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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Chilled out Richardson
By Paresh Soni
BBC Sport in Antigua

Richie Richardson
Richardson plays guitar with Big Bad Dread and the Baldhead

The death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer during the World Cup has renewed debate about the sometimes intolerable pressures at the highest levels of cricket.

And one man who experienced inner turmoil first hand and decided enough was enough is former West Indies captain Richie Richardson.

Richardson, who did not wear a helmet in the early part of his career, batted with panache and no fear of potential harm to himself, earning almost 6,000 runs in Test cricket - even more in one-day internationals - and the top job in one of the most celebrated outfits in sporting history.

Laid-back and lethal at the same time, he approached the game with a refreshing honesty and sense of perspective.

But life was not always a song and calypso for the right-hander, particularly after he succeeded Viv Richards as skipper in 1992.

The results were far from disgraceful - only one Test series loss in three years, against cricket's new superpower Australia - but the benchmarks set by the great Clive Lloyd and Richards meant expectations were always high.

There were still decent players for Richardson to steward, such as the fearsome new-ball pair of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, as well as an emerging Trinidadian genius called Brian Lara.

West Indies had lost focus, our cricket was nose-diving and the authorities weren't listening to players

Richie Richardson

However, the depth of talent was no longer there, and after his team threw away a winning position in the 1996 World Cup semi-final against the Aussies, he called time on his captaincy and playing career.

"I'm always looking ahead and I saw the decline of West Indies cricket long before it happened," he told BBC Sport.

"But sadly, not many other people saw it and very little was done to try to preserve the game here.

"We just assumed we would continue to produce great players and beat the world when everyone else was investing in youth programmes and proper facilities.

"I resigned and retired because I was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, I was burnt out and it was a struggle to continue playing cricket.

"Every day was stressful, everybody wanted a piece of you and I had no time for myself.

"I was training harder and trying hard on the field but I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I felt like I was selling myself and my fans short. They wanted me to continue, but if I had have I would have got ill so it was time to move on.

RICHIE RICHARDSON FACTS
Tests:
86 matches
5949 runs
Av 44.39
15 100s
27 50s
Top score 194
90 catches
ODIs:
224 matches
6248 runs
Av 33.41
5 100s
44 50s
Top score 122
75 catches

"We had lost focus, our cricket was nose-diving and the authorities weren't listening to players - they thought they knew it all. It was time to be selfish and start looking after my future and my health."

Richardson turned to music for comfort and now focuses almost full-time on the second big passion in his life. In fact, he says he watches very little cricket these days.

Together with Ambrose, whom he lives close to, the 45-year-old reformed a reggae band called Big Bad Dread and the Baldhead in 2001.

They play regularly in these parts and are about to release their third album.

"Music is a big part of me. I always wanted to sing, play a musical instrument or dance and I found that towards the end of my career, when the cricket was really hectic, that picking up a guitar was a way to relax and take my mind off the game," he explained.

"We had a party in Antigua for Curtly and Courtney, and the former Dread and the Bald Head were there. Curtly and I made an appearance with them and we had fun and decided to reform the band when it broke up.

"We'll be playing in Barbados for the World Cup final, we'll be going to the UK for the third time this year and have had requests to go to Australia, South Africa and other parts of Europe."

Richie Richardson
In his pomp, Richardson was one of the world's most stylish batsmen

These days, Richardson's cricket is limited to the occasional beach knockabout, as well as captaining Kent-based invitational side Lashings, who play charity games.

And with the stresses of international captaincy long behind him, that is the way it will stay.

"I keep busy but I live life happily. The game has changed and money has become a big element," he added.

"I still want to see this great game grow. I would love to see it become a global sport and am doing what I can to assist in that.

"But as far as international cricket is concerned, particularly with some of the things going on in it, I'm glad I'm not involved.

"At Lashings we're trying to make it exciting, get youngsters into the game and give people in communities a chance to rub shoulders with stars they see on TV.

"It's something I really love doing. I've had enough serious times and I just want to have fun.

"I'm still pretty busy playing music and working with the Antigua & Barbuda Ministry of Tourism but, most importantly, I live life happily."

SEE ALSO
Windies 'will be ready' for Cup
20 Feb 07 |  Cricket
West Indies - Players to watch
16 Feb 07 |  West Indies
West Indies World Cup squad
16 Feb 07 |  Cricket
BBC World Cup coverage
21 Feb 07 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2007 schedule
20 Jul 05 |  Cricket


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