Thirty years after he adjudged Viv Richards leg before wicket in the Delhi Test of 1983, former Test umpire Dara Dotiwalla has not changed his stance: The master blaster was plumb in front.
Dotiwalla was reacting to an interview that appeared in a national daily where he was quoted as saying that it was a, “nasty LBW decision.” There was more drama to Richards’ view.
He said (just as mentions in his book Sir Vivian – the Definitive Autobiography published by Michael Joseph in 2000) that a person unknown to him called before the Test to caution him about an umpire. Richards had scored 67 (70 balls, 8x4, 1x6) before being trapped by India captain Kapil Dev.
In fact, in the book, Richards wrote that the caller said one of the umpires had been, “ ‘bought’ and was on the take.” However, the Antiguan, now a mentor for Indian Premier League team Delhi Dardevils, wrote, “I would never suggest that the umpire had been bought, but the knowledge of that phone call didn’t help my rage.”
Dotiwalla alleged yesterday that Richards had brought up the telephone call on the Test eve because he wanted to down play the fact that he created a mess in the dressing room on his return from the crease. Both Dotiwalla and his partner Madhav Gothoskar recalled that they heard about crockery among other things being broken by a livid Richards on his return from the crease.
“Those days, there were no match referees. Else, Richards would have been fined and even dropped from the next Test. He was clearly out. No player is happy with a leg before decision. In my opinion, he was plumb. He used to play across the line. I felt it would have hit the stumps — somewhere in between middle and leg or at the most, leg stump,” said Dotiwalla.
The dressing room drama extended to the steps of the Kotla. Dotiwalla recalled: “During the tea interval (Day Three, November 1), Richards told us, ‘you Indian umpires are @#####@ cheats.’ We complained to our Board president NKP Salve at the end of the day. Manager Wes Hall and captain Clive Lloyd were informed about the need to apologise for whatever was said to us and we decided not to come out on the field the next day. But Lloyd promised us an apology so we started play.
“As his team walked out for lunch, Richards said to us, ‘Umpires, I apologise for whatever happened yesterday.’” With regards to match-fixing suggestions, Dotiwalla exclaimed, “Nothing doing, nothing doing. I had never heard of match fixing when I was umpiring. It all started with the Hansie Cronje incident.”
Richards’ strong words to the umpires created a storm. In Viv Richards – The Authorised Biography by Trevor McDonald (published by Pelham Books), the author, after referring to the cups and saucers flying in the dressing room, wrote: “Much more unfortunate was the fact that the batsman’s anti-Indian tirade was overheard by a number of people unconnected with cricket but very influential in political circles.”
Although Richards’ outburst surprised Gothoskar, he put things in perspective. “I must say that the West Indians were aggressive at that moment and would soon be back to their normal jovial selves. I used to enjoy the banter Malcolm Marshall used to indulge in. Lloyd too used to joke around with me,” said Gothoskar, who was surprised by his appointment in the fourth (Mumbai) and fifth (Kolkata) Tests of that series too. Dotiwalla said that the ugly incident was not repeated and Richards was “happy” with him when he umpired West Indies’ games in 1987.