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My Favourite Game: Sickness couldn't prevent Richards' violent vendetta opening my eyes to a new world

England v WIndies 1984 First ODI May 31, Old Trafford West Indies won by 104 runs

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The legendary Viv Richards in action for the West Indies at Old Trafford in the side’s 1984 trip to England. Photo by Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

The legendary Viv Richards in action for the West Indies at Old Trafford in the side’s 1984 trip to England. Photo by Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

Getty Images

The legendary Viv Richards in action for the West Indies at Old Trafford in the side’s 1984 trip to England. Photo by Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

The first time I saw the West Indies, they made me physically sick.

Not necessarily for the reasons one might think; after all, I wasn't like poor old Andy Lloyd, battered on the head in the first hour of his debut, never to play for his country again.

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Richards in a relaxed mood off the pitch that year. Photo by Dunn/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Richards in a relaxed mood off the pitch that year. Photo by Dunn/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Getty Images

Richards in a relaxed mood off the pitch that year. Photo by Dunn/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

No; this was another time of ­self-isolation, but this was personal; a virulent bug had seized hold and rendered school an impossibility on this Thursday morning.

Perhaps the sickness was prompted by a bout of empathy from a turbulent evening before.

For, on the previous evening I had tip-toed into my father's room - avoiding the creaky wooden floor on the landing, two footsteps from the bathroom door - in order to catch the penalty shoot-out between Roma and Liverpool.

The 90 minutes had been relayed via a muffled, confused BBC signal, stifled further by being secreted beneath a pillow in order not to attract attention; the luxury of a Walkman must have been elusive at this time.

George Hamilton and Peter Jones were awaiting penalties, but I couldn't resist the temptation to abandon my station and theirs.

Maybe it was Bruce Grobbelaar's fakery that rumbled my tummy; or perhaps it was pure excitement; I wasn't even a Liverpool fan, preferring Tottenham Hotspur, whom I had chosen in a stirring Wembley defeat two years earlier.

A lifelong theme formed, even then.

Whether it was the kneesy, queasy antics of Liverpool's goalie or not; my troubled sleep was interrupted by complaints from a variety of nether regions, rendering school a non-runner.

A hard rain fell and, for reasons far too manifold to delve into here, a complicated family situation allowed me to be home alone for some time.

The aforementioned circumstances had ensured self-isolation offered little, if any, hardship or sense of longing; an only child, bereft of one parent, possesses no FOMO when there is nothing to compare.

Hence, for the first 10 years of life, sporting and cultural knowledge was absorbed from without to within; there were no trips to sports or gigs or cinemas; the second 10 years of life would startlingly reverse that template and it has never stopped accelerating.

On this wet and dreary day, morning radio held no interest and the week's reading had not yet arrived - 'Look-In, Smash Hits' - while my father would not return until later with his daily bounty; copies of the 'Mirror', 'Mail' and 'Sporting Life', adjuncts to the full-time victualler's part-time dabbling in turf accountancy.

Having been lifted adroitly from bedroom to sitting-room before being temporarily left alone, the land of six channels awaited.

Or, rather, four channels; RTÉ was a somnolent landscape then, much of which explains why a surfeit of seminal Anglo-Saxon influences were acquired in one so young and insular.

With a basin in attendance for sudden eruptions, an initial diet of 'Laurel and Hardy' and 'Sesame Street' sufficed before a big decision loomed.

Should one move to change channels? (The life-changing, sedentary ally that was remote controlling had not yet reached Newlands Cross).

The initial effort was stomach-shifting, but the lasting result was life-changing.

As tempestuous rain battered the curtained windows; the rarely pressed fourth button of six - who watched BBC2? - on the Bush television; and suddenly, there it was.

A vision of black and white in colour.

The West Indies. I didn't even know what the term meant (like West Ham United in soccer, perhaps?) I couldn't understand what was happening, at first; there was a bat and ball, so school rounders came into my head.

But I soon conjured the cause and effect of numbers being accumulated, of a contest unfurling between two sides, and great cheering, as England were, it seemed, winning, even though West Indies seemed to have scored much, much more.

Then everything stopped and everyone talked for what seemed like an hour; this when it all made sense as the numbers were elucidated by words and the words elaborated upon the pictures.

But as the day unfolded it seemed as if only one man was painting the pictures and making the numbers and prompting all the words from a collection of unfeasibly elderly commentators that seemed more like refugees from 'Crossroads' than sporting types.

Viv Richards. The colourful armband. The jaws constantly chewing. The purposeful stride as if he had belonged for all time on this TV. And just hitting towards every corner and above every despairing grasp each ball that was directed aggressively towards him, repelling all with gleeful ferocity, as if this was a violent vendetta more suited to a script from 'The A-Team' rather than a sports team.

And then, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding; firing missiles of head-splitting menace with obvious relish. Ian Botham and David Gower did nothing, then; they meant nothing to me, then. Advancing years would advance knowledge and appreciation.

The cricket swapped channels, but I didn't; retreating back into the world of 'Play School'. "Come with me through the round window . . . "

But I had no need of escape. For I had already been there.

In our new series, we've asked our writers to detail the one match that stands out in their memories from all the rest and why it still means so much to them

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