Vivian Richard's: 'The betting episode is a shame'

"T Viv Richards his betting thing is a shame, really. However, I can't comment on it now, as I don't know the full story. All I can say is that at this stage, it's a shame," said former West Indies captain and cricketing legend, Vivian Richards.

By Tapan Joshi

When asked if he, at any stage of his career, was offered a bribe, Richards said, "Well, there was always a little offer here and there, but you turn a blind eye to it. For me, the ultimate honour was to be playing for the West Indies. Money was secondary."

Not many know that Richards refused an offer of US $1.5 million by Dr Ali Bacher to tour South Africa with a rebel team during the days of apartheid. The Master Blaster said it wouldn't be correct to put the entire blame on players for the betting controversy. "Certain countries and some governing bodies seem to get away with this," he said. "There seems to be a certain double standard." According to him, a thorough investigation is the need of the hour. "There's definitely a lot more into it which needs to be looked into. That, according to me, is the solution to this problem."

Recently, the former chairman of the International Cricket Committee (ICC), Clyde Walcott, admitted that the matter had been swept under the carpet. "He (Walcott) is as guilty as the others. I have always felt that he is a weak character," fumed Richards.

Talk about West Indies cricket and Richards's face lights up. "You got to understand, man, we are going through a transition period. Every team goes through such a period," he put forward helpfully. However, he has great faith in Brian Lara's leadership abilities. "Brian is a thinking captain. An innovative one. And that, according to me, is a good sign. I think he will do well as the West Indies captain."

When asked about the slump in Lara's batsmanship, Richards said, "Similar thing happened to Sachin Tendulkar when he was made captain of his country. Players, as wonderfully gifted as Sachin or Brian, are rare." When reminded that the captaincy had had no effect on his own batsmanship, Richards disagreed. "Of course, it affected my batting. It certainly did," he insisted.

On the recent revolt by the West Indian players over wages amongst other things, the former cricketer had this to say: "I am not so sure it was about money. There were certain issues, a few grievances, which were there even during my time. I believe one thing led to another."

When asked on whose side -- players or administrators -- was he on, Richards replied diplomatically, "I remain neutral. I am talking with what I am hearing now. I was, however, a players' man and would like to remain one." He is quite happy with the concept of 'A' team tours, like the West Indies one currently on in India. "The West Indies 'A' team's tour is a step in the right direction. These players are our future, and it is essential to groom them," he said.

Richards has also been involved with politics in his home island of Antigua... "I am not a hardcore politician, you can call me an activist. Yeah, an activist. I would like to be remembered like that. There are a few things which need to be set right," he said.

He went to the Commonwealth Games as the technical director of the Antigua side. Did he see himself in a more active role with the West Indies cricket team in future? "Oh, yeah, certainly I do. At some stage, when the time comes, I would love to be involved with the West Indies team. It would be an honour."

These days, however, Vivian Richards has taken to golf. He was at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club, Chembur, on Saturday, sweating it out at the Mahindra Ford Golf Tournament. "My handicap is 12, and I have promised myself that I will bring it down. I know I can do it. And if I play regularly, I can do much better." Cricket, however, remains the first love. "Golf is for relaxation. I enjoy it. But cricket will always be my first love."