On August 13, 1976, Viv Richards played his final innings of that calendar year. It was in the fifth and final Test of the series against England; a series in which England skipper Tony Greig had infamously promised to make the tourists “grovel”.
“We’re going to make, with the help of Closey and a few of my mates, we’re going to make the Windies grovel,” Greig had said.
Far from demoralizing the visitors, Greig’s words only served to inspire them. And as if to drive home the point, Richards smashed an awe-inspiring, fear-inducing 291 in his final innings of the summer to help the West Indies complete a historic ‘Blackwash’.
The sequence of scores for Richards had already been phenomenal – 232, 63, 4, 135, 66 and 38 in the first four Tests and even before the final innings, he had already broken Bob Simpson’s 1964 record of 1,381 runs in a calendar year.
But Richards just wanted to absolutely crush the English and he did that by consistently hitting across the line. The tactic allied with his judicious use of the cut shot and the murderous pull shot saw him hit 38 boundaries over the course of the innings to demoralise England. It took his tally of runs for the series to 829 and for the year, to an incredible 1,710 runs.
Richards’ record of 1,710 runs stood for 30 years, until Mohammad Yousuf compiled 1,788 runs in 2006.
To this day, Richards’ tally of 829 runs in a series, despite being forced to miss the second Test through illness, inspires awe:
Most runs in a series
|DG Bradman (1930, Ashes)||5||7||974||334||139.14||4||0|
|WR Hammond (Ashes, 1928/29)||5||9||905||251||113.12||4||0|
|MA Taylor (Ashes, 1989)||6||11||839||219||83.90||2||5|
|RN Harvey (SA in Aus, 1952/53)||5||9||834||205||92.66||4||3|
|IVA Richards (WI in Eng, 1976)||4||7||829||291||118.42||3||2|
At the beginning of the year, Richards was still a young man finding his feet in Test cricket. He had scored a majestic 192 not-out against India in Delhi in 1974 but after 10 Tests, he was averaging 31.40.
Perhaps the triumph at the ODI World Cup in 1975 filled him with confidence or perhaps he just figured the method to his very unique brand of cricket. Few before him or after him hit across the line as often as Richards and few before him or after him intimidated the bowlers like he did.
In many ways, it all started in 1976. With every innings; with every series, he seemed to grow and by the time 1976 ended, he was the finished article.
1976 – Innings by innings breakdown
|44||5||caught||v Australia||Sydney||3 Jan 1976|
|2||3||caught||v Australia||Sydney||3 Jan 1976|
|30||2||caught||v Australia||Adelaide||23 Jan 1976|
|101||2||bowled||v Australia||Adelaide||23 Jan 1976|
|50||2||caught||v Australia||Melbourne||31 Jan 1976|
|98||2||caught||v Australia||Melbourne||31 Jan 1976|
|142||3||caught||v India||Bridgetown||10 Mar 1976|
|130||3||bowled||v India||Port of Spain||24 Mar 1976|
|20||4||run out||v India||Port of Spain||24 Mar 1976|
|177||3||caught||v India||Port of Spain||7 Apr 1976|
|23||3||caught||v India||Port of Spain||7 Apr 1976|
|64||3||bowled||v India||Kingston||21 Apr 1976|
|DNB||-||-||v India||Kingston||21 Apr 1976|
|232||3||caught||v England||Nottingham||3 Jun 1976|
|63||3||lbw||v England||Nottingham||3 Jun 1976|
|4||3||bowled||v England||Manchester||8 Jul 1976|
|135||3||lbw||v England||Manchester||8 Jul 1976|
|66||3||caught||v England||Leeds||22 Jul 1976|
|38||3||bowled||v England||Leeds||22 Jul 1976|
|291||3||bowled||v England||The Oval||12 Aug 1976|
|DNB||-||-||v England||The Oval||12 Aug 1976|
Indeed, at the end of 1976, Richards’ average had jumped up from 31.40 at the start of the year to 64.14. After 21 Tests, he was now ready to dominate as only he could. West Indian great Rohan Kanhai had retired but it almost didn’t seem to matter.
The West Indies had gone through a tough period at the start of the year in Australia and through it all, Richards had emerged as a player who would help the team dominate Test cricket for the times to come.
Richards was never afraid, not even as a debutante. But the runs scored in 1976 gave him his trademark swagger.
Viv Richards in Tests
His performances through 1976 saw him being named as one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year.
“Self-confidence, without arrogance, is one of Richards’ hallmarks,” said the article in the Wisden Almanack that named him as one of the cricketers of the year. “Another is the unconfined enjoyment he gets out of the game. Both will be tested when he is forced to endure the barren periods which are the lot of all cricketers, great and humble alike. For the year 1976, however, Vivian Richards stood on top of the cricketing world and enjoyed it.”
Most Test runs in a calendar year
|Mohammad Yousuf (PAK)||2006||11||19||1788||202||99.33||62.64||9||3|
|IVA Richards (WI)||1976||11||19||1710||291||90.00||72.85*||7||5|
|GC Smith (SA)||2008||15||25||1656||232||72.00||65.81||6||6|
|MJ Clarke (AUS)||2012||11||18||1595||329*||106.33||65.96||5||3|
|SR Tendulkar (INDIA)||2010||14||23||1562||214||78.10||55.90||7||5|
Here’s a look at some of Richards’ finest moments from that golden year:
All statistics courtesy ESPNCricinfo Statsguru