Like a lot of young Queensland cricket fanatics back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I saved up my pocket money and headed off to the cricket at the “Gabba” in South Brisbane during Christmas recess.
But rather than wear the national colours I chose instead to display my personal bias by cheering on the impressive West Indies’ side as they took the field resplendent in creamy whites.
There was something magical about the world champions from the Caribbean that made them so appealing back then. On reflection I guess it was because I hadn’t seen a team entirely of black players, albeit an international team play such an exciting brand of cricket and dominate all competitors so convincingly.
I know that sounds unpatriotic but I’m confident I wasn’t the only Aussie at the game who had a soft spot for the rival nation.
The night before each day’s play I’d lie awake imagining I was Vivian Richards, the dashing Antiguan right hand no.3 batsman who strode to the crease with an air of confidence, bordering on smugness, with a swagger the likes of which I haven’t seen exhibited by any cricketer before or since.
His presence alone guaranteed a full house and the roar around the smallish Gabba oval reached fever pitch whenever he clobbered the bright red ball to the boundary for an effortless six or four. I joined in the chorus of rapturous hand clapping for the charismatic Richards as I stood with my father Jim, brothers and cousins under the large shady bottle tree at the school end of the old ground, well before the fully enclosed grandstand was even thought of.
The superbly fit Richards, who scored 8,540 runs over 121 tests for an average of 50.33, forever chomping away on gum knew the aura he wielded on the attentive sunbaked spectators and played up to their expectations. He either scored a dashing century in record time or returned to the dressing room with his bat tucked firmly under his right arm with less than double figures registered for his efforts.
Oh how I loved to picture myself as the great “master blaster” batsman.
To complete my flight of fantasy as the consummate cricketer covering all bases, on solitary evenings star gazing in the small hours of the morning, I also entertained extravagant thoughts that I was the majestic Michael Holding gracefully running to the crease to deliver the firm cricket ball at scintillating pace to a nervous batsmen a mere 20 metres away.
Holding, the tall 1.9m Jamaican right arm fast bowler with the apt nickname “whispering death” who took 249 wickets in 60 tests for an average of 23.68, like Richards also had a large adoring fan base. His staggering athleticism has its origin back to his school days in Kingston where he made his mark as a 400m runner.
Holding took turns tormenting the Australian batsmen with fellow speedsters’ big bird Joel Garner and Andy Roberts.
The fact that they won most games was also cause for celebration at the end of each one-day or five-day series.
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