Ball 1. Short, delivered from around the wicket, quick, angling into the chest of the right handed batsman, looking to cramp him up, get him to pop one down to forward short leg, or if possible, knock him on the head and blow his helmet off. There is a flash of willow, the bat swings in a powerful arc, the pull shot is executed with brute force, and the ball floats through the air, carries on above the fielders, and lands deep in the crowd.
Ball 2. Quick, delivered in the corridor of uncertainty, roughly around the good length spot, looking to induce a drive and consequently, an edge. A hungry slip cordon lying in wait. The batsman plants his front foot across the pitch, has enough time to laugh at the M.C.C cricket manual, swings the bat in an irrestible combination of majesty and brute force, and improbably, sends a good length ball flying into the stands over mid-wicket.
Ball 3. It's a spinner bowling. The bowler tosses it up, looking to con the batsman into going for the big hit and missing, or mis-hitting. It is pitched in a dangerous spot, not too overpitched, not too short, just the sort of length that makes batsmen unsure of whether to play forward or back. By the time the ball pitches, however, the batsman is already a few yards down the track, and the ball has been demoted into an overpitched delivery. Wound up by a huge backlift, the bat swings, the bowler grimaces. The bat connnects leather and sends the ball flying over long on into oblivion. Well, into the second tier of the stands, but in the bowlers bruised psyche, it is oblivion.
Three shots that have haunted bowlers across three decades, and three shots that have commanded and lead batting armies in their wars against bowling attacks. The three batsmen who own these shots come from completely different backgrounds, come from reasonably different schools of the game, evoke different reactions from crowds and opponents, but are bound together by one common denominator. When it comes to subjugating bowling attacks to their will through sheer aggression, few have done it as consistently, as impactfully and with as much class as either of these three have.
Every sport, every community, every country has its gods. A chosen few members of the clan who don't just rise above the rest, but exhort the rest to look up to them in awe. West Indies cricket had no shortage of such heroes in the 70's and the 80's, but any Antiguan worth his salt will tell you who the King of the Kings was, and why the title of King Viv sits comfortably on his head.
It is futile to look for anyone to replicate his impact on the game, not so much in terms of runs and victories as much in terms of aura, impact and
influence over a whole generation. But there are a few who can - and we hope this doesn't amount to blasphemy - be mentioned in the same breath as King Viv when it comes to blending belligerence with class and big numbers.
Ricky Ponting is one of modern cricket's best batsmen, and you will find many who wish argue with that, but will grudgingly admit that they don't have a half-decent case against him. He doesn't have the aura that Richards had, but when seen purely in terms of impact caused with the bat on world cricket, Ponting's records demand that they are atleast measured alongside those of Sir Viv's.
Few men have been laughed at, scorned, criticized, questioned more than Saurav Ganguly, but even Greg Chappel will agree that over the past 11 years, there have been few batsmen as destructive and as elegantly murderous as the southpaw from Bengal.
The word 'comparison' doesn't quite describe what this excercise is looking to do, for the idea is not to announce a winner at the end and proclaim that A is a better player than B and C. Each of these players have earned too much respect in their playing life for us to attempt anything like that.
The idea here is to put the three players on a same platform (pedestal?), draw parallels and match records, and at the end of it all, add a new dimension to the way we will look back at their careers.
You can give Richards a life when he's on 40, but not Ponting
The King of Kings
Ganguly's ODI surge
Switching eras, the bottomline