By Orville Williams
Antigua and Barbuda’s only living National Hero, Sir Vivian Richards, has attributed the latest in a string of awards received during and after his illustrious career to a passion for representing his Caribbean roots.
On Sunday, Sir Viv – as he is affectionally called – received the Order of the Caribbean Community, Caricom’s highest award, for his contributions to regional development through his sporting accomplishments and his social advocacy.
He was presented with the award by Chan Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname, during Caricom’s 43rd Conference of Heads of Government meeting in that country.
The former West Indies captain is one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket, scoring 8,540 runs in 121 Test matches and 6,721 runs in 187 One Day Internationals, and also winning the World Cup in 1975 and 1979.
He also won significant acclaim for emphasising that cricket is more than a sport, calling it a socio-political vehicle capable of uniting the Caribbean region.
During the height of his career, Sir Viv was witness to several atrocities affecting poor, Black people around the world and made it a point of his duty to fight for their rights – hitting out against racism and white supremacy and encouraging Black consciousness.
Speaking to Observer after receiving the award, the cricket legend noted that he is delighted to be awarded for his efforts to celebrate and uplift his people.
“It goes to show you that sometimes, if you persevere with the things you believe in; the work that you put in, the consciousness that you have about – not just maybe yourself, but your people, the people that you represent – [you can achieve great success].
“Ever since I started off, I wanted people who look like me to feel the same, to feel as strong as I am and for them to [achieve success].
“Because of these things, to see the Caribbean community in itself, what we represented as a team – the West Indies Cricket team – and all the successes we had together, this reminds me it is that same sort of an environment that I’m representing here again, and to get an award from these folks is [amazing],” Sir Viv said.
The Antigua Grammar School alumnus was honoured alongside Dame Billie Miller – former Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados; Trinidadian calypsonian David Rudder; and former Secretary-General of Caricom, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Like Sir Viv, the other awardees played a role in supporting the development of the Caribbean region through politics, entertainment, and diplomacy.
Another thing they have in common is the perseverance to overcome obstacles and stay the course with respect to their work and the desired success.
“I think there are some of us who want [things to be like] we work today; we want [the rewards] today – we don’t think about tomorrow. [But] it’s all about the work that you put in, and if you put that work in, [trust that] you’re going to get it,” Sir Viv said further.
After joining up with the West Indies in 1974 and captaining the team for approximately seven years, Sir Viv retired as the only captain to have never lost a Test series, a feat that highlights his revered standing even more.
He told Observer too how important it is to embrace individuality and employ tunnel vision in achieving the most success, referring to his success in cricket.
“What I did is I found out what I wanted to get involved with early and put my passion and all the energy that I had into that. This is all I’m asking of our younger folks and anyone who’s looking for [motivation] – try and be [yourself], because being you can take you places; that’s what I did.
“There are a lot of people who sometimes look down on sports and I can tell you, sports has taken me to the biggest places on earth, and I guess if I was in any other environment, I would not have reached that far,” Sir Viv said.
Along with the Order of the Caribbean Community, Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was named Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to cricket back in 1994, Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation (KCN) by Antigua and Barbuda in 1999, and Knight of the Order of the National Hero (KNH) in 2006.
He has also been given several sport-specific honours, including Antigua and Barbuda’s newest cricket stadium – the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds – being named after him in 2007.