October 19, 2020

Richardson belts out Marley at SRT pavilion


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richardson-guitarBy Saurabh Somani  |  From Wisden India

The West Indies era of dominance in cricket ended in the mid-1990s and today, it’s rare that the team doesn’t end up second best in cricketing contests. There’s one thing that the men from the Caribbean haven’t lost though, and that’s flair – on and off the field.

Give the West Indians a stage, and they’re likely to have the audience dancing to their tunes – sometimes literally so. Richie Richardson, former captain and batsman extraordinaire and current West Indies team operation manager, thrilled spectators with his strokeplay as a player. On Wednesday (November 20), he had people swaying to Caribbean Calypso with his touch. Formerly he had done it with the bat; now he did it with a different instrument in hand.

The setting was the newly inaugurated Sachin Tendulkar pavilion in the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, and a crowd had gathered because Mahendra Singh Dhoni was to inaugurate it. But they stayed because of Richardson’s impromptu skills with the guitar.

The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) had inaugurated the pavilion with much fanfare, music and pomp on the eve of the first India-West Indies One-Day International of a three-match series, complete with a set of traditional musicians, an anchor, and a professional guitarist.

Tendulkar the bowler will have fond memories of Kochi, with both five-wicket hauls of his ODI career coming at the ground, a 5 for 32 against Australia in 1998 and a 5 for 50 against Pakistan in 2005. To commemorate that, one of the walls inside the pavilion has a collection of cricket balls. There too though, there is a batting connect: there are 49 white balls and 51 red ones – one for each international century in Tests and ODIs.

The rest of the walls had a collection of photographs – most cricketing, some personal – that capture the significant moments of Tendulkar’s life and career. There’s his meeting with Sir Don Bradman, his schoolboy photo with Vinod Kambli, a photo of Ramakant Achrekar teaching a young Tendulkar the basics of batting, interspersed with more modern ones. One wall is dedicated to a batting chart of his ODI runs from 1989 to 2012. There is no similar Test match chart, presumably because the ground hasn’t hosted a Test match.

It was this setting in which Richardson had an enthralled audience humming the strains to a song most didn’t seem to know. Finding himself in tow with Charles Anthony, the guitarist and singer hired by the KCA, who wanted to sing a commemorative song, Richardson stopped and joined Anthony. Songs don’t come more Caribbean-flavoured than Bob Marley, and soon, Richardson was singing along to Buffalo Soldier. It didn’t take long for the guitar to also be handed over, and for Richardson to take over. Richardson’s rendition seemed even more apt when he sang the, “Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival” line in the song, almost mirroring the fortunes of the current West Indies team.

But for that moment, the cares of the present seemed far away. Richardson’s international career wound down at about the same time as when their slide as a team started, but even if he hasn’t lived through it as a player, he’s been only one step away, as it were, as one of the recent former players.

Before Richardson stole the show, the pavilion was inaugurated by Dhoni, who was given a quick tour of the memorabilia, including a No. 10 jersey and a bat signed by Tendulkar, before he joined the rest of the Indian team for a practice session. Richardson’s arrival was almost unnoticed in comparison. West Indies had a practice scheduled for much later, and he wasn’t pressed for time.

Anthony had regaled the crowd with different songs until Dhoni arrived, and at the moment of unveiling, Anthony broke into a pre-planned routine of Kishore Kumar’s Chalte Chalte, reportedly one of Tendulkar’s favourite songs.

It didn’t matter that the man in whose name the pavilion was being inaugurated wasn’t there. The setting was still made to order for him. Tendulkar has left Indian cricket, but it will be a while before Indian cricket leaves him.

Saurabh Somani is Assistant Editor at Wisden India

PHOTO: Richie Richardson entertained the gathering at the newly inaugurated Sachin Tendulkar pavilion in the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi with the guitar. © Wisden India

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