Barry Richards was 65 yesterday, but in the mind's eye he remains young, blue cap pulled down over a fuzz of hair, the white teeth and the gunslinger's eyes, feet close together in his stance but then that huge stride and the glorious, utterly certain arc of the bat, and the ball flashing through cover or down the ground.. Ah yes, the legend still lives.
There's never anyone else quite like your childhood hero. Richards had an aura that time cannot diminish. He lost his Test career for a far wider good, but the sadness hung over him because his talent was so obvious, so great. We and he never saw the limits of it. What's certain is that they were distant and unexplored. Richards could summon his brilliance almost at will. He made 80 first class hundreds, nine of them before lunch. He scored 325 in a day against an attack that featured Dennis Lillee. He was the dominant half of the greatest opening partnership of all in county cricket, and as Gordon Greenidge wrote in his autobiography, 'it was not uncommon for the applause to be ringing round the ground for his fifty while I was still in single figures'. And Gordon was not a man know for his reticence in attack.
Richards was sometimes disillusioned by the prospect of yet more bowlers, yet more runs, a disillusionment unfathomable to those of us who would love a fleeting afternoon with a fraction of his skill, yet understandable too because he yearned for greatness due, he knew that his batting needed the validation of the greatest bowlers at their fiercest running in at him.
He had that sometimes, and maybe more often that he thought. His was the last golden era of county cricket - Hampshire's other overseas player was Andy Roberts, and there was no bowler that Richards did not have his chance with.
So happy birthday Bas, and don't sweat the little things. You were the man, and you live.
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