A 23-year-old youngster, who would go on to scare the living daylights of opposition bowlers for two decades, had a pretty quiet World Cup. But as they say you can’t keep greats out of action for too long, and the same was the case with Vivian Richards, who fell cheaply to Gary Gilmour for 5 when West Indies batted first, but later came up with a sensational fielding performance which enabled his side pull off a 17-run World Cup-winning victory over Australia at Lord’s.
Richards proved why his fielding prowess should command utmost respect and was involved in three run outs of Alan Turner, Chappell brothers – Greg and Ian which largely made up for his overall disappointing run with the bat in the World Cup.
Richards’ first fielding scalp of Alan Turner came at a critical juncture when Australia were going along steadily in pursuit of West Indies’ formidable total 291 for 8, built around skipper Clive Lloyd’s majestic 102 and a workmanlike half-century from Rohan Kanhai.
Richards came up with a direct hit from backward square-leg which caught Turner short of his crease. Turner’s wicket was the key because he was looking good for his well-paced 54-ball 40 and was seeking to provide the early impetus.
Everyone present at Lords’ knew that the Chappell brothers had to play a big hand if Australia were to come anywhere close to the West Indies total. And the duo held fort to keep Aussies in the running before Richards came up with a superb direct hit to get rid of Greg Chappell who had a stop-start mix up with his younger brother.
Richards made a stark reminder of the famous saying ‘Never run off a misfield’ when he showed the pavilion way to Australian captain Ian Chappell. Chappell had worked the ball to the on-side and set off for a run, but hesitated on realizing Richards being stationed there. But seeing Richards fumble, Chappell started running but probably had underestimated the fielder’s quick recovery skills. Richards briskly got to the ball, turned and rifled in a return three feet above the stumps which Lloyd, the bowler did the needful as Chappell was caught well short of his crease.
His run out was best summed up by ace commentator Richie Benaud on BBC. “The old rule of never run on a misfield still holds good.”
Australia stood a realistic chance of chasing down West Indies’ 291 for 8 when they reached a score of 161 for 3, but the fall of Chappell’s wicket effectively derailed their chase. The impact of Richards’ three brilliant run outs was soon felt as Australia lost the initiative from there on and folded up for 274 in 58.4 overs.
Richards once recalled how his three run outs, which significantly shaped up West Indies’ maiden World Cup triumph, meant a lot more than just a win to West Indies cricket. “We are from the Caribbean region and there are times that we hear that we all think differently. But when we were able to lift that World Cup, I could imagine that the Caribbean came together then.”