The most explosive batsman of his time and the greatest entertainer the game has possibly seen, Vivian Richards emptied bars and had cricket fans crowding around TV sets from the moment he came out to bat.
Even as he sauntered out of the pavilion, he had won half the battle with his swagger. Few batsmen have intimidated bowlers as much as Richards did, for he was never content with mere survival. Bowlers had to be subjugated and made to recognise that he was the master.
Basically an orthodox right-handed batsman with perfect timing and immense power, Richards almost always looked to attack from the very first ball of the innings and possessed such an amazing range of strokes that he was practically never tied down.
More often than not, he got himself out, but frequently, miscued strokes, which would have been fatal to others, were struck by Richards with such force that they cleared the field.
He was capable of technical excellence and his forward defensive stroke could be as impenetrable as Geoff Boycott's. He didn't use it often, though.
Richards first made his mark while playing for Somerset in the early seventies and made his Test debut against India in 1974-75.
An unbeaten 192 in his second Test marked him out for greatness, which he grasped in 1976 with an astonishing run of big scores that saw him amass 1710 runs (average 90) in the year Ã¢Â€Â“ the record till Mohammed Yusuf broke it in 2006. He hit seven hundreds, and against England alone, he scored 829 runs in four Tests, including two double hundreds. He was one of the top draw cards in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket and remained the world's supreme batsman through the 80s.
As deputy to Clive Lloyd and then in his rightful place as captain, Richards presided over a period of West Indian dominance that saw the Caribbean side, with their array of stroke-playing batsmen and fearsome quartet of fast bowlers, being hailed as arguably the greatest team of all time.
Even in such a star-studded line-up, Richards remained unquestionably the superstar, regaling audiences the world over with his dazzling strokes and big hitting.
His game was tailor-made for limited-overs cricket, and in the 1979 World Cup final against England, he scored a breath-taking 138 not out.
Five years later came his magnum opus. Coming in at 11 for two in the Texaco Trophy game against England, he saw his partners disappear at regular intervals, and when joined by last man Michael Holding, the score was 166 for nine, with Richards on 96. In the next 14 overs, the two added 106 runs, with Richards' share being 93. He remained unbeaten with 189, then the highest score in an ODI. He faced just 170 balls, hitting 21 fours and five sixes.
It is not exactly surprising that the record of fastest hundred in Test cricket in terms of balls faced still stands against Richards' name.
In a sensational display of batting at St John's in April 1986, Richards reached three figures off just 56 balls. He reached his fifty off 33 balls, and only Wally Hammond with ten sixes exceeded his seven sixes in a Test innings. Sixes disappeared down the high street that day as Richards destroyed the bowlng clinically and ferociously.
And so the wondrous exploits continued in both versions of the game till his retirement in 1991 by which time, he had become the leading scorer for the West Indies with 8540 Test runs, including 24 hundreds.
Even in his last series in England in his 40th year, Richards shunned the helmet.
In a decade when the fast bowler's stock ball whizzed past the batsmen's nostrils, his maroon cap was a reminder that no bowler, however fast, would threaten his domination.
Image: Richards lofts Derek Pringle while smashing 189 not out against England in the Texaco Trophy tie at Old Trafford on May 31, 1984.
Text: Partab Ramchand | Getty Images (Any unauthorised reproduction is prohibited)