Viv Richards advises India to go all guns blazing

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Two-time ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup winner Sir Vivian Richards has urged unbeaten India to stay positive and attack at all costs as they attempt to win a third title at this year’s event.

India have taken all before them at the 13th edition of the World Cup this year and have won all eight matches they have appeared in to sew up a spot in the semi-finals next week.

Richards – renowned as one of the most flamboyant and attacking players of his time as he helped the West Indies to World Cup success in 1975 and 1979 – wants to see India continue to play to their strengths and avoid any negative thoughts as they strive to stay unbeaten and add to their previous titles in 1983 and 2011.

“India have a mindset that they can go all the way playing like this,” Richards said on his column for the ICC.

“That absolutely should be their mindset and would be mine if I was in that dressing room – let’s go out with all guns blazing. That approach has worked so far and if that changes, things may go astray.

“I believe they can go all the way unbeaten, which is really something to strive for. There may be some fears of ‘we have played so well so far, there may be a bad game around the corner in the semi-final’. They have to try and nullify those and banish any negative thoughts.”

Much of India’s chances of adding a third World Cup trophy to their cabinet will rest on the fortunes of Virat Kohli, with the former skipper having already scored two centuries while amassing 543 runs at the tournament at an average of 108.60.

Kohli will break Sachin Tendulkar’s long-standing record of most ODI centuries in the history of the game if he can reach triple figures during the remainder of the tournament and Richards admits he remains in awe at the performances of the India star.

“I am a huge fan of Virat, I have been for a long time, and he continues to show why he has to go down as one of the all-time greats, right up there with the likes of the great Sachin,” Richards said.

“Virat will have been through some tough times before this World Cup and some folks were even brave enough to call for his head.

“Credit must be given to the backroom staff and everyone who backed him. So much was said about his form but he is back on top of his game. It is phenomenal to see an individual who has had his low points bouncing back and playing like this. They say form is temporary – and he has certainly proven that class is permanent. I am so happy for him, he looks so focused and he is a credit to the game of cricket.”

Richards has no doubt that it is Kohli’s mental approach to the game that separates him from many of his peers that have a similar amount of talent.

“Virat is a go-getter and what sets him apart is his mental strength,” Richards noted.

“He will have backed himself throughout, and on the occasions in the past in which I have chatted with him and we have discussed things, his mental strength has always been evident. That has been key to pushing him through to how he is playing now. Very few players, or people, are built like that.

“Many people have made comparisons between the two of us over the years, partly because of our shared intensity on the field. I love Virat’s enthusiasm – even if he is fielding at long-on or long-off, when one of his bowlers hits the pad, he is appealing. He is always in the game and I like individuals like that.”

While Kohli is a long-time favourite of Richards, the West Indies great admits he has also taken a liking to Shubman Gill as the India opener reminds him of how he used to play.

Gill became the No.1 player on the MRF Tyres ODI Batter Rankings last week when he surpassed Pakistan captain Babar Azam, while Richards holds the highest rating in the history of ODI cricket when he registered a total of 935 rating points at the end of 1985.

“Shubman Gill is another who bats with style and he is just one among a whole host of players who have all the big shots,” Richards noted.

“I am just hoping no one forgets there was a guy without a helmet by the name of Vivian Richards who went out and played like that sometimes!

“Some of the shots played today are those I like to think I had in my armoury, maybe with the exception of the reverse sweep, but that would have been unwise without the lid on.

“I’d like to think my scoring rate matches up with the guys playing today, though the game has moved on massively – as a fan, I am delighted with where the game is at currently.”

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