Richards also warned that the current South African test captain, Hashim Amla, might allow captaincy issues to affect his batting while he is at the crease.
He also casted his vote for Stephen Cook to open the batting in tests for South Africa with Dean Elgar instead of Stiaan van Zyl being converted from a middle-order batsman to an opener.
Richards delivered the 12th annual New Year’s address in front of a capacity audience in the President Suite at PPC Newlands after the conclusion of the third day’s play of the second test between South Africa and England at the iconic venue.
Asked to comment on Amla’s test captaincy (and whether he should continue in that role), Richards expressed sympathy for Amla’s challenges, including the fact that he lost tosses in India and that the Indian off-spinner Ravi Ashwin was the best bowler in the lop-sided series (which resulted in a 3-0 win for the hosts).
He added there were certain questions that he has no answer to as he is not an insider. “Does Hashim want the job, and does he approach mentors around him on where can he improve.”
Richards said Amla should exclude the things (about his captaincy) that are swirling around when he is batting. His own impression is that Amla worries about other things from a captaincy point of view while he is at the crease.
The legendary former South African opener said he would have pencilled in Cook instead of Van Zyl as opener for the current series against England.
He said he would have selected Van Zyl at number five. “I don’t think you can manufacture opening batsmen. And Stephen Cook has done it the past ten years. It might be only a temporary solution, because Cook is 33 or 34,” he added.
Richards also was probed about the South African approach against the whirlwind duo of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who added 399 for the sixth wicket against the Proteas and slammed 196 runs in a session on Sunday in the second test at PPC Newlands.
He said he counted only three Yorkers being bowled in two days to the England batsmen. He also thought the South African bowlers could have used the change of pace more to force false strokes.
On the subject of day/night cricket the former South African batting maestro said this could not be implemented universally and cannot be pursued in venues with a rough outfield.
In certain venues, where there is no dew, like the Adelaide Oval, this innovation could add value to the game.
An amount of 560 million Australian dollars was invested at the Adelaide Oval, he said.
The pink ball is still in a research and developmental phase, he said.
Richards remarked that the International Cricket Council might have missed a trick at the advent of T20-cricket ten years ago by not using a franchise concept by utilizing three cities in countries in different parts of the world to play the game.
It could have aided the globalization of the game enormously.
Miami, Boston and New York could have been the United States of America’s representatives, for example. You could have imported players to represent them, he added.
Richards saluted the contribution made by Basil D’ Oliveira in being a catalyst for the sport boycott against the policy of apartheid.
As a batsman, Richards said, D’ Oliveira had the shortest back=lift he had ever seen, but he could pierce the gaps in the field like few other he saw.
Richards defended the decision of so-called Rebel Tours to South Africa.
He said the players’ opposition to apartheid were encapsulated by the famous walk-off by members of South Africa’s elite players in a game at Newlands. It met with vehement opposition from the government.
The purpose of Ali Bacher’s introduction of the Rebel-tours was to secure the future of cricket in South Africa. If this had not been done, many players and fans could have been lost to the game and could have drifted to other sporting codes, he indicated.
Richards said Fred Titmus, Erapalli Prasanna, Bishen Bedi and Derek Underwood were arguably some of the best spinners he played against.
Bedi defeated numerable batsmen with his control of length and his flight.
Underwood could be unplayable on a wet surface. “He once got 7-17 against us. I knew we were in trouble when in the fifth over of the day, he hit my opening partner on the badge of his cap while he was pushing forward to meet the ball.”
Asked if an argument could be made that the Richards duo – Barry or Viv – might have been better than sir Don Bradman, Richards said he doesn’t like to compare eras simply because conditions, wickets, rules and bats have altered.
“Bradman’s statistics are enormous. He averaged 99.94 in tests – that is twice as good as anybody else.”