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Friendship and memories abound at unveiling of Richards-Botham Trophy


Test greats become legends in their own lifetimes, even as news of Shane Warne’s death casts launch in strange light

Ian Botham is sitting next to old friend Viv Richards as they unveil the new Richards-Botham Trophy that England and West Indies will now compete for in Test cricket. And with a press conference, a photo-op, and a handshake, they have officially done it. They have been immortalised, not for the first time, in their own lifetimes.

After the press conference, Richards is asked if part of his friendship with Botham was down to the fact that took their games to 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 about Botham. And that he, Botham, was like Richards.

Yeah, geniuses attract other geniuses.

In all, it’s a strange, if nice, event that celebrates the friendship between two men, and honours them as cricketers. It’s easy to roll your eyes at gestures that are meaningless in the greater scheme of things but, on an individual level, there’s no doubt it means a lot to the two men being honoured. An act that rekindles the fires behind two names that are greats of the game, not just among the best.

“We made our first-class [County Championship] debuts together in 1974 against Lancashire at Taunton. And that was really the start of what was, well, it was there already, but to take it to the levels that it did.”

Ian Botham

And people love that stuff. In 2016, we named our club’s third XI trophy after a former player. It’s still his WhatsApp profile picture. It’s nice to do nice things.

What’s more, Viv and Beefy’s relationship is worth celebrating as two people who found home comforts in someone from the other side of the world. They are each other’s Irish pub on the beachfront in Benidorm.

“We made our first-class [County Championship] debuts together in 1974 against Lancashire at Taunton,” Botham says. “And that was really the start of what was, well, it was there already, but to take it to the levels that it did. He is the godfather to my son and you know it’s a special relationship and these things don’t come along very often.”

The event celebrated a friendship, but it also mourned the loss of another, with the uncomfortable balance of two men being immortalised while addressing the death of a friend running throughout.

It was the press conference of one man (Botham) who had just lost a close friend and has unsurprisingly spent 48 hours thinking about what those around him really mean to him. And another (Richards) who was sitting next to a friend in mourning and wasn’t quite sure how to pitch it. Who really knows how to react in such circumstances.

At one point Richards – who, as fate would have it, turns 70 today – made a joke about how the news about Shane Warne had him “checking my shoulder, you know – what’s coming next”.

One person laughs. In fact, they find it hilarious. The rest of the room is trying to work out if they think it’s appropriate, let alone funny, but this guy is deep into a hero-worship laugh. The type your boss gets for saying, “oh, half-day is it?”, when a colleague walks in two minutes late.

At one point, Botham is asked about the omission from the Test squad of Stuart Broad and James Anderson. And within an answer that eventually concludes that he thinks they will be back, he says, “Look, you move on. Time moves things on. You’ve got to look forward to the future and we can’t go on forever.”

It’s a fine and sensible message. It’s just a bit of a peculiar one to emerge at a ceremony that is commemorating the past with a newly unveiled trophy, while at the same time celebrating a lifelong friendship and the memories of a recently deceased friend.

And yet, there is a difference between living in the past and celebrating it. And through doing the latter, things do live on and legends and legacies remain. Otherwise, none of us would be here at the unveiling of the Richards-Botham Trophy. And that guy definitely wouldn’t have been laughing at Richards’ awkward joke.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby

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