Old master swaggers into scene of first triumph

Richards with members of the Daredevils.

He was the original master blaster. And the Ferozeshah Kotla was where a young Viv Richards first made the cricket world take notice of his swagger as well as the destructive qualities with a bat in hand.

That was in November 1974. After failing in both innings on his Test debut in Bangalore, with murmurs that another failure could mean the axe, Richards smashed an unconquered 192 in the second Test in Delhi, kick-starting the career of the greatest batsman of his generation, between 1970s and early 1990s.

Now 61, the West Indies great strode into the Kotla on Sunday.

Wearing a team jersey that simply said 'Viv', it was clear the Daredevils ambassador is still very much a revered figure among the players. The young crowd that had been cheering Sachin Tendulkar until then seemed to take its time to spot the big Antiguan, but not the players.

Mumbai Indians' Sri Lanka paceman Lasith Malinga was the first to jog across to greet him before Tendulkar walked up for a chat. The pecking order could be seen as MI's Dwayne Smith waited for the conversation to end before he could greet his fellow Caribbean player.

He took the bat from Tendulkar to shadow practice before striking the classical Richards pose, bat on his left hand and tucked below his hip.

SOUGHT AFTER

A quick TV interview and some more conversation followed, this time with Daredevils' Pakistan bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed.

The former West Indies great is expected to stay on till the end of the Daredevils run in the league. His presence could just nudge the team forward after six defeats in a row. The Antiguan was also a mentor for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash T20 league.

On Sunday, Daredevils got a much-needed pep talk as they went into a huddle before the match.

"He told us to bluff," Sehwag said, explaining that the players were asked not to telegraph self doubts to the opposition. The opener did put that to practice in some style.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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