SEPTEMBER 7, 1984: BIRTH OF CRICKETER VIC RICHARDSON
WHEN English cricketer Douglas Jadrine went to the Australian dressing room at the height of the bodyline tensions to complain that a player had called him a “Pommy bastard”, legend has it he was met by vice-captain Vic Richardson.
Richardson was known as a bit of a wit, who wasn’t easily pushed around.
He tried to argue that the term “bastard” in Australia was a term of affection. But pressed to find the culprit, he turned to his teammates and asked “All right, which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?”
Jardine stormed away and although Richardson might have intended the remark as a way of lightening the mood, things remained tense between the two teams. But
Richardson was no stirrer, he was one of the few voices on the Australian side calling for calm.
He argued against the Australian Cricket Board sending a telegram to England alleging “unsportsmanlike” conduct. He said, the word “unsporting” would be a red rag to a bull. Sending it when Australia had just gone 1-2 down in the series made it seem like “squealing”.
However, he did suggest that a report be secretly sent to the MCC at the end of the Test.
Although far from one of the strongest batsmen in the side, Richardson was one of the few who remained undaunted by the English bouncer attack.
It was one of the many qualities that marked him as one of Australia’s all-time great sportsmen. Richardson was not only a talented cricketer, footballer, tennis player and swimmer, he was also decent, fair and had natural leadership qualities.
Born Victor York Richardson on September 7, 1894 in Parkside, an inner southern suburb of Adelaide, he was the son of Valentine Yaxley Richardson, an accountant and house painter, and his wife Rebecca.
Valentine was a teetotaller and member of the temperance union.
Richardson went to a local school in Unley until he moved on to Kyre College in 1907. The school was started in 1902 by David Hollidge and moved to Unley in 1903, working out of a rented house (Kyre would later become Scotch College).
It was at school that Richardson’s sporting prowess began to show. He excelled at a range of sports including croquet, lacrosse, swimming, gymnastics, baseball but, above all, cricket and Australian rules football.
He would also later attribute some of his skill at cricket to living a few doors down from former Australian cricket captain Joe Darling, who gave cricketing tips to youngsters on the front lawn of his home and was also the cricket coach at Kyre College.
After leaving school, Richardson went to work in the public service but his afternoons and weekends were filled with training and playing matches for whatever sport was in season. War broke out in 1914, and in 1915 he began playing first-grade Australian football rules for Sturt, his team winning the grand final that year.
He made his first-class cricket debut in the 1918-19 season, playing for South Australia.
His first match was, coincidentally, the same one in which the unrelated player Arthur Richardson was also making his debut. The two Richardsons were said by one commentator to have “carried South Australia” on their shoulders for a time.
While he was a handy enough batsman, it was often said he lacked elegance in his playing style. But people often remarked on his uncanny fielding abilities, saying he moved around the field like lightning.
In 1919 he married Vida Knapman, daughter of hotelier and brewer Alf Knapman. They had four children – one boy and three girls.
Richardson became captain of the Sturt Football Club in 1920, the year he shared the prestigious Margarey Medal with three-time winner Dan Moriarty. He would later reminisce about playing for South Australia against Victoria and coming up against the great Roy Cazaly, but he still rated Moriarty as “without peer, then or now.”
It is a testament to his level of skill in both his chosen sports that while still captain of Sturt in 1924, Richardson made his Test cricket debut against England.
Although his inelegant batting style served him well enough at club and Sheffield Shield level, commentators often complained about his inconsistency, although he had his great moments.
He scored an impressive 231 (his highest first-class score) while captaining South Australia against the English Test side in 1928, and during the 1932-33 English bodyline tour, when he served as vice-captain, his confidence and aggression worked against the English pace attack, giving him some of the team’s highest scores in the series.
Around this time he began to dabble in work as a cricket commentator, both in the newspapers and on the radio.
Elevated to the captaincy in 1935, he took Australia to a 4-0 victory against the South Africans, but it was to be his last Test tour and the end of his time as captain.
Cricketing great Jack Hobbs said Richardson was the best captain Australia had since the war, “head and shoulders above Collins, Armstrong, Woodful and Bradman as a tactician”.
He continued to play for South Australia, while taking on more work on radio and writing for newspapers.
When Australia went to war in 1939, Richardson joined the RAAF and served as a flight lieutenant in the Volunteer Air Observers Corps, which took him to Myanmar and India.
After the war, he officially retired from cricket and became well known for his cricket broadcasts, paired with former English Test rival Arthur Gilligan.
When his grandsons, by his daughter Jeanne, began showing talent playing cricket, he imparted some tips and wisdom.
In an interview the oldest, Ian Chappell, once recalled him giving three pieces of advice: “If you can’t be a good cricketer, at least you could try to dress like one”; “Nine times out of 10 when you win the toss, bat first, and on the 10th occasion think about it, then bat”; and “If you ever get the chance to captain Australia, don’t captain like a Victorian”.
Richardson died on October 30, 1969, reportedly while watching sport on television.