmen who lack the required technique to last an hour at the crease and toothless bowling because the bowlers are incapable of maintaining the required line and length and in many cases, seem to be bowling in the absence of a clear strategy.

What I see are fundamental weaknesses in batting, bowling and fielding technique that leads me to believe that grassroots programmes are woefully inadequate.

When I watch local U15 cricket in Jamaica’s high schools, I see kids wafting their bats as if hoping to make a connection with a ball that is more often than not, off-target.

Like football, mastery of the fundamentals is essential. Back when the West Indies were kings, kids played cricket in the streets and through trial and error learned how to defend. They learned how the play the ball of their legs. They learned how to keep a bouncing ball down.

Kids don’t play cricket in the street anymore so ways have to be found to get them playing in a format that aids development while still allowing them to have fun.

I don’t think Kiddies cricket is the answer even though there is some merit to the pursuit.

What is needed in the West Indies are programmes in each of the territories, similar to those that obtain in India. Coming out of these programmes are scores of eight, nine and 10-year-old players who have already mastered the fundamentals.

Their style of play is already set, which means relatively little honing is done, while getting them to play at the very highest level. By the time they get to the under-19 level, they tend to be better than what we see in the Caribbean.

There are those who will argue that the West Indies u19 teams have done well in recent World Cups. My response to that is if you look at the next lot of players just outside the World Cup-playing batch, do you find players who are anywhere near as good and could form a second XI, performing at the same level at a World Cup?

From where I sit, the answer is no.

Each individual territory needs to be looking at how they can improve coaching levels at prep and high school under a template that defines the West Indian way. By the time they get to the u-19 or West Indies ‘B’ level, they should be ready to kick the door in, not just stare and hope someone opens it for them.

Trinidad and Tobago Red Force coach Meryn Dillion insists he is confident of keeping his job, despite the post recently being advertised by the TTCB.

The 45-year-old former fast bowler took charge of the twin-island republic team in January of last year and has done a commendable job to date.  After taking over a faltering Red Force team in the 2019 edition of the West Indies Championship, Dillon, led the team to a fourth-place finish with a record of three wins, one draw and two losses.

In the following Regional Super50 competition the Red Force went as far as the semi-finals but were defeated by the Leeward Island Hurricanes.  In this season’s edition of the West Indies Four-Day Championship, the Red Force finished second to champions Barbados Pride.  His spell in charge has, however, not been without controversy with Windies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin of throwing him out of the team and not using proper channels of communication, which hurt the team.  Ramdin officially filed a complaint with the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) but was told the matter could not be looked into until the end of the season.

With Dillon’s contract coming to an end at the end of this month, the position has been advertised.  The coach, while insisting that he was not aware the post had been tendered, is confident he will be seen as the right man for the job.

“I am quite confident. I think I am probably in a better position than anybody else to retain the job,” Dillon told Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

“Funny enough I heard about it after one of the (media) guys called me (on Thursday) morning. That’s when I found out about it, which was kind of disappointing because even if it is being advertised I would think I would be one of the first people to be notified,” he added.

Dillon said the president of the TTCB Azim Bassarath told him on Thursday that he was previously informed that the position would be advertised, he does not, however, recall that conversation.

It is April 3, 2016. Carlos Brathwaite is on strike and there is one over to go in the ICC World Twenty20 final in Calcutta.

West Indies require 19 runs to win a see-saw final that has ebbed and flowed like the nearby Hooghly River. Having recovered from a shocking start, England have a first limited-overs international trophy seemingly within touching distance.

They battled back from 23-3 to post 155-9. Having top-scored with 54, Joe Root claimed two of three early wicket to fall in West Indies' reply with his occasional off-spin.

Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo put on a 73 for the fourth wicket, yet when Andre Russell and Darren Sammy both fell to David Willey in the space of three deliveries, England were the team in charge.

After Chris Jordan managed to deny the well-set Samuels from claiming the strike at the end of the penultimate over, Ben Stokes was tasked with seeing the job through.

His previous two overs in the game had gone for eight and nine runs respectively – combine those two together and it would still be enough for Eoin Morgan’s side to be crowned champions.

Brathwaite, however, has other ideas…

 

BALL ONE: WHAT A START!

When you need so many off so few, an early maximum quickly heaps the pressure back on the bowler. 

Stokes appears to aim for a yorker but only serves up a half-volley instead, one he's shoved down leg so far that Brathwaite simply has to help the ball on its way, depositing it over the boundary at backward square leg with a flick of the wrists.

A gift. An absolute gift. Stokes should have sent it down with a bow on. West Indies now need just 13 from five.

BALL TWO: IT'S UP, UP, UP AND OUTTA HERE!

Straighter – but still in the slot from Stokes. Brathwaite manoeuvres his front foot out of the way to clear space for the bat to come through and send this one much straighter down the ground – and several metres back into a now delirious crowd inside Eden Gardens.

Stokes pulls a face in response to suggest he either feels he was not too far off target or he's just eaten something that's way too hot. Either way, he's hurting. The once-taxing equation is now down to a seriously manageable sum of seven from off four. 

Can England somehow claw this back?

BALL THREE: GOING, GOING, GONE!

No. Braithwaite does it again as the noise levels inside the ground rise even higher.

It's a similar stroke to the last maximum, only this time the right-hander manages to send his home run over long off. There is a brief moment after it departs the bat that you wonder if it is going to clear the fielder, like a golfer who initially fears he's taken the wrong club and could end up in the water. In the end, though, the man in the deep just watches it sail over him.

West Indies require just one to win and the rest of the squad are now off their feet out of the dugout and ready to start celebrating. 

BALL FOUR: WEST INDIES WIN! WEST INDIES WIN!

Forget knocking it into a gap to pinch a single. Brathwaite winds up again as he gets another ball on his pads, allowing him to finish the job in style.

As it sails into the sky to such an extent towards mid wicket that air traffic control may need to get involved to help find a landing spot, the hero of the over stretches out his arms as team-mates rush out to the middle. What initially seemed a seriously tough challenge completed with room to spare.

"Carlos Brathwaite ​– remember the name!" Ian Bishop booms on commentary. Few who have witnessed it – whether live at the ground or on television – will forget it, least of all poor Stokes.

West Indies complete one of the most stunning heists in limited-overs cricket to be crowned T20 champions for a second time.

Ben Stokes must have endured nightmares over this day four years ago, when Carlos Brathwaite smashed West Indies to T20 World Cup glory in such dramatic fashion.

Gregg Popovich also has bad memories of April 3, having been ejected only 63 seconds into the San Antonio Spurs' NBA clash with the Denver Nuggets last year.

Lionel Messi scored two penalties when Barcelona beat Milan to reach the Champions League semi-finals on this day back in 2012.

We take a look back at April 3 in sporting history.

 

2016 - 'Remember the name' - Brathwaite goes berserk

Stokes has had plenty to celebrate in the past year, but the England all-rounder endured a horror show at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Windies all-rounder Brathwaite was the star of the show, blasting Stokes for four sixes off the first four balls of the final over to ensure his side became the first to win two World T20 titles.

Commentator and former West Indies bowler Ian Bishop belted out "remember the name" when Brathwaite sealed a stunning victory, having needed 19 off the final over.

While Stokes has gone on to better things, he will certainly not have forgotten the name of Brathwaite. 

 

2019 - Off you pop

Some spectators may not have taken their seats when Spurs coach Popovich was given his marching orders 12 months ago.

He took exception to a non-foul call and was issued a technical by official Mark Ayotte before being handed another by David Guthrie just over a minute after tip-off in an encounter with Denver.

The Nuggets went on to win 113-85 three nights after Popovich was also ejected during a loss to the Sacramento Kings.

2012 - Milestone for Messi as Milan crash out

There have been many days when Messi achieved a milestone and his half-century of Champions League goals came eight years ago to the day.

The Barcelona superstar made no mistake from the penalty spot twice as the Catalan giants beat Milan 3-1 to reach the last four.

There were no goals in the first leg at San Siro, but Messi proved to the match-winner, with Andres Iniesta netting the third. Chelsea ended Barca's run at the semi-final stage, though, winning 3-2 on aggregate.

Australia spin legend Shane Warne has named Brian Lara as the captain of the Best West Indies XI he has ever faced, with Chris Gayle named an opening batsman.

The crafty ball-turner has spent some of the COVID-19 lockdown naming best XI’s of players from countries that he has faced.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Lara who seems to have made the biggest impression on the spinner.  Lara had the penchant to be brutal against Australia, who he averages 51 against in Test cricket, and scored a best of 277 in Sydney in 1993.  The innings has often been described as one of the finest ever played in Test cricket.

"Lara and Sachin (Tendulkar) were the two best batsmen of my time, his 277 run-knock against us was one of the best innings I saw him play," Warne said on Instagram.

Also making the cut were Desmond Haynes, who was picked to open with Gayle. Next up was Richie Richardson. The middle-order featured the likes of Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ridley Jacobs.

The bowling line-up was led by Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and feature Ian Bishop and Patterson Thompson.

Warne’s XI

Desmond Haynes, Chris Gayle, Richie Richardson, Brian Lara (c), Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Carl Hooper, Ridley Jacobs, Ian Bishop, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Patterson Thompson.

 

A comparison between Chris Gayle and Brian Lara, might on the face of it, seem a little silly, but in truth, while Brian Lara is most decidedly the far superior Test cricketer, their ODI records aren't that far apart. 

For instance, Gayle has scored more centuries in ODIs than has Lara with 25 to his name, while Lara has 19.

From just having watched both players, Lara is a genius of unparalleled levels and his class versus that of Gayle's may provide a whitewash for the Trinidad and Tobago left-hander, however, in his prime, Gayle may just have drawn as many excited fans to watch his power unleashed.

At the World Cup where it matters most, Lara scored 1,225 runs between 1992 and 2007. The Prince of Port of Spain had his most productive World Cup in '92 when he scored 333, but was always a heavy contributor with 269 in 1996, 106 in 1999, and 248 in 2003 and 269 in 2007.

Gayle has scored less but not much less, from the same number of World Cups. Gayle has 1,186 runs between 2003 and 2019. He scored 206 runs in 2003, 228 in 2007, 170 in 2011, 340 in 2015, and 242 in 2019.   

With Statistics as close as that, we felt comparing Gayle and Lara, especially in ODIs was fair game. What do you think?

*T20s excluded because of the fact that Lara never got to play much.

Career highlights

BL

  • Highest individual score in Test cricket
  • Fastest batsman to score 10,000 (with Tendulkar/Sangakarra) and 11,000 Test runs

CG

  • Scored the fastest ever ODI double century
  • Highest run-scorer for the West Indies in ODIs