Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, West Indian Cricketer with Sally Fitzgibbons, professional surfer from Australia, at the event Hyatt Gold passport at Al Manzil, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai. At 63, Richards is still in rude health and full of joie de vivre. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, had the flair, that certain machismo when you put a cricket bat in their hands. Like some fearless Samurai they stood up against the deadliest bowlers and dealt with them as if they were inadequate to the task.

They demanded attention and respect similar to the way Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards did in the eighties and nineties when he was the most dominant force in the sport.

With his characteristic stance, the cocky tilt of the head and the deadly stare that he shot down at every bowler, Richards looked a ruthless figure who was blessed with an extraordinary presence. And when he struck the ball he did so with full intent, a singular intent to make every shot count. It was an approach that yielded 8550 runs in Test cricket and 6721 in the one-day version.

When Gulf News met the West Indian cricket legend in Dubai on Thursday, it was easy to see why he had such a domineering effect on his sport.

At 63, Richards is still in rude health and full of joie de vivre.

The Antiguan, who famously never ever wore a helmet when facing some of the fastest bowlers in cricketing history, including Dennis Lillie, Jeff Thomson, talked about how lucky he has been, the present state of Test cricket and T20, among other things.

“It’s only now that I look back and say that at times ‘Ive been rather lucky, especially with the amount of balls that would have been bowled at you, to be still here and still having a conversation with you in a pretty normal and civilized manner,” he said

“I guess in those days I never did have the sort of protection that you have today and to have not been seriously injured, I’m very thankful for that. Because I suppose that its one way of being remembered, because I doubt whether today anyone is going to do that again, in terms of going out and not wearing any protection and that stuff.

“Especially things we’ve seen with Philip Hughes, which was rather unfortunate. But when I think of these things they make me shake a little in a sense that I thank God that I was fortunate to have survived.”

Survived? He did so in imperious fashion with a scant few bowlers ever intimidating him in the way that he terrified most of the opposition.

But Richards did admit to being rattled by one bowler, other than Australian Lilliee, who he said he had the utmost respect for.

"I’ve always rated Wasim [Akram] as the best bowler I have ever faced,” he said.

“I saw him at the back end of my career and I have no regret in saying this but I'm glad that was in the retirement lane at that time because I think he was very special.

“It just wasn’t about swing or accuracy, it was about the aggression that he brought as well. He was quick as any on a given day and I just felt he had a lot offer. Like I said, I’m just glad that he came at a time that I was ready to go.”

Richards shot me that look he would across the bowler at the other end of the pitch when I enquired if the sport was lacking in characters.

“I don’t think so, Chris Gayle is a personality, if you judge what he has achieved at the T20 level. The [Kieron] Pollards, the [Dwayne] Bravos, the [Virat] Kholis the Sachins [Tendulkar). They are all characters in their own way and some of them still have a lot to offer.

“I just like seeing guys who are aggressive enough at the crease, not just aggressive but being successful with it.”

What are his thoughts on the present status of the sport in its three formats – Test, one-day and T20.

“I guess cricket could become a little more healthier as things progress in life. But I’m very pleased for the sport itself especially T20, which has been the saviour for the game,” he said.

“I appreciate seeing some of the shots that are being played and I’m pleased to see where it's at in terms of finance and crowds that the sport is attracting.

“Perhaps people are a bit impatient watching a Test match over five days these days so maybe if the governing bodies can find ways of making it more attractive for those who still appreciate the format, it will be great. Because for me I still believe that Test cricket is the best form of cricket as it is the best level any cricketer can be tested at. We just need to make it a little more interesting.

“Look at T20 it’s been a magnificent plus for the game itself and franchises have been good for the game. It has given cricket in my opinion a new lease of life and if there is the right balance we can all enjoy the three forms of the game.”