Great testers become legends in their lifetime, even as news of Shane Warne’s death casts in eerie light
After the press conference, Richards is asked if part of his friendship with Botham was due to their games reaching a level that only the other could relate to and understand.
No, comes the answer. He was attracted to the person before the cricketer. That there was a magnetism around Botham. And that he, Botham, was like Richards.
Yes, geniuses attract other geniuses.
All in all, it’s a strange, albeit sympathetic event that celebrates the friendship between two men and honors them as cricketers. It’s easy to roll your eyes at gestures that don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things, but, on an individual level, there’s no doubt that it means a lot to the two honored men. An act that rekindles the fires behind two names that are big names in the game, not just among the best.
“We did our first class [County Championship] made their debut together in 1974 against Lancashire at Taunton. And that was really the beginning of what was, well, it was already there, but to bring it to the level that it has reached.
And people love it. In 2016, we named our club’s third XI trophy after a former player. It’s still his WhatsApp profile picture. It’s good to do beautiful things.
Plus, Viv and Beefy’s relationship is worth celebrating as two people who have found the comforts of home with someone halfway around the world. They’re the Irish pub one on the other on the seafront of Benidorm.
“We did our first class [County Championship] debuted together in 1974 against Lancashire at Taunton,” Botham says. “And that was really the start of what was, well, that was already there, but to bring it to the level that it has reached . He’s my son’s godfather and you know it’s a special relationship and those things don’t happen very often.”
The event celebrated one friendship, but it also mourned the loss of another, with the awkward balance of two men immortalized while addressing the death of a friend running throughout.
It was the press conference of a man (Botham) who had just lost a close friend and unsurprisingly spent 48 hours thinking about what those around him really meant to him, and another (Richards) who sat next to a grieving friend and I wasn’t quite sure how to introduce him, who really knows how to react in such circumstances.
At one point Richards – who, fate would have it, turns 70 today – joked about how the Shane Warne news made him “check my shoulder, you know – what’s up to follow”.
A person laughs. In fact, they find it hilarious. The rest of the room tries to figure out if they think it’s appropriate, let alone funny, but this guy is deep into a hero-worshipping laugh. The guy your boss gets for saying “oh, is it half a day?”, when a colleague arrives two minutes late.
It’s a beautiful and sensible message, just a little peculiar to emerge at a ceremony that commemorates the past with a newly unveiled trophy, while celebrating a longtime friendship and the memories of a recently deceased friend.
And yet, there is a difference between living in the past and celebrating it. And in doing the latter, things endure and legends and legacies remain. Otherwise, none of us would be here at the unveiling of the Richards-Botham Trophy. And this guy certainly wouldn’t have laughed at Richards’ goofy joke.
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby