‘The highest accolade is a blazer for your country’
For a man who scored almost 37 000 runs during his professional career, it’s almost comical to hear Barry Richards say he didn’t fully maximise his talent.
Considered one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, Richards made 96 hundreds and 202 half-centuries for the likes of Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Natal, South Australia, Transvaal and in World Series Cricket.
He was named Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year in 1969, famously scored 325 in a single day’s play against an attack which included Dennis Lillee and Graham McKenzie, has a highest score of 356, and was included in Sir Donald Bradman’s Greatest XI of the 20th Century.
Unfortunately the sporting boycott placed on South Africa because of the Apartheid policy of the time meant he only played four Test matches, all against Australia. Still, that was enough time to show the world a glimpse of what could have been, scoring 508 runs at an average of 72.57 as they hammered Bill Lawry’s tourists 4-0.
Still, Richards believes he could have achieved much more if he didn’t contrive to find ‘silly’ ways of getting out while trying to entertain - either the crowd or himself!
Asked what, in his opinion, makes a great batsman, he says: “Obviously there is the eye, and then the will to get there is a very important one. A lot of people may think it’s just pure talent, but it’s a lot of hard work that goes with your talent.
“Of course if you are talented it’s going to be a little bit easier, but there is determination, hard work and everything else that is needed to be successful in life, and batting is no different.
“I probably never maximised my talent. For me the challenge was always 0 to 50 … after that it was just like clubbing baby seals. You find yourself doing silly things and then getting out.
“Other guys – Brian Lara and Geoff Boycott come to mind – would drive the opposition into the ground and they may have had a different view on how to bat and how to go about it, but mine was about entertainment more than anything - not only the fans, but perhaps even myself. I would do things that you shouldn’t try to do and get out as a result.”
That approach seems tailor made for T20 cricket, another format which Richards missed out on but would have loved to try.
“T20 would have been a wonderful opportunity for all of us,” he adds. “There were shortened versions around – we had a 40-over competition in England in the late-60s – so I don’t think it would have been a tremendous hardship to change our approach.
“It is a different game for sure and I think there is a bit more luck involved, but it has certainly injected a lot of interest into cricket, and that can only be a good thing.”
And what about a Barry Richards in full flight with the modern, lighter and far superior bats in hand?
“The [new bats] are a big issue,” he admits. “The ball hasn’t changed in 100 years but the bats have changed significantly. The pitches are also prepared for the batters and the boundaries are in 5-10 metres, so I just wonder whether the battle between bat and ball is an equal one at the moment. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be born a bowler …”
These days Richards find himself in the tranquil surrounds of Knysna on South Africa’s Garden Route, but between 6 -20 March he will be circling the fields in Cape Town alongside good friends Mike Proctor and Omar Henry as ambassadors for the Over-50 Cricket World Cup, which will again be sponsored by Evergreen Lifestyle.
Veterans Cricket has come too late for him to don the whites, but Richards is excited at the prospect of seeing the best 50-year-olds from around the globe strut their stuff for the ultimate prize.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Proccie, Omar and me to be involved,” he says. “The way that Veterans Cricket has been embraced around the world is absolutely fantastic; it’s a very fast-growing sport. To be involved is just wonderful and I can’t wait to meet up with all the guys.
“I did play past 50 when we were invited to a couple of Oldies games in India, so I would have been playing [if the format had been around earlier]. Maybe it would have been a lot harder for Proccie because he’s a bowler; mind you, he probably would have concentrated a lot more on his batting as he got older.
“But it’s very competitive these days – the guys are much fitter, they want to win, and it’s nice to see after the game that the camaraderie is part of the whole setup. It’s a wonderful achievement and that’s what you aspire to do. It’s their chosen sport now and they want to do well, and the highest accolade you can get is a blazer for your country, so it’s a proud month for all of them.”
About Evergreen Lifestyle
The 2023 Over-50s Cricket World Cup will once again be sponsored by Evergreen Lifestyle, South Africa’s premium retirement brand with seven operating villages in the Western Cape and Gauteng, and a further six in the pipeline. The business began with a vision to change the retirement landscape in South Africa, offering a partnership for life based on five key pillars: physical security, financial peace of mind, continuous care, a sense of community and exceptional hospitality.
You’ll find Evergreen’s award-winning retirement villages in the most beautiful parts of the country, at the end of sun dappled country lanes, perched on majestic mountain slopes, and within walking distance of our beaches, rivers, and wetlands. And you’ll find vibrant fun-loving communities enjoying the finer things in life – like good food, great company, lasting friendships, and a sense of belonging that is enabled by the resort-style facilities and amenities on offer.