TO sit with Sir Vivian Richards is to gain an intimate view of a life of unalloyed brilliance.

There is something quite bewildering about seeing one of the finest cricketers of all-time wandering around a Glasgow brewery – like spotting the Mona Lisa hanging in a butcher’s shop window – but, even out of context, it becomes quickly apparent that this is a figure whose greatness transcends both place and time.

Richards has travelled to Scotland with three of his fellow knights – Sirs Andy Roberts, Richie Richardson and Curtly Ambrose – ostensibly as ambassadors for their homeland of Antigua and Barbuda, one of the hosts of this summer’s T20 World Cup.

As idyllic as the endless sandy beaches and year-round sunshine sound, the 250-strong audience has not turned up at the Drygate brewery to listen to a talking tourism brochure.

Instead, it is the opportunity to hear first-hand about the golden era of West Indies cricket, a period when the Caribbean kings ruled the world with a devastating combination of menacing fast bowling and swashbuckling batting.

Few executed the latter better than Richards. Still looking far sprightlier than any 72-year-old really ought to, the man nicknamed the Master Blaster terrorised bowlers for almost 20 years with his style of aggressive stroke-playing. A Test average of 50.23 and a place in Wisden’s Top 5 cricketers of the century underlines its effectiveness.

Richards led from the front during a period from the late 1970s throughout the 1980s when the West Indies swept all before them, winning the World Cup twice and regularly putting rivals India, Australia and England to the sword in the Test arena.

It is a different story nowadays, West Indies beaten by Scotland in a T20 World Cup contest in 2022 and then denied a place at last year’s 50-over tournament – for the first time in their history – by those pesky Scots again.

“Whenever I speak with anyone, I honestly believe we created a legacy, a serious legacy, and that legacy has deteriorated somewhat along the way,” says Richards of the Windies’ modern-day demise.

Several members of the current Scotland squad join the four Sirs on stage during a Q&A session, with Richards vocally encouraging and supportive. Earlier in the evening he had been proclaiming his enthusiasm at seeing cricket’s old guard getting the occasional bloody nose from the emerging nations, even if it sometimes comes at his country’s expense.

“It’s great, man,” he adds. “I think the dimension of the game has changed big time. The introduction of T20 has given more teams – teams who are not normally fancied – the chance to have a day too. If the other team does not turn up they can have a chance.”

Scotland’s group match with Oman at this summer’s T20 World Cup takes place in Antigua in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, something that excites the man himself.

“It is great to see teams from the so-called lower ranks and where they are at. Scotland has got to Antigua by beating some teams so it’s all good. The only thing we must guard you guys against is, I know you make some of the best whisky in the world here, but in Antigua we make some of the best rum in the world. You guys have got to be careful!”

Richard, close friends with Ian Botham during a decade plus together at Somerset, enjoyed the high life, too, in his day, travelling most places with his golf clubs.

“I can remember way back playing in a pro-am at St Andrews. There was one of your famous snooker players by the name of Alex Higgins. I played with him. Oh, man. May god bless his soul, he was a lively guy.

“Later on, because I had met him, I followed his career and saw him at the snooker table and saw how fidgety he was. He was like that on the golf course. He could not keep still, he was moving everywhere. He was a complex personality but I found him a nice man.”

Richards, to his frustration, could not hit a golf ball with the same venom as he would often dispatch a cricket ball.

“Golf certainly humbles you,” he concedes. “You think because you are a ball player you can do the same thing. The ball is standing still so you can just whack it anywhere you like. You would think it would be easier but it is not. I have so much respect for golfers.”

He didn’t share Botham’s love of fishing but was happy to eat the catch of the day when a touring West Indies team was served fish suppers during a 1980 friendly versus Forfarshire in Broughty Ferry.

Richards had been playing tennis on the neighbouring courts when word was sent out that he was required to bat. “I scored 69 and we won by 80 runs so the fish supper must have worked,” he muses.

Richards’ affection for Scotland grew through the friendship he formed with Peter “Jock” McCombe, a fixer employed by Somerset to take care of the players’ needs. Mention of Airdrieonians FC adds to the surreal feel about the evening.  

“One of my best mates was a Scotsman,” he reveals. “He is no longer with us but he was from Airdrie and a great fan of that football team. When I first went to Taunton, an individual coming from the Caribbean into a new environment, I decided I wanted to go to the cinema. This guy was there and came up and introduced himself. That was it.

“Ian knew him well too and anything we wanted done Jock took care of it. He was someone in life who you cherish. It was unfortunate the way his life ended because he died when he was on vacation in Antigua, staying in my house. He was only 43. I was out but when I got home I can remember seeing the ambulance outside.”

Richards, thankfully, has breezed beyond that age by almost 30 years and could pass for at least a decade younger.

“I am thankful to be preserved past 70 and try my best to keep myself as fit as possible,” he reveals. “It’s important. I always maintain that you look at past sportsmen and people say, ‘That guy used to play sport?’ So I’m still trying my best.”

Like his cricket, he is making it seem effortless.