WORCESTER, England, June 21 (Reuters) Mali Richards, son of former West Indies' captain Viv, was given the opportunity to live his dream today and play for West Indies after an injury crisis depleted their squad.
Mali, 23, was drafted in from Oxford (Brookes) University, where he is three years into a four-year tourism degree, because the tourists had only five fit players in their 14-man one-day squad to play an England A team at Worcester.
There had been no play after four hours because of rain and a 24-over match was scheduled. Not that Richards junior, 23, was complaining. Being a player inside a West Indies dressing room was enough.
''It was a massive surprise, but very welcome,'' Mali told Reuters. ''They were struggling with injuries and with replacements coming over so I was just glad for the opportunity when the team manager Michael Findlay called me.'' All-rounder Mali, a left-handed batsman unlike his father who scored the fastest century in test history against England in 1986, was born in Taunton, England. He was mostly raised in Antigua, who he will play for as a professional next season.
Mali was contracted to English county team Middlesex in 2003 and 2004 but was released after little success. He is now playing for his university and for Stourbridge in the Birmingham League.
The Middlesex experience is one Mali says he would rather forget, though it has not deterred his cricket-playing aspirations. ''You cannot give up on your dream,'' he said.
After impressing in his formative years, including 319 for Antigua against Combined Virgin Islands and also with Cheltenham College in England, he discovered what it was like to be the son of one of the game's great players.
Viv scored 8,540 runs in 121 tests and was voted one of the five cricketers of the century by the Wisden Almanac.
''At times it can be extremely difficult but it can also be a joy,'' Mali said. ''I haven't always dealt with it the best but as I have got older I have learnt to live with it. It is the path I have chosen after all.
''I used to get frustrated with the comparisons. They would see me and say, 'Your Dad would have hit that for four'. I'm never going to play like him, he was one of the greatest. I want to be judged for being me.'' REUTERS TB RAI2044