This is me batting in my last-ever Test match innings, against England at the Oval in 1991. Some folks go on a little long, but I already knew my time was coming to an end and I wanted to keep my record as a captain intact – I had never lost a Test series. The one before had been against Australia, and there had been a lot of confrontations. In fact, this series was played in a very good spirit – and there was only one draw. England went one up, then the weather intervened to stop us coming back. But after winning at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, we went to the Oval 2-1 up.
I had to score enough in the second innings to make sure my Test batting average was over 50. Often I didn’t pay attention to stats – but that day I gave it serious emphasis. I scored enough: I got 60 – it was a huge relief. When I got out, I saw all the England and West Indies fans standing together, the England players too: it was one of the most emotional moments of my life. Some guys had unfurled a huge banner on the flats opposite. ‘Thanks Viv, we’ll miss you,’ it said.
My old friend Ian Botham – Beef, I gave him that name – is fielding at slip there. He was called up by England for that last Test, to spoil my fun: he hit the winning runs. But it was good he was there, knowing the way we started our careers together. We shared a flat from 1973 in Taunton. My first memory of Ian was when we were selected to play for Somerset under-25s against Glamorgan. When I arrived, this shy guy from Antigua, I hardly knew anyone. Ian introduced himself as an ‘all-rounder’. I said, ‘I bowl a little, bat a bit’. He then scored a century and I got a duck. When it was my turn to bowl, I got five for 25 and he didn’t get a wicket. He said, ‘From now on, you do the bowling and I’ll do the batting.’
I felt welcome in Taunton; it was similar to Antigua – slow, peaceful, friendly, approachable folks
At the end of that game, he came over with some scrumpy, the first time I had Taunton cider. I thought, ‘These English people, they’re not bad.’ The cider became a ritual – Ian was a Somerset guy through and through. I felt welcome in Taunton; it was similar to Antigua – slow, peaceful, friendly, approachable folks. The butcher, the fish and chip shop – they wouldn’t take any money from me.
I made my Test debut before Ian, against India in 1974. But there was never any jealousy. Ian encouraged me and I did the same to him. The fans took a shine to us: we’d go to pubs and have lock-ins. It was a great time. Somerset hadn’t won anything for over 100 years, but with Joel Garner, Ian and me, we won the Gillette Cup twice and the Benson & Hedges Cup twice. So when Joel and I were forced out of the club in 1986, that hurt, because I had put all my energies into Somerset. Ian left the club too as a result. He joined Worcester. There was no need for him to do that. I had just bought my first flat in Taunton, and invited him to live with me, rent free. I still have a lot of friends in Somerset; I like to think the episode [of my departure from the club] is all forgotten. They named a gate in the ground after me, and a stand after Ian.
The West Indies went from such a high at Edgbaston to such a low at the Oval. We lost that final test by five wickets. But the series was a draw: 2-2. It was important to walk away not losing my final Test match series. One of the other things that made that match very special was me and Ian, two rogues, on the pitch at the end. We started together and we finished almost together.
Sir Viv Richards is a tourism ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda (visitantiguabarbuda.com)