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PAKISTAN Super League, now in the final stages of its fourth edition, has blossomed into a very successful league and is second to none now in terms of popularity and entertainment among the T20 leagues being played around the globe.

In today’s game between the Quetta Gladiators and Karachi Kings, the euphoria will be no less in front of a packed house at the historic National Stadium. Obviously, the two teams will be the focus of attention and the eyes will be locked when stars of the game step in on the turf.

Quetta Gladiators, with a reputation of their own as one of the top outfits of this league, will no doubt once again be in the quest to finish at the top as they have done previously.

In previous years, though, they have had the bad luck of not having their overseas professionals at their disposal in the Pakistan leg games and could not lift the trophy. They will have no such reasons to regret this time as they have arrived in Karachi at full strength, with in—form Shane Watson leading the charge.

Success of a team depends on how well they are geared to take up the challenge and the Gladiators don’t lack in that since they have one of the greatest players the game has seen with them as their mentor — Sir Vivian Alexander Richards.

His presence in the dugout and the positive vibes coming from him no doubt rubs on others and keep them motivated. The infectious enthusiasm of Sir Viv and the camaraderie that he breeds even when going for a high five with the young players induces in them a kind of confidence that is tremendous. It was this sort of confidence with which Viv tackled the great fast bowlers of his time.

Now 67, Viv remains the original Master Blaster due to his attacking brand of cricket which he displayed regardless of the situation.

Named among the five cricketers of the century by bible of the game ‘Wisden Almanack’ — a process in which I was one of the voters — Viv had this ability to turn the game on its head at anytime during a game. He was also a brilliant fielder and in World Cup in 1975, his running out of Chappell bothers Ian and Greg with direct throws was a key factor in the West Indies winning the the inaugural Cup.

No less was his performance in the 1979 World Cup when he made a breathtaking 138 not out against England in the final.

There is not an iota of doubt that Sir Viv will once again be the focus of attention at the National Stadium during the PSL games, well ahead of any players or superstars featuring in the league; such is his star—power even today.

His swagger, his imperious walk to the wicket sans any helmet or safety gear epitomised fearlessness and a kind of dominance which makes a batsman a millionaire in runs, if you know what I mean.

National Stadium has been a familiar venue for great Viv where in 1987 World Cup, he blasted 187 against Sri Lanka that reminded me of his monumental 189 at Old Trafford in 1984 against England.

Thundering drives, belligerent hooks and pulls and cuts to the fence made him what he was.

And yet, in his actions and in his deeds he remains a down to earth individual. it was his greatness that in times when many teams and players turned their backs on Pakistan citing security concerns, Sir Viv toured Pakistan with Quetta Gladiators and appeared in his old glory to tell the world that all is not wrong and Pakistan is very much a place to be to play the game.

Nadeem Omar of the Gladiators may have made many fine and professional decisions in the game and in PSL, but hiring the services of Sir Viv was a hell of great scoop.

On one of my trips to the West Indies, Viv organised an interview for me to talk to his father Malcolm — a prison officer, cricketer and organiser of the game in beautiful Antigua.

I asked Malcolm if Viv was as gifted when he was a schoolboy. “What do you mean gifted, Viv is a gift from the God man,” said Malcolm in a highly charged tone. That pretty much summed the calibre of Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, a kind amongst all batsmen.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2019