Almost 13 years to the very day, the record for the highest score in one-day cricket has been broken. Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards set a mark of 189 (not out) against England at Old Trafford on May 31, 1984; it was left to Pakistani opener Saeed Anwar to emulate him with a knock of 194 against India at Madras on May 21, 1997. The closest anyone has come to breaking Viv's record was during the 1996 World Cup when South African opener Gary Kirsten made 188 against the United Arab Emirates at Rawalpindi.
Cricket is nowadays burdened with statistics and thus it is sometimes difficult to see beyond mere figures; one, however, has to look at a number of factors when evaluating an innings. Kirsten, even if he had passed Viv's mark, would not have been put in the same class as he was up against the bowlers of a non-Test playing team. One must remember that such analysis is fraught with dangers as it is bound to draw forth howls of protest, claiming that one who dares to do so is biased and that one is trying to devalue a record.
First, a look at Anwar's innings. He was opening the innings and lost his partner at eight; Rameez Raja then stayed with him to add 92, Ejaz Ahmed shared a partnership of 116, and Inzamam-ul-Haq partnered him for a further 84 before he got out, having made his runs out of 297. The team was never in crisis while he made his runs and he batted with top order players right through. He made his runs off 146 balls, batted with the help of a runner from 66 onwards, and hit 22 fours and five sixes. He reached his 100 off 84 balls with the help of 12 fours and two sixes. In terms of percentages, Anwar's knock was 65.31 percent of the amount scored while he was at the wicket; overall, it came to 59.32 percent of the total.
The bowlers Anwar confronted were Venkatesh Prasad, Abey Kuruvilla, Anil Kumble (whom he hit for 26 in one over, including three consecutive sixes), Sunil Joshi, Sachin Tendulkar and Robin Singh. Admittedly, not the best bowling attack in the world and one must also remember that all the six are more than just a bit jaded by the amount of cricket they have played over the last year and more. The batting surface was an exceedingly good one and this can be judged by the fact that India, chasing a total of 327, lost by only 35 runs.
Richards, on the other hand, had to contend with an attack which comprised Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Geoff Miller, Neil Foster and Derek Pringle. The pitch was not exactly an easy one to bat on and this can be judged from the fact that though the West Indies were playing Greenidge, Haynes, Richardson, Richards, Gomes, Lloyd, Dujon, Marshall, Baptiste, Garner and Holding, England had reduced this line-up to 102 for seven by the 26th of the 55 allotted overs. The first wicket fell before the score reached double figures and five, including Lloyd, were out by the time 89 was on the board. That batting was difficult in underlined by the fact that England fell 104 short of the 272 which the West Indies put up.
Richards took 24 balls more than Anwar to make five runs less. He hit one boundary less but cleared the fence an equal number of times; one hit. a straight drive off Pringle, went clean out of the ground at the City End. One incredible cover drive off Foster was executed from a couple of feet outside the leg-stump, and in the words of a spectator, "turned the England fielders into stone." Richards made his runs out of 261 scored while he was at the crease and out of 272 in toto; in terms of percentages, that means 69.48 percent of the total runs and 72.41 out of those scored while he was there.
It must be remembered that all the time Richards was batting, wickets were falling steadily; only Baptiste, Holding and extras got into double figures apart from him. He hit 12 boundaries in his 100 which he reached off 112 balls and all his sixes came after he crossed the three-figure mark. The only two partnerships of note in that innings were for the eighth and 10th wickets, the latter unbroken. He and Baptiste (26) added 59 for the eighth and then he and Holding (12 not out) added 106 for the unbroken last wicket stand. He had not even got to his 100 when Holding joined him, still needing four runs to reach three figures. There was just one sentence spoken to the fast bowler from Jamaica -- "whatever you do, don't get out" -- and the rest is known all too well to bear repeating.
As far as the record books are concerned, Anwar's name will be written down as the man who made the highest score to date in one-day cricket. But having taken all the factors into account, Richards's knock must definitely rank higher; the manner in which he made his runs more than anything else served to demoralise England. In the words of the cricket writer of The Times, "just as Bradman used to do, Richards spoilt the game." It must be remembered that despite Anwar's knock, India fought gamely and went down by a small margin given the target they were chasing.
This is not to belittle the man in any way. Anwar has always been under-rated as a batsman and this knock has served to confirm the fact that he is among the best batsmen in the game today. While Brian Lara, Tendulkar, Mark Waugh and Aravinda de Silva are often mentioned when talk of the best batsman comes up, Anwar has never figured in such discussion. But he has shown that he is right up there by virtue of his consistency. The difference between him and Richards is that one is a good player; the other one of the all-time greats; Anwar's 194 was a great innings but Richards's 189 was a work of genius.