FIRE IN BABYLON On Demand - Viv Richards InterviewJune 29, 2011

FIRE IN BABYLON On Demand - Viv Richards Interview

Tribeca Films

The following interview of Sir Vivian Richards (West Indies Cricketing Team: 1974 - 1991 & Team Captain: 1984 - 1991) is courtesy of Tribeca Films for their film FIRE IN BABYLON (now available on demand). - ODW.


The West Indies cricketing team of the '70s/'80s will forever be recognised in history as one of the greatest teams in the world, performing on the field at an outstanding level, playing with a symbolic declaration against racism and fighting for equality. Did you ever put down the success on the field to luck?
I can tell you, we worked hard enough to get where we wanted to get at that time. It wasn‟t a luck thing. This was all about the fact that we were fitter, [had a] sense of professionalism and also there was a sense of all that pride, and putting that combination of all those things together created that team.

Your team's success was during a time of race-riots, civil unrest and Apartheid. Did you feel all that happening when you were on the field and how did you use the game to not just overcome it, however help other people suffering this injustice?
You are conscious [of it], everywhere where you had suffering of people of your colour, South Africa, wherever, I always felt conscious about it. For anyone in the team who wasn‟t aware of some of this stuff that was going on worldwide and where we, as people were on the wrong end of the stick most times, it was pretty common for me to try as an individual, to try and instil some of this belief – what we are here for and what we can achieve. We have an avenue to accomplish that and that avenue is the god-given talent we were given through the game of cricket.

So that was one way of sending that message that I think we are on an equal par in here, not superior or inferior in any way but on a level par.

As well as your cricketing talent, you are held in great esteem for refusing to play in South Africa during the apartheid, despite them offering you a „blank cheque.‟ How important was it for you to take a stand as a West Indian Cricketer and publically reject the regime?
At that time they were rather desperate because they were starved of international cricketers or sportsmen of high standards.

I think [they] felt confident that I would sign but I wanted to find out a few things - one of the things that was on the table was being an „honorary white‟. How can a black man be an honorary white man? No money in this world would help me go to South Africa in that sense. If I was to give them my natural status. I was going to sit anywhere on a train I wanted to sit. I was going to go anywhere that I wanted to go. That is the privilege of human beings so there were a few things on the table that just didn‟t feel right.


When we look at the South Africa situation, I was offered a lot of money to tour that part of the world [but] because of what was going on in South Africa in terms of the apartheid regime… all that to me whatever you achieve as a cricketer, I would like to think that is one of my greatest innings – rather than scoring that at Lords or the ARG - to have made such a significant contribution, it may be tiny, but having said no to the apartheid regime in South Africa, not going, that to me is worth more than any triple century, double century whatever, the fastest century. And that is outside the border of cricket of where cricket is concerned – cricket gave me the platform for that.

The West Indies is a collection of several islands, however when people talk about it, they often refer to the nations represented in the West Indies Cricket team. As citizens of different countries, did you feel united on the field not only playing the game, but also representing unity and fighting against persecution?

I can tell you one thing is [that] when we are playing and got on that field we put aside all the differences and the issues that the islands had, and to me I felt at the time what our politicians couldn‟t achieve we could… and did actually, in the end. Bringing that force together, uniting that region together itself. Wherever the West Indies were performing, wherever we were, the closeness of all the islands, all in partnership wanting to know what went on. I think our team played a lot in the so-called integrating factor. Whoever said sport is not a powerful force?

I can tell you that sport is seriously powerful because I have been involved in that to see the transformation of individuals who come speaking to you, individuals who are passionately tell you how much they enjoy what you guys are doing out there because collectively everyone could speak as a unit. The West Indies cricket did that more than anything else in my opinion.

I felt that, I felt a huge responsibility. Because whenever you perform, I could always imagine the noise of the various islands. I could see, just visually see the passion and how people felt about the achievement.

With colonialism, the English also brought over cricket, which essentially the West Indies used to battle them. Did it make you and the team feel proud by beating them at their own game?
Well you shouldn‟t have been the colonial master that you did, then by coming and giving us an opportunity to [learn]. So we were fortunate to be given an opportunity and help through our colonial past to play the game – and this is the opportunity that you gave us! How I look at it in this light is that having invaded our land you left a game and we became reasonably good at it. That‟s one benefit! [smiles]

You should look at it that way, that you actually had a foot in it. Rather than be totally ignorant to the fact of what are these guys doing in this game of cricket and been doing this and doing that. You should be satisfied you gave us the opportunity – these are things you expected to do especially when you were colonial masters then and these are the things you should have done and did and should feel proud of.


Viv Richards / FIRE IN BABYLON (Tribeca Film)
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