Some years ago, I found myself on an unaccustomed London street corner, looking to cross the road.

Waiting, I turned to look at a dignified older but still powerfully-built gentleman, who joined me, also waiting for a crossing opportunity. I looked again, and was pretty sure it was Sir Vivian Richards.

I wasn’t absolutely sure because he was taller than I’d imagined. He seemed taller than me (although he’s the same height) and I’d thought him shorter? Probably because in my mind’s eye, he was always pictured among other West Indian ‘giants’ – Clive Lloyd, Joel Garner, Michael Holding etc; all of whom were six feet, and some.

So I took a gamble and said:

“Are you Sir Viv Richards?” He nodded.

I blurted:

“You’re one of my heroes you know, can I trouble you for your autograph or something.”

He said “Sure”, so I ferreted in my suit pockets for a bit of paper or something, but I couldn’t find anything.

So I looked him in the eye and said:

“Look can I just simply shake you by the hand?”

He smiled and we shook hands. And then he was gone.

Viv is far more than a sporting hero; although he’s absolutely that. He never wavered with absolute bravery in the face of the most hostile bowling. His teammates say in the unmissable Fire in Babylon [DVD] [2010] they were sure he’d be carried off injured or worse, in the great 1979 defeat of Australia in Australia, which I was watching again just this morning.

But, as Fire in Babylon shows, along with Clive Lloyd, he also knew he was building a nation. Their total domination of cricket for over two decades, changed the way the world saw the West Indies; and the way those newly independent island nations saw themselves.

A genuine hero of our times; and a generous hand I will always remember shaking.

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