In a Sky Sports podcast with Stuart Broad and Shaun Pollock, Michael Holding let loose on everything cricket. He picked the best fast bowlers he had ever seen and then named the best batsman he had ever seen.
But unlike his favourites in the fast bowlers’ category – where he picked four, his pick for the best batsman was a relatively straightforward one – Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.
“Viv is the best batsman I have seen against anything and everything,” said Holding in the podcast discussion with Stuart Broad and Shaun Pollock for Sky Sports.
Explaining the reasons behind the choice, Holding said, Richards, who never wore a helmet even while facing up to the fastest and meanest fast bowlers of his generation, never looked intimidated.
“He never looked intimidated. Richard Hadlee in New Zealand, Dennis Lillee in Australia, Abdul Qadir in Pakistan, Bishan Bedi in India. Ian Botham in England. He got runs against anybody and everybody,” said Holding.
Rather than being intimidated, Richards would often choose to go on the offensive. And his swagger wasn’t just fake bravado. Here was a batsman who would back it up with not just mad, dangerous aggression. There was clearly a method to his manner.
Richards was always out to show the bowler who was boss and given that he averaged 50.24 through his Test career, it is safe to say he succeeded. He was perhaps the only batsman who intimidated bowlers as he walked to the middle with his distinctive swagger.
When Richards Richards retired, after 121 Test matches, he had scored 8540 runs. In ODIs, he had 6721 runs in 187 matches at an average of 47. His strike rate in Tests was 86.07 and in ODIs, it went up to 90.2. By the standards of that era, he was an unstoppable force. Something that the world hadn’t seen before and by the reckoning of many, hasn’t seen since.
Some would argue that Richards was perhaps lucky to never run into the West Indies fast bowlers, who were the dominant attack of that era but Holding had an answer for that too.
“He destroyed a lot of bowlers in the Caribbean. He didn’t have to play against four West Indies bowlers at once but he played against us [domestically] and he got runs against each team,” said Holding.
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