Crocket: Richardson's confidence is restored

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Richie Richardson began to free himself from the shackles that have bound his usually exuberant stroke-play at Lord's yesterday.

The West Indies captain arrived at a critical moment for both himself and his team. Carl Hooper had just been bowled for a dogged, uncharacteristic 40 and the England bowlers, on a pitch of unreliable bounce, had imposed themselves on proceedings. For much of the tour - and indeed since his return to the Test arena following his medically imposed absence from the game for eight months last year - Richardson has struggled to find timing and confidence. The heavy defeat endured in the preceding series against Australia seemed to weigh heavily on his shoulders, so much so that his vice-captain, Courtney Walsh, felt compelled to write in his newspaper column that Richardson should not hold himself responsible. The West Indies, Walsh observed, needed their most experienced batsman at his best.

Richardson's problems have been compounded by his unnecessary move up the order to fill the opening position that has been such a drag on the team since the exit of Gordon Greenidge in 1991. Although he began his first-class career at No 1 he had made his considerable reputation as a devastating No 3 and was clearly uncomfortable with the conversion.

But someone had to do it and, as captain, he felt the responsibility was his. Although he managed the only 100 by a West Indian against the Australians, in the final Test in Jamaica, it was nothing like vintage Richardson, and he has shifted himself up and down the order on this tour without any beneficial effect.

And even an unbeaten 100 against weak bowling at Durham last weekend was sufficient to convince him that he still had it in him. It was a resolute performance with the understandable purpose of a lengthy stay in the middle, and the results were obvious within the space of 10 minutes of his arrival yesterday.

The bat was raised higher on the back lift and follow-through and there was a certainty in his method that has been long absent. He would not have been satisfied to have been dismissed when he was but this was a pitch on which no batsman ever seemed entirely set. But Richardson himself, and those under him, now know that his touch has returned. It could be a significant development in a series that has really only just got underway.