Bengaluru, April 23: He was 35 then yet his command over the game was majestic.
Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was leading the West Indian side in the 1987 World Cup held in the Indian sub-continent and the two-time champions suffered a two-wicket loss to England in their first match. The Caribbeans were no longer the force that they once were but Richards was still one and he demonstrated that at the National Stadium, Karachi.
Richards already had experience of scoring a hundred in the WC and he slammed one in the final of the 1979 edition for a winning cause. In 1987, he fell for 27 against England and then chose to mend things in the next game which was against Sri Lanka, who were still in the early days of their cricket.
Duleep Mendis won the toss and asked the West Indies to bat first, relying hope on his bowlers to do the trick. Sri Lanka had lost to hosts Pakistan by just 15 runs in their first despite putting up a brave chase and Mendis thought they would do it better this time.
But Mendis perhaps failed to see the giant that was waiting to take the stance. Richards came out to bat after Richie Richardson fell for a golden duck with the score at 45. What followed next is something that every Caribbean will treasure all their life and every Lankan will dread.
Like a lion walking out of its den to massacre the opponents, Richards destroyed the Lankan bowlers at will. There were a few nudges here and there but the ferocity with which Richards dispatched the ball to every corner of the park was a treat to the eyes.
The innings had another centurion in the form of opener Desmond Haynes (105 off 124 balls) but even he looked pale in comparison with Richards’s batting who eventually stopped at 181 in just 125 balls, hitting 16 fours and seven sixes in the process. Richards added 182 runs with Haynes for the third wicket and 116 runs with Gus Logie for the fourth wicket to help the Windies post a mammoth total of 360 for 4 in 50 overs.
In those days, a 350-plus score in a ODI was incredible. The Windies plundered over 100 runs in the last six overs, anything equivalent to it is seen more in today’s era, in tournaments like the IPL.
Among the Lankan bowlers Asantha de Mel went for 97 runs in 10 overs while Asanka Gurusinha conceded 43 in four. As many as seven bowlers were used but yet Richards couldn’t be stopped from registering the highest individual score in a WC, bettering Kapil Dev’s 175 not out of 1983.
Richards’s record was bettered nine years later by a South African – Gary Kirsten – who hit 188 not out against the United Arab Emirates also at a Pakistan venue, Rawalpindi.
Sri Lanka could manage just 169 for 4 in reply, losing the game by a mammoth difference of 191 runs. Richards, who later bowled eight overs to concede just 22 runs, was picked as the man of the match.