'We went to Packer for a cause, unlike T20 pros now'

West Indies legend Vivian Richards spoke to TOI on the major issues facing cricket today, from over-reliance on the T20 format to burnout issues.

Excerpts from an interview.

More and more cricketers are turning T20 professionals…

We could do with changing the international calendar. Administrators have a huge role in making sure that it is an even playing field. Let’s not experiment too much with what we have. T20s did give cricket a facelift. Let’s not overlook the fact that the best players who played best T20s have also played Test match cricket – AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson.

Some openly say they don’t want to play red-ball cricket…

If there wasn’t any T20, their first thoughts would have been about representing their countries. The names mentioned earlier have played the best T20 cricket and best Test cricket because they understand the balance.

Having being part of the Packer era, how easy is it to be lured by money?

(When) we went to Packer, we weren’t thinking about playing only one-day cricket. We were protesting what was happening in world cricket. After the Kerry Packer series, the salaries got better and a little bit more attractive and coloured clothing came in. Packer period was change for the best.

It would have been easier for you to just stick with Packer cricket because you were getting paid well anyway..

It would have been easier. But you got to see that it was a protest. It lasted for a while. Every one moved back to their respective countries. We did it for a cause. We went back not just because the salaries got better but Packer had his wishes in terms of rights and broadcast.

AB de Villiers looks fittest on the ground but says he has to retire because he is tired…

Let’s wait and see a few months if he starts feeling a little bit better. Sometimes guys say this today and something different a few days later. He may look fit but inside he may not be feeling fit.

You got to know your body. You don’t have to be superfast on the field. People can anticipate. Fitness does play a part because of the volume of cricket. Administrators need to listen to the complaints of the players. They don’t even have off seasons.

The theory is ‘you play more cricket, you get more money’

You can’t have it both ways. You either maintain your fitness so that you play longer or play as often as possible and get burnt out, but you will be earning money.

Which pace attack fascinates you from this era?

I don’t see fast bowlers these days. Some guys choose to bowl just four overs. Pakistan may have the best seam attack because of the abundance. They have the aggression. I wouldn’t mind batting in this era. Batsmen have got used to playing fast bowling on flat pitches. That has affected their game against smart spin bowlers like Rashid Khan.

Your thoughts on the buzz about spirit of cricket post ball-tampering saga in South Africa…

There’s nothing wrong in competing. Only thing I laugh about is hearing an Australian accusing someone else of verbally abusing him. I am laughing in my sleep when they were saying they were abused in South Africa. You don’t have to behave like them to be competitive. You can be confrontational. Kohli took a lot in Australia and hit back by hitting four centuries there.

There’s a lot being said about Kohli’s on-field actions, giving players send-offs and being in the face of the opposition

Sometimes the guy jumps around because he would have had that himself. We have seen that done by Australians in the past. Why not Kohli? You can only give it back to them only when you are in the winning circle. You can’t give it back when you are losing. When you are winning a battle, that’s your time to say ‘mate, get on your bike’ without being racial.

Can this temperament actually deter your own game?

I don’t think Kohli would do it if he couldn’t handle it himself. It serves no purpose if you keep giving send-offs and then you keep getting out when you go out to bat. Kohli knows he can deliver. Yes, you can have failures. But it shouldn’t deter you from being the way you are. I would have loved to play in the modern day because I like to compete.

Do you think two-tier structure can help revive Test cricket in West Indies?

We could have said this when we used to beat India in two and a half days. The participation in cricket is so small, we should try to help one another. We used to roll teams over inside three days. Because we didn’t talk about two-tier system then, we have teams who played on, got better and now compete at a higher level.

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