Legendary batsman Viv Richards in an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN talks about the Indian Premier League, Delhi Daredevils, Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and much more.
GK: The IPL has been on for 6 years. It is your first time over here as part of the IPL in any capacity, what are your first impressions when you come here and see cricket this way?
VR: I am a soccer fanatic also and I would've seen what soccer meant to the Brazilians and I'll make a comparison. I am not scared here to make a comparison to say that what the IPL and T20 itself means to the Indian public is no different than the mindset of a soccer fan in Brazil. The enthusiasm is just as great. It can't get any better than what I would've seen here and have been totally overwhelmed by the fanatical support that teams have received in this part of the world.
GK: Because it's T20 cricket and it's the first sighting of Sir Viv Richards over here, everyone's been saying - we wish this game was invented a few years ago at the time when the great Viv Richards was playing ... because you would've owned this game.
VR: You never quite know whether that would be the case or not but what I know for sure is that folks will ask you questions like 'Oh, you would've loved to be here' ... and I said, 'Yeah, I am here, maybe on a different stage.' The age is a huge difference also. What I know is that whatever cards you are dealt, you must play with them and whatever cards we had then, I did appreciate that. But to see the game itself, the innovations and the enthusiasm shown by fans and just fanatical factors of the game itself, I am very glad having been one of the pioneers.
GK: I saw you in a couple of pictures of you holding a bat and having conversation with Sachin as well during that. Holding the bat, checking it out, was there anything in the back of your mind like I haven't held a bat for a while perhaps but maybe I should give this a go and see how far I can hit...
VR: I can tell you something. When I picked that bat up, it felt so good and I can see how the Little Master keeps doing well. It is because he has an instrument in his hand that he can trust and I felt the same. Even though, my mind is telling me 'Viv, you are 61 years of age. Having that bat in hand, I felt as though I could do it there, at present. But these are all thoughts and the thought process is greater than the body coming along.
GK: Let's really talk about your role. While there is a lot of fun during the games, it is a serious role. You are here to do something that contributes to the Daredevils. Can you talk us through what your mission is?
VR: I am here as an ambassador, the same sort of role I played with the Melbourne Stars. I have come in here and met the players first time around. I see they are a bunch of enthusiastic fellows around and apart from some of the old pros that you would've had, there are a few young individuals. Having met them is like I would've known them for quite a long time. I've always been an individual who has always believed in that whole confidence factor and at times there are young players who come into the environment for the very first time, sometimes never quite sure of how to handle themselves, thinking maybe because they are juniors and should act like one. And I think, if you've got the stuff, why not strut it? One of my main aims all the time would be to be as solid as possible with your thinking ... If you are solid in your mind. you can accomplish anything with your body.
GK: Have the young players ever felt intimidated on having to speak to Sir Viv? Have you ever felt that a young player has been hesitant while coming up and talking to you?
VR: No, and there's one guy who comes to my mind and I think it's your under-19 World Cup captain [Unmukt Chand]. When I first came to India, I was asking who this guy is and when I heard he was a member of the team I was going to be involved with, that to me was solid stuff. He looks a pretty confident guy and I love seeing guys like him at such an early age. There are times when senior pros tell you what to do and yes, you should do stuff in an orderly manner, but your confidence factor should never ever suffer. When on the crease with 11 players in the field, you and your partner are outnumbered in many ways, so your confidence and mindset is of vital importance.
GK: One of the words Virender Sehwag used after that victory against Mumbai was "bluff". He said that you told him to bluff and give the impression that he belonged there. What's that all about?
VR: There are times when you are not that confident and it should only show in the inside. Not exhibiting that feeling, making them believe that I am still very much in control is what bluffing is about. Sports is a mind game and if you lose it here [psychologically], you lose it everywhere else. And I have always imparted these simple little advices, that be strong. Your presence at the crease matters, because at times there are fast bowlers who want to look at you, make you feel that they are the bullies. If you have a bat, you look them in the eye and Virat Kohli comes to mind as an Indian batsman who does that and I love it. He may not be that tall but he has a presence in terms of where his confidence and mindset are. At times, these are stuff I try and preach.
GK: You've come into a tricky situation, in the sense that this is team at the bottom of the table. Seven games have been lost, is this making your job harder in some ways? Is there sort of a bunch of people who are a bit dispirited and has that made your job harder?
VR: I wouldn't say that it made my job harder. Coming in, in the first place was hard. When you have a team that hasn't done that well so far ... it isn't just to any one individual that would be displeased/not too comfortable with the result at present. When I met the coaching staff, they are the people I have an enormous amount of respect for, and when you remember that this team reached the semi-final of the IPL last season and qualified for the Champions League as well, they can't become a bad team overnight. It maybe all about the lack of confidence at present and it happens to every team. We've seen Barcelona and Real Madrid go down, and these are situations from where we can get a lift. And part of my job is to keep hope alive and get this hope in the individuals. Anything can happen where sports is concerned. So continue to believe, do not get down too hard on yourself because if you do that, sometimes you lose control and still be able to enjoy the game.
GK: One of the concerns of Indian cricket is that it is at the verge of losing Virender Sehwag. Having already been dropped from the Indian team, in your interactions with him, do you believe that Sehwag's best is behind him?
VR: I am a huge fan of Sehwag. The first time I saw him, I think I was the Chairman of the West Indies Selection Panel, and he just played our bowlers to all parts of the ground. And I asked myself, how could anyone stop this guy? Having played the game long enough, you are going to have your ups and your downs. I remember when I first met him in this trip, I asked him whether he still had high hopes of representing the country and he said yes. And that to me was the perfect answer because when you look at Sachin's factor, Ricky Ponting's factor ... Sehwag is just 32 years of age. There is still a long long way to go. I believe that since he has already walked this path before, it is about regrouping and getting yourself back in condition to be where you feel you are best at. He is talented enough, and if he is prepared to do the necessary hard chores and the passion exists and his mindset is okay, he can surely make it back.
GK: If there's one person who can make Viv Richards go wow is Chris Gayle. What planet is that batting from and what explains this level of quality batsmanship?
VR: Well, I guess, he is a guy who believes in himself. He trusts the T20 format and he would've taken these T20 exploits to the next level. I am proud of him as a West Indian.
GK: Seeing that the West Indies are the World T20 Champions, players from West Indies are doing well in the IPL and T20 competitions all over the world, has the Caribbean really embraced this format?
VR: Yes, especially some of the young individuals. I have always felt that when West Indies won the T20 competition, it created confidence that they were capable of achieving anything.
GK: Do you see this as a stepping stone towards turning the clock back to some of the golden days of West Indian cricket, as far as T20 and ODIs are concerned?
VR: When they won the tournament in Sri Lanka, some folks said that this is just the short form of cricket and the team hasn't yet turned the corner. But I guess if you see in performance, they haven't but in winning, they certainly have. Winning creates confidence and in the past I have said that that win made them feel a whole lot more confident and beating some of the best teams in the world, to me, is a great achievement. We are just hoping that it acts as a catalyst for West Indies to be successful in other formats too.
GK: Certain people believe that the best of Sachin Tendulkar is certainly behind him. He hasn't scored a century in quite some time and is struggling in all formats. What are your views? Is Tendulkar finished?
VR: I don't think there is any player, journalist or anybody, who has the audacity to tell Sachin to pack his bags. When we have individuals of that nature, it only happens once. With his achievements that we see up until now, I don't think we will get to see such achievements ever again. So we should appreciate an individual who is still growing. It is often that legends retire and die, but he is still alive and kicking. Let us enjoy and appreciate all that he has achieved for India. His role is not only about achieving or not achieving but is also about the role he plays for the future generations. Sachin is keeping hope alive for a lot of folks, even if he scores 10 ducks on the trot, we still shouldn't tell him to go and let him fade away.
GK: Has the IPL been good for world cricket or has it damaged the game by influencing people to take up T20 cricket at the expense of Test cricket?
VR: If the organising bodies don't arrive at the common sense to realise that there is still some appetite for the longer version and that is 'damaging' according to me. We need to devise a method to ensure that the best players are available for their countries to play the longer format and still be available for the IPL. If we have a window, it will be a wonderful package as we will be able to please the folks who enjoy T20 as well as those who are the traditionalists.