The Samba party in Sao Paulo is about to kick off

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The eagerly awaited bonanza that is the Football World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events on the planet in terms of world viewership, is about to start in a couple of days’ time in Brazil’s second biggest city. The world’s eyes are set on the centre stage where 32 teams are fighting it out for the prestigious trophy after going through a gruelling qualifying campaign over the last couple of years.

Brazil is one of the largest growing economies of the world but with a huge gap between the rich and poor classes with thousands of thriving shantytowns and favelas, where drug trafficking and lawlessness prevails. Hundreds of thousands of people live in these slums in less than ideal conditions, especially in Rio and Sao Paulo. Protests against the Government and metro strikes in Sao Paulo by workers demanding pay rise is threatening the transport system, which is going to be heavily tested in the days to come. Hopefully that doesn’t divert the attention from a country which is not only hosting the World cup but also the Olympics in the coming years, signifying a major shift in the world dynamics. Brazil is home to the magical Amazon with the landscape and rainforest it has shaped flourishing the fauna and flora of the region spanning a big chunk of the South American continent! Once a Portuguese colony, it is indeed one of the powerhouses of the region alongwith Venezuela, with a rich diverse culture, where people of different backgrounds and races live together, observed so markedly in their national teams. The World Cup no doubt and the Olympics later will no doubt attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to this majestic place.

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Sao Paulo at its best!

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Maracana and its shanty towns!

Brazil, the five time champion is the overwhelming favourite, not only with the football fans all over the world but also with the bookies; with Argentina, a close second. Whether it would be a Neymar or a Messi show, only time will tell. History has shown World cups have made heroes and villains alike. I started following football in the 80s, when Paulo Rossi led Italy to their World cup win in Madrid in 1982. We all fell in love in ’86 with Diego Maradona, whether it was his ‘Hand of God’ goal against the English or his mesmerizing goal against the same opponents and his sheer dominance and brilliant display of soccer skills. The Argentinians defeated West Germany in the Aztec Stadium, Mexico in the final, watched by over a 100,000 people. I had missed the era of Johan Cruyff’s Total Football in the 70s and the Brazil’s team of 1970, which was arguably the best ever team by a wide margin, only the recent Spanish sides claiming to be the distant second. In 1970, the Brazilian team led by Carlos Alberto with Pele, Tostao, Rivelino and Jairzinho, utterly dominated all its opponents, winning all the qualifying matches and the six matches, winning the final 4-1, leading to an unprecedented third title and their hands on the Jules Rimet Trophy forever.

Come the 90s, it was West Germany’s turn to dominate under Lothar Matthaus, defeating a defensive Argentinian team in a one sided final. Four years later, the Brazilians won their fourth title in USA, with Romario and Bebeto pushing forwards with a tight defence marshalled by the defensive midfielder captain Dunga. Their match against the Dutch was one of the most memorable ones. The familiar scene of Roberto Baggio shooting the penalty high above the crossbar sealing Italy’s fate in the shootout. In 1998, it was the Zidane show at Stade de France, with his two headers helping France win their first and only title against the formidable Brazil. The 2002 Cup held for the first time in Asia, with Japan and South Korea co hosting, sprang lots of surprises. We all had our support for the Turks who reached the semis. Brazil ably serviced by Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho lived up to their reputation. Ronaldo scoring both goals against Germany in the final and winning the Golden Boot!

The 2006 World Cup was won by the Italians but was made ever so famous with the Zidane head butt which led to his ouster from the final, eventually France losing on penalties. The next few years were dominated by the exceptionally talented Spanish side which won the Euros and then the World Cup in 2010 in a highly one sided final against the Dutch. There was no single star amongst the star studded Spanish team which were perennial underachievers in previous International tournaments. Even the second string players could stake claim to most of the European and World sides easily. That seems to be the case currently too, such is the abundance of talent there.

Who will claim the big prize, we can only speculate till the final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Who will be the star of the show, the likes of Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Hazard, Suarez or anyone from the obscurities emulating the likes of Schillaci in 1990?

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Traditionally the South American teams do well on their continent, the heat and humidity being a big factor. That gives more chance to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay amongst the six South American teams. Germany, Spain and Belgium are the European powerhouses on paper and form. We can never discount the Italians and Dutch. England would probably struggle to reach the second round in a tough group, France are lucky to have an easy ride in the first round. The African teams can spring a surprise or two but they and the Asian sides are unlikely to put any pressure to reach the second round this time. Brazil has got a well-oiled defence, with the world’s best defenders arguably in their team, and an attractive midfield with a decent strike force, an ideal combination. Argentina has arguably the best forward line and Germany the most balanced team. Spanish stars are dominating the clubs world over, but no one is giving them any chance above fourth place. Their midfield is not only their positive but also a negative point, at times keeping too much possession without pushing forward and teams well dug in can cause lots of problems and affect their scoring capability, the prolific Diego Costa of Atletico Madrid might be their saviour if he is given a chance ahead of Villa or the extended midfield with Fabregas in front.

All said, fingers crossed, I would slump on my comfy sofa, have a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the summer certainly wishing for a dream Brazil-Argentina final!

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Schumacher…The guy who was once Invincible!

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Not even the avid Formula One fans believed, anyone could make such a comeback in a high octane sports as F1. But Michael Schumacher, the record seven time World Champion, in his forties, proved everyone wrong. Admittedly it was not the comeback he would have liked, not being able to win any races, but getting points and even a podium with his Mercedes which was no match for the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens was quite an achievement in its own. He was undoubtedly disappointed at his performances some of them due to sheer bad luck, but in between he showed glimpses of his illustrious past. That showed the vulnerability and infallibility of a former champ when things don’t go your way. Michael Schumacher arguably is one of the best Formula one drivers of this era, with a record once considered unassailable, till the golden haired Red Bull boy Vettel, another German challenged that authority and burst on the scene with four consecutive World Championships. His sheer dominance when in his prime is beyond doubt and his work ethic unquestionable.

Whether the mighty Schumacher be able to make another comeback this time, is a big question mark. This time the odds are again not on his side and it is a much more difficult task at hand, things which are controlled by the nature and the Omnipotent above there, not entirely in his own hands. The news is that the doctors are just beginning to take him out of his medically induced therapeutic comatose state after nearly four weeks in the Grenoble Neurosurgical Unit, which is famed for treating many a skiing injuries caused by falls in the surrounding slopes of the French Alps.

The most extraordinary driver’s origins were most ordinary, as is the case with most great men in history. His father, a bricklayer, ran the local kart track, where Mrs Schumacher operated the canteen. As a four-year old Michael enjoyed playing on a pedal kart, though when his father fitted it with a small motorcycle engine the future superstar promptly crashed into a lamppost. But Michael quickly mastered his machine and won his first kart championship at six, following which his far from affluent parents arranged sponsorship from wealthy enthusiasts that enabled Michael to make rapid progress. By 1987 he was German and European kart champion. In 1990, at the age of 21, he won the German F3 championship and was hired by Mercedes. The next year he made a stunning Formula One debut, qualifying an astonishing seventh in a less than ordinary Jordan at Spa, whereupon he was snapped up by Benetton, with whom in 1992 he won his first F1 race, again at Spa. 

Over the next four seasons with Benetton he won two world championships. He showed his worth against the likes of Ayrton Senna beating him on a few occasions till his untimely death at the San Marino Grand Prix. Not without courting controversy, as the great champions before and after him, on many an occasion, especially his collisions with Damon Hill and Villeneuve in the title deciding races, the latter one docked his second place in the Championship as punishment. After winning his second title in 1995, he went to Ferrari which hadn’t won a title since 79. The Ferrari family affair didn’t blossom from the start. After finishing second overall in 1998, Schumacher’s 1999 season was interrupted by a broken leg (the only injury in his career). The fruits borne by his sheer determination, intelligence, dedication and an endless quest for improvement work brought five consecutive World titles, bringing his tally to 7, overhauling the great Fangio in the record books he would thereafter begin to rewrite. Such was the domination by Schumi led Ferrari, in 2002 he won 11 races and was on podium in all 17. In 2004, he won 13 out of the 18 races, the title a foregone conclusion and Ferrari being the Constructors Champions the umpteenth time.

Being supremely talented, adapting to changing circumstances, bold overtakes and manoeuvres, highly skilful driving in adverse weather conditions was what set him apart from his peers. His fitness was amongst the best, even in his forties as testified by his fellow drivers. He was keenly aware of the limitations of his car, never losing any opportunity to score points in the races he knew he couldn’t win. His feedback to the team, which is vital for any car development was invariably excellent and helped develop Ferrari into a world beater in the late 90s and early part of the 2000s, winning six consecutive Constructors Titles. He was very close to the mechanics, team members, always thanking and encouraging them for their role in this high intensity team sports

Finishing second in the 2006 championship, the aging superstar still at his peak, having won 7 races to bring his tally to 91, decided to hang up his helmet. But the boredom of home lured him back to the fast lanes of F1 in 2010. Michael Schumacher said of the second part of his career. “It wasn’t as successful as before but I still learned a lot for life. I found that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning. Now is a good time to go.”

We still believe it is too early for Schumi to go. A man once in complete control at the wheels, has lost his grip on life. Only time will tell, whether he would be able to regain his full physical and mental functions. It is a long dark tunnel with a faint glimmer of hope. The helmet undoubtedly saved his life in the Alps, but whether he would rue his escapade or not, we can only guess. Our thoughts and prayers for the man who lit the fast lanes of Formula One for his millions of fans worldwide.

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Where have all the Khans gone!

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Gone are the days when the Pakistanis ruled roost in a game played within enclosed walls, in which the aim is to keep hitting a small spherical thing into a wall and making the opponent miss it to win a point. However ridiculous it may sound, a person who has ever watched squash and especially so being played as deftly as the great Jahangir and Jansher, would not argue that it could be as serene as artistry in motion. Such was the fluency and effortlessness in the manner they played the game, introduced to our country by the British like so many other things; it felt as if it was the easiest of the games in the world to learn, till a novice steps into a squash court!

Jahangir Khan was the reason I started watching Squash and it were the times when he became a living legend, having been undefeated for 5 years from 1981-86 winning in excess of 500 matches consecutively without ever losing till that famous loss to Ross Norman, his runner up for so many years! No person ever before or after had emulated him in any sports on a professional level, what to talk about Squash which is played at such a high intensity, involving stamina, precision,deftness technique, power and agility alike. Coming from a Squash playing family, the son of the famous Roshan Khan, he got his inspiration from his elder brother Torsam, who unfortunately died young in a Squash court. Jahangir was a weak child, no one could predict at that age, he would become a world beater one day, winning 10 British Open Titles, the most prestigious of the tournaments, which unfortunately many in UK don’t even know about taking place at all. His hegemony in Squash started in 1981 when he beat the famous Geoff Hunt in the World Open. That Squash playing legend had dominated the scene in the 70s after the Pakistani domination in 50s and 60s led by Hashim Khan and the likes of Roshan Khan, Azam Khan, Mohibullah Khan and Qamar Zaman. Jahangir went on to win 5 more World Open titles. The 80s and 90s belonged to Pakistan, first it was Jahangir and then another lean but superbly athletic guy from the same Squash legend producing belt appeared whose rivalry with Jahangir became one of the most talked about and pleasing to watch. His name was Jansher Khan who went on to win 6 British Open and a record 8 World Open Titles. Every final or semi with Jansher and Jahangir playing each other was a box office hit. I can recall a few especially the Pakistan Open Finals which went all the distance and nothing could separate them, just the minutest of the margins and at times the one who could hold the nerves for longer. The Khans had stamped their names on this tournament for 18 odd years and so many others for a good part of two decades.They played 37 professional matches, with Jansher just edging out 19-18 head to head, but appearing on the scene when Jahangir was already at his peak for a few years and on his decline in the latter years. Jansher went on to be number one player in the world for a good part of a decade. It wasn’t to last forever unfortunately as every great thing comes to a natural decline.

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The turn of the century heralded the start of the decline on the Pakistani Squash scene, having dominated Squash for decades with only Egyptians and later Australians vying for supremacy in between. The earliest successes were not due to sheer luck or with massive assistance from the Pakistan Squash Federation, no doubt Air Marshal Nur Khan having played a big role in developing the sports. The Squash facilities in the country were virtually non-existent apart from a few elite clubs and garrisons. For the general public, it was largely an inaccessible sports, evident from the involvement of a few Squash playing families which excelled in it. These achievements which put Pakistan’s name on the world map and the sporting prowess were all due to individual efforts and hard work on an unprecedented scale, no doubt helped by the coaches cum family members. That explained the decline which followed in the years to come in the twenty first century. Since the last of the major titles won by Jansher in 1997, no one apart from him has ever come close to winning one or to challenge the elite. The Egyptians, and the British have carried on their old legacy, while we have concentrated more on cricket and just on cricket. It seems we our national game is changed too from Hockey to Cricket. No one likes to play anything else apart from that in schools sadly. Could we imagine that we won’t have anyone in the top 50 at one time, while there are at least 6 Egyptians in the top 12. Amongst the top 5 Pakistani players, two are Jansher’s nephews being coached by their dad. Such is the state of affairs in a game with less technicalities involved as compared to any other sports and definitely not much infrastructure needed as well as being relatively cheap to be introduced on a large scale. The equipment attrition is not an issue as is the case with tennis, hence there is no excuse for not providing the facilities for the general public.

This is not just the case with Squash but with virtually every other sports in Pakistan, the green belts and parks are being converted to residential plots and plazas for commercial purposes, the scarce facilities for the youth are being taken away, less provision is there for encouraging any sports in schools, colleges and universities which could produce champions and world beaters. After all we had them; until we set our priorities right, we would never see dominance in Squash or any sports. If we want to see Jahangir handing over a British Open trophy to a Pakistani in the near future, we can’t just rely on the select few being coached by their illustrious kith and kin, but to make it accessible and promote it amongst the general public. There might be a time in our next generation when sadly no one would know about the golden era of Jahangir and Jansher Khan when they ruled the world. While the Squash fraternity continues to sing their praises even now, we should not forget their legacy…….

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The Legacy of Senna

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The scene was at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, the script writer up there had ordained something no one was predicting. It all went horribly wrong at the start of the weekend in free practice when Rubens Barrichello crashed horribly in his Jordan and was indeed very lucky to survive. The Saturday was even worse when the Austrian Ratzenberger went airborne and hit the barriers at frighteningly high speed resulting in the first fatality in a Formula One race for 12 years. I can still remember the expression on Senna’s face viewing the crash on the screen. Maybe he knew what was coming his way which none of us could predict. Starting from the pole with Schumacher following, prediction was a Senna victory unless mechanical failure stopped him from doing so. What happened on the 1st of May 1994 at Imola forever changed the Formula One in terms of driver safety. Watching the race live; observing the high speed impact on replay as live action couldn’t pick it up initially, with a motionless Senna in the lead Williams badly damaged, hitting head on into the concrete barriers at the Tamburello at roughly 180 mph was a bad sign indeed. The race was red flagged, and the frenetic activity on the track that followed and an unresponsive looking Senna sent jitters into my spine and no doubt all the Formula One lovers watching their sporting idol.  Very soon we came to know about his death being declared. It was probably the first or even the last time, I ever shed tears on the death of a sporting personality. But for me he was just not another person or a World Champion. There have been many before and after him, no doubt winning more titles and races than him. He was one of a kind, the charisma exuded from him. He was the reason I started watching Formula One and my first memories of racing are his and Prost’s duels on the race track, which was one of the greatest sporting rivalries in Formula One.

Ayrton Senna was just 34 and current World Champion, when he died, with three F1 titles under his belt and had a lot of records including fastest laps and most pole positions. In a dangerous sport, known to have fatal and near fatal accidents, the drivers know they are at the edge all the time. Senna being aware of it, having seen a few horrible crashes, was quite vocal about safety of the drivers, though he was the best of them in adverse conditions especially in rain when he reigned supreme! In the wake of the accidents and fatalities at Imola, the drivers reformed the Drivers Association. Prof Sid Watkins, the eternal Formula One doctor had a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the drivers, to make sure such incidents would never happen. At one point there were even doubts about the continuation of Formula One till it was deemed safe enough. F1 survived and it is much more safe and no driver has died since that fateful Sunday. The accidents of Robert Kubica in 2007 and Mark Webber in Canada in 2010, when he went airborne and landed upside down, but immediately walked out of the car; and so many others could have easily been fatal had Senna not died that day.

As Schumacher said after winning the race in a sombre mood we should learn from this and never let that happen again. These days the canopy is so strong and resilient, it can withstand extreme G force and high energy impacts all due to strict rules and regulations, the suspensions and tyres stipulated to be less prone to separation from the body work.

Senna was a Brazilian, but his popularity encompassed not only South America but the whole world.  He was a sporting legend and worshipped like a god in a football crazy Brazil. He cared for the poor and laid foundations for an Ayrton Senna Foundation. He was a successful businessman and entrepreneur as well as a philanthropist in his native Brazil. Arguably the best and most talented driver in Formula One, voted in many polls and by his peers to be the best ever( fans of Vettels, Alonsos and Schumachers of later day could lay claim to this though). Not without controversy though as many of the greats do in competitiveness, his on and off track antics with the clinical Alain Prost who was his team mate and his great rival but an admirer in his own way, made a few foes undoubtedly. Best remembered for his heroic performances at annihilating the fields in rain especially at Estoril getting his first Formula One victory in ‘85 and later at the European Grand Prix, when he lapped everyone on the field except second placed Hill who was just ‘a minute’ behind! Monaco street circuit was his famous hunting ground, where he won many a races and hearts.

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Senna and his death has been subject to many books, documentaries and discussions. His life and death won many admirers. The Brazilian World Cup victory in 1994 was dedicated to him. He wanted to dedicate his projected victory at Imola to the fallen Ratzenberger, the Austrian flag found in his damaged car on his death.  His funeral at Sao Paulo was a sight to behold. Approximately 3 million people flocked through the streets, there was national mourning for three days, fighter jets escorted the plane carrying his coffin.

“Nada pode me separar do amor de Deus,” (Nothing can separate me from the love of God) is aptly inscribed on his grave, showing his strong belief in God!

No race passes with great performances whether from Vettel or Schumacher in past, without mentioning his illustrious name and comparisons made with Senna, no doubt he was one of the very best if not the one. There was no dearth of talent, there is no doubt about it. His life was spent in a fast lane, full of excitement, courted controversy, won millions of admirers, but what counts most is he made his sport exciting but safe forever with his death unfortunately..

Rest in peace Ayrton !  ……

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Sting Like A Bee!

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Ali, arguably the best and most well-known boxer in the world, flew with the grace of a butterfly and stung like a bee; both with his electric fist play and his unminced exclamations. This remarkable man, born of humble origins, cast away his slave name Cassius Clay, adopted Muhammad Ali and self-proclaimed himself to be the greatest! No doubt accepted and regarded as such in the boxing fraternity. It wasn’t just his powerful jabs and the sheer pace of his footwork, but the ability to tease the opponents, be it the mighty Foreman or the formidable Frazier or Liston and in making stinging remarks in press conferences about his opponents. He was a delight to watch both inside the ring in his trademark Everlast Boxing Trunks,, and outside equally and a crowd puller in every sense of the word.

Ali, then Clay, won the Light heavy weight boxing title at the Rome Olympics in 1960 but apparently threw the Gold medal away in the River later on. He became the world heavy weight champion at a young age of 22 defeating the Mafia favourite Sonny Liston against the odds. He had instantaneous recognition from the victory but his participation in activities outside the ring made headlines in America and the world over. A great critic of Vietnam War, his vocal views landed him in trouble especially when he refused military conscription, he was stripped of his world title. He joined the Nation of Islam and became an important voice for them for some time and a Lieutenant of Elijah Muhammad. Later on, he distanced himself from it and joined the mainstream Islam.

The campaign against the Vietnam War and the opposition was not restricted to some quarters in US but had widespread support amongst masses. His appeal was finally overturned and was allowed to fight again after losing a few years of his prime. His duels with Smokin Joe Frazier were no doubt the best of the lot and are deemed quality fights even now many years down the line. Ali had his name in the history books by becoming the first World Heavy weight champion three times. The fight against the giant George Foreman dubbed ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Zaire, made Ali the hero not just all over Africa but the whole world. The ageing Ali fighting the heavy puncher Foreman, in the Football Stadium In Zaire, with the whole country behind him chanting ‘Ali…Ali..’ is a sight never to be forgotten. In reality he could have been murdered in the ring by the more powerful ‘Mummy’ but his agility, guileful pugilistic display, speed and intelligence helped him throw a surprise punch to rattle Foreman and win the fight. His life and especially the fight in Zaire epitomised in ‘When We Were Kings’ and more recently in ‘Ali’, portrayed by Will Smith, was an apt description.

Ali had enough to fight one more historic fight with Joe Frazier in ‘The Thrilla in Manila’ in soaring temperatures which he won albeit with quite an effort. He was nearing his retirement age but still fought off some lesser known boxers, winning and losing a few bouts. It was sad to see the beating he took from Larry Holmes which I have very faint memories, maybe watching it sometime later.

Muhammad Ali was an Icon not only in the boxing world but also all over the globe as an ambassador of sports who spoke up against the rights of the downtrodden, especially the black coloured people, who were still very much discriminated in US. He made his views public on numerous occasions without fear, which landed him in trouble many a times. He believed he was the greatest, the exuberance and the confidence in himself was second to none. It certainly increased the ratings of television channels and exasperated the opponents who were ridiculed by being called Ugly, Bear, Mummy to name a few, mimicking their actions in promotions and weigh ins, drawing out applause from the controversy seeking public and media alike. It was certainly an honour and a life time wish to see him in person in The SAF games in Islamabad, but sad as well to see a shadow of a man, once the greatest. The struggle with Parkinson’s Syndrome, no doubt hastened by years of Boxing trauma, was so evident later on in his life. The iconic image of Ali lighting the Atlanta Olympics Flame in 1996 with trembling hands, the hands which once bore the might of the greatest Heavy weight boxer in the world…..was a reminder to the world..  Only God is the Greatest, the humans no matter how arrogant and strong are mere mortals and weak with the tide of the passing time!

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The Master Blaster!

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The swagger, the aura, the swinging of those powerful Antiguan arms, the invincibility , the sheer power and timing……was never to be forgotten, whosoever has witnessed amongst the ardent of the cricket lovers.  The man you had never seen with a helmut or guards, no matter whom he was facing, whether the likes of Thomson, Lillee and Imran or his own Holding, Roberts and Marshall. Whatever the situation was, he was as cool as a cucumber. I have never seen that disdain for the opposition from even the likes of Tendulkars, Laras or Pontings, they have all been dancing at some point of their lives to the tune of bouncers and yorkers by great fast bowlers of their era. There was no respite for the opposition once Greenidge was gone, the gum chewing Viv’s arrival was dreaded by everyone. He had the eye of a hawk, his reflexes supreme and it seemed he had all the time in the world to wait for the ball, whether to play on the backfoot or front, hitting through the covers or over the bowler’s head or hooking it out of the park. True the numbers don’t tell us the exact story to the statistician cricket fans especially the younger generation who might think, he was just another swashbuckler in the long line of West Indian greats. Just another is quite an understatement!

Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was one of a kind, a rare breed. He came to a West Indian side, made up of small Islands, full of greats but not always fulfilling their potential. The bigger islands of the likes of Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados ruled roost in the cricketing hierarchy, similar to the dominance Lahore and Karachi held over the rest of the cities in Pakistan. Richards along with Andy Roberts was the first notable Antiguan to play for the West Indian team. It is no doubt difficult to unite people from so many different islands. The overwhelming defeat of the West Indies by the Australians orchestrated by Thomson and Lillee turned the tide in the cricketing world. The Windies were humiliated but they came back with a vengeance under the leadership of Clive Lloyd and there was no looking back. They gained strength from strength and after Lloyd’s retirement, Richards took over the reins and West Indies never lost a series under him. Only Pakistan genuinely posed a threat to their dominance in the decade that followed. There are so many innings which are worth mentioning; the last wicket partnership with Holding scoring 189*, hitting England all over the park, scoring the fastest hundred in test matches when no one played aka Gilchrist, Hayden or Afridi and the bats were not as light as these days. We can certainly remember the 181 scored versus the hapless Sri Lankans, also Thomson and the Australians being smashed all over in the 1983 world cup. Not only his batting, but his useful off spin was quite handy especially in one dayers. He was a great leader too, uniting the Caribbean islands, also promoting the smaller islands which produced great players in years to come. Richie Richardson, Curtly Ambrose to name a few of prominent Antiguans who put Antigua on the World map. Viv has been a great ambassador of sport, a vocal supporter of human rights and anti racism and respected world over for his views. In fact I was proud to see his photograph and remarks when I visited the Slavery museum with a special exhibit on West Indian Cricket in Liverpool.

West Indies had come a long way from the slaves brought over in ships from West Africa in subhuman conditions via the slave traders at the Albert Docks at Merseyside. The plantation owners were defeated by the capable strong slaves in their own game, the supremacy shifted from the untainted white to the brash dark skinned! The pendulum was shifted and the downtrodden ‘Jamaicans’ in UK could once again own an Antiguan as one of their own kind who made them proud. I have seen no one from that era who had watched the great Viv, whichever country he belonged to, not to have adored this cricketing legend. Never before, any cricketer was so admired universally and idolized perhaps after Bradman and Sobers, children copied his style and swagger, the way he entered the cricketing field, looking up at the heavens, chewing a gum always swinging his arms, giving a warning shot to the opponents; here comes Viv, the fear was instantly instilled and the crowd expectant with enthusiasm for strokeplay mastery never seen before.

And boy were they ever disappointed…Seldom!

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