Donald Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t make the world feel safer: Vivian Richards

The difference between Obama and Trump: Chalk and cheese, says Richards

By Lokendra Pratap Sahi in Calcutta
  • Published 23.12.18, 3:08 AM
  • Updated 23.12.18, 12:35 PM
  • 4 mins read
  •  
Viv Richards in Calcutta. Santosh Ghosh

Antigua’s ambassador-at-large, among the greatest of batsmen (THE greatest for many), brand ambassador for a University run by the Manipal Group, church-goer yet regarded as unconventional, ambassador for the Antigua Tourist Board... It’s tough giving a brief introduction for the 66-year-old Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.

Late on Friday, Sir Viv gladly spoke to The Telegraph for around 45 minutes at the JW Marriott.

Excerpts....

Q You retired a quarter of a century ago, but the legend of Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards has only grown. I guess you’re aware there’s always a degree of curiosity about you...

A (Laughs) Well, curiosity kills the cat, doesn’t it? I love that bit... No one knows my plans... Everybody expected me to be involved with cricket, but here I am, brand ambassador of the American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUACM)... This is Viv with a difference, my friend!

Q Indeed, you’ve certainly taken guard on a very different wicket and are on a ‘Made for Medicine’ tour... Challenging?

A I’m growing into the role and, let’s say, I’m ‘selling’ a package... The good thing is that the AUACM already has 100 or so students from India. They’re undergoing a six-year course in medicine.

Q Is education everything?

A Plays a huge role in life, huge... To touch upon what I’m promoting, the world could certainly do with more doctors.

Q The last time we spoke, in Antigua, almost two-and-a-half years ago, you’d been very concerned about the spate of terror strikes in different parts of the globe. Is the world any safer today?

A Antigua was safe, is so now and will remain safe. You’ve been there...We are very particular about security and tourism... I keep telling students and their parents that they’ll be in a safe and welcoming environment should they choose to study at the Manipal Group’s University in Antigua... I’ve come here from Chennai and Guwahati is my next stop.

Q Keeping the Caribbean to one side, are we actually safer now?

A Geographically, we’re very close to the US... I’m sceptical of some of the things being done by their President, (Donald) Trump... I was hoping he wouldn’t win in 2016, but he did... Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t make the world feel safer... That hasn’t been the American culture, which is reflected in everything that the Statue of Liberty stands for. President Trump, in my view, has erased everything that the Statue stands for.

Q The comparison between President Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, is truly stark...

A Chalk and cheese, that’s the difference between the two Presidents... I suppose a lot of people couldn’t bear the thought of seeing a Black as President and sitting so well in Office.

Q Besides the security aspect, what needs to be addressed?

A What upsets me is how naive the Superpowers are. Take, for example, the war going on in Yemen — totally backed by Saudi Arabia. The US, which would have made billions in arms sales, is afraid to slap whoever is responsible for being naughty. The world needs to be a fairer place for us to survive... For equality to prevail. The First World shouldn’t be turning a blind eye.

Q Were you also disturbed by what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi?

A Indeed... We should be mad about such things. How could it have happened in this Century? The guy went to his Consulate (Saudi Arabia’s, in Istanbul) and came out in a body bag.

Q An on-field foe, yet dear friend off it, is Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Your expectations of Imran Khan in the hot seat?

A I was delighted with the success of his party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) in the July elections. I sent him a voice mail wherein, besides the congratulations, I hoped he’d be able to make a difference in the region and, possibly, on a much bigger stage too... As a cricketer, Imran was fiercely competitive and I expect him to tackle the challenges head on.

Q One massive challenge for Imran is improving relations with India...

A I’m aware... The world needs less tension on the Indo-Pak border... The more this generation appreciates the ones across borders, the better it will be for the kids who’re growing up. Maan, you need love, not hate. The world needs peace, but it will only come about if the politicians have an understanding that, yes, it can be achieved. That peace can become a reality.

Q But the past, especially when it comes to hostile neighbours, cannot be forgotten...

A No one is asking anybody to forget the past, for if you’ve been burnt badly, it would be tough to forget. However, let the past not weigh you down completely. At times, we need to remind ourselves that, if things get too far (by way of hostility), then it could get really bad.

Q When did you last meet Imran?

A In the summer of 2017, in Islamabad... Imran had invited Ian Chappell and I for a brief visit... All of us had lunch together and I recall the passion with which Imran spoke. The same passion used to be on display during his playing days.

Q Do you follow the political goings-on in India?

A Not too closely, but I do read about it... At times, I’ve seen visuals of legislators (in State Assemblies) using their fists... Obviously, the politics is much quieter back home in Antigua. It’s simple there, with only three parties. We respect whoever is in power, till it’s time for the next five-year cycle. The government is in the hands of the Labour party.

Q Given your stature, haven’t you been tempted to wear a politician’s hat?

A I’m afraid of politics.

Q Afraid? Hard to believe...

A I say that because if you get into ‘bed’ with someone who seriously wants to be a politician, then that could really be detrimental to your health! Fair answer?

Q Ambassador-at-large, brand ambassador, ambassador... The most satisfying role?

A Whatever the job, you have to do it well. Nothing, however, carries more honour than playing a role for your country, whether as an ambassador for a specific product or an ambassador-at-large.

Q Have you cut down on your TV commitments?

A Look, TV work is very time consuming and, instead of doing commentary, I’d much rather sit in a studio as an expert. Running up and down is very tiring.

Q You have a Stadium named after you, in North Sound (Antigua)... Do you get emotional on each visit?

A It’s humbling. The adulation I still get has made everything more than worthwhile. I’m moved every time.

Q One post-retirement experience that has touched you the most?

A Happened in this very city, a few hours earlier, when a young boy came up to me and kissed an arm. It’s like I’m God... That said, I try and keep myself as grounded as possible because there’s someone else who takes care of you.

Q Finally... Surely, there’s something you’d like to advise the teenagers’ club...

A (Smiles) Whatever you pursue in life, you have to work hard. Complications come up and living could get difficult, but my opinion is that the youngsters have it in them to make a difference. They are in a position to bring about change, make that (game-changing) difference. Let’s hope they do.