Before the 1970s the two exceptional cricketers who ruled World cricket and left a lasting impression for the subsequent generations were Sir Don Bradman and Sir Gary Sobers. While Sir Don was the peerless batsman accross generations, Sobers was the allrounder per excellence, whose impact was huge during his career. Sobers had a fulfilling career from 1953-54 to 1973-74. He was one of the greatest left handed batsman ever lived and was a versatile left arm bowler who could bowl at pace, bowl spinners, bowled chinaman etc and can do all sorts of tricks with the ball. A great slips fielder and ability to keep wickets too. Hence all cricketing talents rolled into one. His versatility was something to behold. A native of Barbados , Sobers had a quiet debut in 1953 but soon came into prominence in the home series vs Pakistan in 1957 scoring a staggering 824 runs at 137 average for the series with 3 hundreds and breaking Len Hutton’s record by scoring the highest individual record of 365 notout in a single innings. Sobers took forward his form in India 1958/59 scoring 557 runs at 92 average in 5 tests. Gary smashed English bowling in 1959/60 5 test home series with 709 runs at 101 average with 3 tons.
The 1960/61 series in Australia saw Gary Sobers starting to make an impact as a bowler too. He took 15 wickets and scored 430 runs at 43 average with 2 hundreds in 5 tests against a quality Australian team. He created greater impact in the home series vs India taking 23 wickets and scoring 424 runs at 71 average with 2 tons in 5 tests.The runs and the wickets kept coming and in the 1966 series in England ,Gary Sobers took his allround skills to a different level in 5 test series scoring a staggering 722 runs at 103 average with 3 hundreds and took 20 wickets with 5/41 being his best figures agains a quality England side. This was the best allround performance in a single test series ever. While he was ruling the international cricket, he also achieved the feat of hitting 6 sixes in an over in a county game in England.– the first ever player to do so.
Like most West Indians ,Sobers was fond of partying and gambling. There have been the odd instance of Sobers trying to finish test match in a hurry in India to go to the races.
In 1970 -71 the South African series in Australia was cancelled due to political reasons and a World XI was formed with Sobers as the captain to play Australia. Dennis Lillee was coming up as a young fast bowler and in the unofficial test at Perth ,Lillee blew away the World XI batting lineup including Sobers who for the first time went on record stating that he was fearing for his physical well being on seeing keeper Rod Marsh standing 30 yards away when Lillee was bowling. However the proud performer that he was, Sobers worked on his strategies and came back to play a dazzling innings of 254 at the gigantic MCG where he took apart the whole Australian bowling including the rampaging Lillee. In the innings Sobers hit savage drives,cuts and pulls with fierce power which led Lillee to comment that he had just bowled to the greatest ever cricketer.
That was Gary Sobers for us. A brilliant all round cricketer with great skills, power and poise . A pity that the current generation of cricket fans could not experience his versatile skills , with only few youtube videos of gold to showcase his talent.
Sobers played 93 tests , scored 8032 runs at 57.78 average with 26 hundreds. He took 235 wickets at 34 average with 6/73 his best figures. Gary took 109 catches in tests.
As he reaches a ripe old age of 83 ,here’s wishing the legend a very Happy Birthday on 28th July.