Magazine article The Spectator

Sir Viv and Me

Magazine article The Spectator

Sir Viv and Me

Article excerpt

Sir Vivian Richards came to watch me play cricket the other day.

That's the sort of sentence you wait a lifetime to write. What's more it's true. Sort of. I haven't been able to say anything like that for ten years, just a few days before the Rugby World Cup final in Sydney in November 2003. I was at a screening at the National Film Theatre of a nautical epic called Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Afterwards there was a Q and A with the actors. After a series of standard questions about the cinematography and suchlike, I put my hand up.

'A question for Mr Crowe, please.

Who does he think will win the World Cup final on Saturday, England or Australia?'

'Are you being serious?'

'You bet.'

Crowe launched into an extremely well-informed analysis, concluding that it came down to the differing strengths of the two front fives and that, on balance, England's shaded it. In the days up to the game I could say, just about truthfully, to anyone I could persuade to listen, 'Well I was talking to Russell Crowe the other night and he reckoned it came down to the scrum...'

Anyway, back to Sir Vivian. We were under lights at Sir Viv's mighty Test stadium in Antigua, and Sir Viv, who has enough charisma to light the place on his own, arrived in time to see the first of the 20-odd sixes off our bowling fly into the top stand. Our opponents were named, ominously, the Antigua Legends, and we were a team of roaming journalists and friends, few of us in the first flush. And the trouble was that the young man from the Mail on Sunday had engaged in some illjudged banter with the Legends' skipper, an amiable giant called Wilden Cornwall, saying that he, the Mail man, was 'The Boss'. As Wilden has a first-class batting average in the thirties and bowling in the twenties, this was not necessarily smart. …

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