Barring their defeat in the 1983 World Cup Final to India, the West Indies had won every series and tournament in ODI cricket since their loss to New Zealand in a one-off match in February, 1980. They arrived in England in May, 1984 having won their last 6 bilateral series and 2 Benson and Hedges World Series tournaments.
Vivian Richards had already earned a reputation for himself and was the highest scorer in ODI cricket with 2899 runs from just 68 innings at an average of 50.85 and strike rate of 86.56 including 6 hundreds.
31st May, 1984, Manchester: First ODI, Texaco Trophy
West Indies, electing to bat first, were in early trouble with both their openers – Haynes and Greenidge – back in the pavilion. Richards walked out to bat at 11 for 2. Richardson exited after a brief resurrection and the visitors lost a flurry of wickets even as Richards continued to attack from one end.
He registered his fifty off just 59 deliveries with the West Indies at 83 for 4 in the 22nd over. Lloyd, Dujon and Marshall exited in quick succession and the West Indies were in the doldrums at 102 for 7. But the best of Richards was yet to come! He put together 59 for the 8th wicket with Baptiste.
However, at 166 for 9 with 14 overs still remaining in their innings, the West Indies were in real danger of being bowled out for a paltry total. But Richards had other plans. He clipped Botham through mid-wicket for his 12th boundary to record a majestic hundred – 103 of the West Indian total of 173 had come off his blade facing just 112 deliveries. Running out of partners, Richards decided to accelerate and how!
He flicked Botham over mid-wicket for a six and followed that with another back over the bowler’s head over long-off.
A stand-in-the-crease punch over long-on followed by a smack over long-off and Richards brought up his 150 at quicker than a run a ball.
The carnage continued. He gave himself room by moving a touch to the leg-side and bludgeoned Willis over long-off.
Richards ended with a magnificent unbeaten 189 off just 170 deliveries including 21 fours and 5 sixes – Old Trafford hadn’t witnessed such destruction before! It was the highest score in ODI cricket till 13 years before Saeed Anwar smashed 194 against India in Chennai in 1997. West Indies ended with 272 for 9 and bowled out England for 168.
Richards scored 86 runs after registering his century off just 58 deliveries at a strike rate of 148.28. He added 106 for the last wicket with Holding, who contributed just 12. It is still a world record!
This innings was rated by Wisden as the greatest ODI knock of all-time. The proportion of team runs scored and the context and timing of the performance were the two standout qualities which make it the highest impact batting performance of all-time.
Richards scored 69.48% of the total runs scored by the West Indies in the match – it remains the highest percentage of team runs scored in a completed innings in ODI history! His individual score was more than two and a half times the collective score of the other West Indian batsmen.
He came out to bat when the West Indies had lost early wickets and had to cope with the pressure of wickets falling around him almost throughout his innings. Not only did he rise to the challenge but did it at a strike rate of 111.17 which was almost 2.5 times higher than the average strike rate of the other West Indian batsmen (44.79).
The fact that he scored a majority of his runs with the tail also enhances the worth of his innings.
COMPARISON WITH SOME OTHER GREAT INNINGS
Sanath Jayasuriya scored 63.21% of his team’s runs when he blasted 189 off just 161 deliveries against India in the final of the Champions Trophy at Sharjah in 2000. Like Richards, Jayasuriya also scored a high proportion of runs at a rate much higher than the norm. He also produced this performance on a big stage – in the final of a tournament.
But the Sri Lankan was not under the pressure of wickets tumbling around him throughout his innings neither did he
have to face the challenges of batting with the tail. Rohit Sharma’s 264 against Sri Lanka in Kolkata in 2014 – the highest ODI score of all-time – is another high impact ODI performance.
Although a great knock, it came against a weak Sri Lankan unit. Rohit hardly had to break sweat throughout the innings and got support from skipper, Kohli with whom he put together a double century stand for the third-wicket.
Kohli’s masterclass 183 off 148 deliveries in a successful 330-run chase against Pakistan in the Asia Cup in Dhaka in 2012, also saw contributions from Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma.
Kapil Dev’s unbeaten 175 at Tunbridge Wells in the 1983 World Cup was as similar an innings to Richards’ as any – he batted with the pressure of wickets falling around him scoring a high proportion of his team’s runs at a very high strike rate. But in the final analysis the quality of the opposition – Zimbabwe – did not give the innings as high an impact as Richards’.
Saeed Anwar’s 194 against India in Chennai in 1997 came in a high-scoring match in which Rahul Dravid also scored a hundred. This somewhat reduced the impact of Anwar’s great knock. Aravinda de Silva’s match-winning 107 in the final of the 1996 World Cup against Australia in Lahore also saw valuable contributions from Ranatunga and Gurusinha.
Adam Gilchrist hammered 149 off just 104 balls in the final of the 2007 World Cup against Sri Lanka in Bridgetown. But there were supporting acts from Hayden and Ponting which helped the Australian cause.
The impact of Herschelle Gibb’s 175 off just 111 deliveries in the record chase of 434 against Australia in Johannesburg in 2006 was negated by Ponting’s equally majestic 164 in the match.
COMPARISON WITH TENDULKAR AND KOHLI
Richards retired in May, 1991 as the second-highest scorer in ODI cricket after Haynes. What set him apart was his ability to score big runs at a very high strike rate – as was evident in his average of 47 and strike rate of 90.2.
Only one other batsman till then – Zaheer Abbas – had an average of above 40 and yet scored at a strike rate of above 80. Dean Jones, Greg Chappell and Allan Lamb – all had averages in excess of 40 but their strike rates were in the mid 70s.
The standard average and strike rate of batsmen batting in the top 6 positions during Richards’s career was 30.52 and 65.45. This shows how ahead Richards was from the standard of his times. He was a part of a world-beating West
Indian team with many other all-time legends – thus, it is not surprising that he did not register more than 11 hundreds.
He was the greatest in the greatest team of all-time. There have been many great ODI batsmen but most analyses would pick Richards, Tendulkar and Kohli as the three greatest of three successive eras.
There was a marginal increase in the collective average of the top 6 during Tendulkar’s career (32.24) and a significant increase in strike rate (73.77).
While Tendulkar is way ahead of his times both in terms of run-scoring and the pace at which he scored them, it is startling to see that despite a substantial increase in the strike rate during Tendulkar’s era, his scoring rate is still behind Richards’! This highlights how aggressive a batsman Richards was.
There has been another marginal increase in the collective average (34.73) but a sharp rise in the strike rate (82.11) during Kohli’s career. Kohli is a run-scoring machine unlike any other in the history of the format. This is well substantiated when we see the deviation from the norm in averages – Kohli is way ahead of the other two.
However, when we compare the three on their scoring prowess, while Tendulkar and Kohli are at par with each other with similar deviations, Richards is on a different planet. His strike rate deviation from the standard of his times is double the corresponding deviations of the other two batsmen.
This further tells us how incredibly destructive a batsman Richards was. While most pundits will now rate the incumbent Indian captain as the greatest ODI batsman of all-time, the fact that Richards was twice as destructive as Kohli and Tendulkar tells its own story.
Combine with that the swagger and that is what hit England on the 31 st of May 36 years ago.