Cricket legend Sir Viv Richards accomplished whatever there was to achieve in the game – playing for West Indies, the No 1 team in the world in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, being part of two World Cup-winning teams and not losing a Test series as captain from 1985-86 to 1991.
However, when it came to matters off the field, Nelson Mandela, who passed away in Johannesburg on Thursday, provided him with his greatest moment. Richards told MiD DAY from Antigua yesterday that meeting Mandela in Monaco during the Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000 was his greatest moment.
“That meeting will stay in my memory for a long time. He knew about my decision to not go to SA (in the apartheid years). He said, ‘Thank you’ and those words meant so much. I was extremely happy. To hear this from a person, who is revered by almost everyone around the world was very special. When he said ‘Thank you’, I knew where he was coming from. He did say to me that he knew exactly what was happening then as well as the people, who helped make a difference (in dismantling apartheid),” said Richards.
In the film Fire in Babylon, Richards revealed that he was offered an “open cheque” to play in South Africa, but refused to bite the bait because touring South Africa during the apartheid era went against his principles. Also, he felt that there would have been an exodus in West Indies cricket had he agreed to go. “You felt seriously embodied with the folks who were suffering in South Africa. Human injustice was taking place for so many years,” he said.
The proud Antiguan first heard that Mandela appreciated his decision to stay away from rebel tours to South Africa from Bishop Desmond Tutu. That was before he met Mandela in 2000.
“Tutu told us that they listened to the radio when West Indies played against England and Australia. They were frequent listeners. He also said that they took satisfaction from the success we had at that time. For me to hear that was a privilege,” said Richards. Tutu told Richards: “Thank you so much for helping dismantle the apartheid regime; for helping in the upliftment of our struggling brothers and
“When I heard that,” said Richards in Fire in Babylon, “I was moved. Wow, they knew exactly the part you played. You felt very appreciated.”