They broke the mould after Sir Garry

Even today - and not just to those of a certain vintage - Garry Sobers remains above every other claimant to the title of cricket's greatest allrounder

V Ramnarayan

February 27, 2014

Comments: 103 | Text size: A | A

Sobers: did someone say versatile? © Getty Images

No batsman entered a cricket ground with greater nonchalance or elegance, not even fellow West Indian Vivian Richards, whose majestic gait had a gum-chewing, swaggering arrogance about it. If Richards overawed rivals, inducing visions of the imminent decimation of their attacks, I imagined even as a young spectator that Garfield St Aubrun Sobers had a slightly different kind of impact on his opponents - more like inducing a sense of resignation, even reluctant admiration, for so often did he walk into a challenging situation and turn the game on its head almost effortlessly. Not only did his batting leave fielders gasping for breath in admiration, it sometimes elicited spontaneous applause even from the bowler whose deliveries he dismissed from his presence. And he was himself the first to applaud a worthy opponent.

Sobers made a quiet debut on March 30, 1954 in the six-day fifth Test at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica, against the touring MCC, when he made 14 not out and 26 batting at No. 9, and took 4 for 75 in the first innings of a match England won by nine wickets.

Omitted for the first Test versus the touring Australians in the next season, he did nothing dramatic in the next four Tests, until the final Test, in which he scored an unbeaten 35 not out and 64 as a middle-order batsman. His 43-run cameo as stand-in opening batsman in the fourth Test, in his home country, Barbados, had convinced at least two Australian allrounders of his enormous potential - one of them Keith Miller, whom Sobers hit for three boundaries in his first over. Richie Benaud, who like many of his contemporaries considered Sobers the greatest allrounder in cricket, waxed lyrical about the innings. He swore that the 18-year-old left-hander's fierce square cuts and slashes outside the off stump off Ray Lindwall and Miller had him scurrying to the pavilion to fetch the cricketer's "receptacle for cuff links" - a rare instance of a fielder in the slips needing abdominal protection.

The first time I saw Sobers in action, in the fourth Test of the 1958-59 season at the Nehru Stadium, Madras, a huge reputation preceded him, after his world-record 365 not out (followed by a century in each innings in the very next Test) against Pakistan the preceding season, and tons of runs (25 & 142 not out, 4 and 198, and 106 not out) in the first three Tests of the India-West Indies series.

I had already devoured every word written about him and followed his versatile exploits as a batsman who played at almost every position from 1 to 9, medium-fast to fast bowler, orthodox left-arm spinner, chinaman specialist, and brilliant fielder and catcher. Sobers disappointed an eager Madras crowd with the bat, after promising much with his confident entry, shirt-collar up, after the openers Conrad Hunte and Holt were dismissed and he joined Rohan Kanhai with the scoreboard reading 152 for 2.

Sobers was deceived when on 29 by Vinoo Mankad, last-minute appointee to the captaincy and crafty veteran left-arm spinner, who was playing in his last Test as it turned out. Sobers failed again in the second innings, this time falling to legspinner Chandu Borde after making a mere 9. As a consolation, he gave us glimpses of his spin bowling talent with 4 for 26 and 2 for 39; West Indies coasted to a massive victory. His slip catching too was spectacular. What I vividly remember from that game was that despite the lack of runs, the Sobers persona wove a magnetic spell over me (and my friends) nonetheless.

EW Swanton once said of Neville Cardus that the great man was talking through his eminent hat when he claimed Wilfred Rhodes was a greater allrounder than Garfield Sobers

On his next visit to Madras, when Test cricket returned to Chepauk, Sobers, this time captain of West Indies, more than whetted his fans' appetite, with two outstanding innings of 95 and 74 not out. As he had done after misreading a googly from Benaud in the famous tied Test in Brisbane in December 1960, he changed his shot at the last nanosecond to a similar delivery from BS Chandrasekhar to straight-drive him for six. On the earlier occasion, the ball had sped to the boundary for four, almost decapitating the bowler in its path. Sobers' second innings defiance - in the company of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith - of India's brand-new spin trio of Bedi-Prasanna-Chandrasekhar to draw the Test is now part of the lore surrounding him.

The great allrounder graciously played down his achievements including his Chepauk exploits when he entertained a group of lucky dinner guests at the Madras Cricket Club more than a decade ago with an array of stories real and apocryphal. (One particular anecdote, though hilarious, turned out to be completely fictitious. In it Wes Hall allegedly scored a few runs in a Test in India, helped by non-striker Sobers' hand signals that helped him tell Chandrasekhar's googlies from his legbreaks - only to be dismissed first ball after tea, with his captain deliberately misleading him, after overhearing Hall's boast to Seymour Nurse that he read the ball in the air, unlike Sobers, who failed to do so.) Yet for all his modesty, Sobers confessed he never feared a bowler in his entire career, not even Chandrasekhar, disappointing the Chandra fans in his audience.

To illustrate this point, he recalled how puzzled he had been when Sir Donald Bradman affectionately ruffled his hair as he sat awaiting his turn in the Brisbane Test with his hands cupping his chin, and said, "Don't worry, son, you'll sort him out," referring to Richie Benaud who had dismissed him for nought in a tour game. Though the press had gone to town calling him Benaud's bunny, Sobers approached the Test with great sangfroid, as his 132 in 174 minutes was to prove.

Sir Don was, of course, a great admirer of Sobers. He called his 254 for Rest of the World versus Australia in Melbourne in 1971 the best innings ever seen in Australia. Bradman* said, "With his long grip of the bat, his high backlift and free swing, Gary Sobers consistently hits the ball harder than anyone I can remember. This helps to make him such an exciting player to watch because the emphasis is on power and aggression rather than technique - the latter being the servant, not the master."

Captaincy was the one aspect of Sobers' cricket that came in for adverse comment, because he tended to go for broke even at the risk of losing matches. To me, it was all part of the brand of cricket he played and believed in. He was an adventurous and positive captain who believed in declarations that gave his side - and therefore the opponents as well - a sporting chance to win. When one such declaration led to a famous England victory in Port of Spain in 1967-68, Colin Cowdrey and his men making 215 in 165 minutes, the critics trounced Sobers for his captaincy. Characteristically, he has never expressed regret for his decision.

EW Swanton once said of Neville Cardus that the great man was talking through his eminent hat when he claimed Wilfred Rhodes was a greater allrounder than Garfield Sobers. My response to similar comparisons between Sobers and the likes of Jacques Kallis or Imran Khan will be identical, with no disrespect intended to those other great allrounders.

*05:01:30 GMT: This quote was wrongly attributed to Trevor Bailey initially

V Ramnarayan is an author, translator and teacher. He bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s

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Posted by Jimmyvida on (March 2, 2014, 17:43 GMT)

C'mon Nampally, so Sobers batted a few times high up when it was convenient. Give me a break. He consistently batted at #6. That he batted a few times at other positions does not change the facts. Go %wise and you will get what I am saying. I played against Sobers. I know how good he was. In fact, he was beyond good. I am not trying to be critical, I am trying to be factual. I am trying to be fair to other batsmen. Notice, I did not say all rounder. What position would you say Chanderpaul bats. Isn't it #5. But according to you Chanders bats at all positions, right? right. You believe that Sobers was the best in every aspect of the game of cricket. I respect your opinion. Let's leave it at that. As far as batting goes, in the WI alone, I place Sir Richards and Lara ahead of him. But that is my opinion.

Posted by Nampally on (March 2, 2014, 1:12 GMT)

@Jimmyvida: You wrote " As good as he was I never compare number 6 batsman with those coming in 1-4.- --I know he is great, but were he batting at #3 or #4,would he have survived" (?). Sir, I would request you to check your stats. Sobers batted at #3 in India in 1959 tour & got 2 Centuries at that position in Tests. Again Sobers batted at #4 position at Brisbane & at Sydney + scored 132 & 168 during 1959 - 60 Test series. Not only did he "survive" at #3 & #4 but but beat the daylight out of the Bowlers! FYI, Sobers batted at all positions from opening to #11 at various stages of his career. WI had a batting powerhouse with guys like Kanhai, Butcher, Collie Smith. Solomon, Alexander, Worrell in the middle order. Each of these batsmen was superb. Don't forget that Sobers lifetime Test average is second only to Bradman. Great achievement for a self taught son of a single Mother who lived in a very poor neighbourhood in an Era when being "Black" & poor was a huge handicap!

Posted by Jimmyvida on (March 1, 2014, 18:47 GMT)

Here we go again. As good as he was I never compare a number six batsman with those coming in 1-4. I have seen Sobers, I know he is great, but were he batting at #3 or #4, would he have survived. He is the best #6 batsman of all time. Even Chanderpaul bats at #5. If he were considered the best batsman in the WI team, he would have opened the batting, especially when batting first. I played for my club, batted at #10 and never got out. Am I the greatest or what?

Posted by barriewalker on (March 1, 2014, 7:36 GMT)

Just to put the record straight, EW Swanton said Neville Cardus was talking through his venerable (not eminent) hat, in "Sort of a Cricket Person." Very nice book. Good day to you all.

Posted by harshthakor on (March 1, 2014, 5:06 GMT)

Readers would do well to read all the books of 100 best cricketers of all time written by John Woodcock,Cristopher Martin Jenkins and Geoff Armstrong.They elaborately explain why Gary Sobers stands on such a deep pedestal and was literally a three in one cricketer and inspite of Kallis's monumental figures Sobers was still morally a street ahead.Considering consistency I would rate Kallis 2nd to Sobers who was a great a batsmen in a crisis and in his peak capable of even opening the bowling Significantly Kallis captured 5 wickets and scored a century twice.

In ranking cricketers Imran,Viv and Tendulkar would fight each other in a photo-finish but the ultimate contenders would be W.G.Grace.Sobers and Bradman.I would choose Gary who was more valuable to a team than even Bradman.

Posted by harshthakor on (March 1, 2014, 4:58 GMT)


From 1981-88 Imran overshadowed every great all-rounder averaging around 17.6 with the ball and 39.6 with the bat.However it was after 1989 that he became a really top class batsman when he averaged 63 runs.Ofcourse he did earlier have occasional streaks of brilliance like in India in 1986-87 but was not as flamboyant in winning or turning games with the bat like Ian Botham or earlier Gary Sobers.I give credit to Imran for overshadowing Botham in England in 1982 and 1987 but still think that till 1988 Imran was principally a great fast bowler and competent batsmen.

Overall as a cricketer because of his greatness as a leader in uniting a bunch of talented individuals into world beaters I would rank Imran above Kallis and Botham as a cricketer.However.I re-iterate my stand that no West Indian batsmen was as complete as Sobers who posessed every component of a perfect batsman and could surpass the great Viv in a crisis or on bad wickets and was more consistent than Lara.

Posted by   on (March 1, 2014, 4:57 GMT)

Sir Garry Sobers was amazing and as well as batting and bowling he could bowl spin and pace as well as field anywhere, including the slips, and was an attacking captain before his time. The best overall cricketer the world has seen. His record speaks for itself statistically as well as the lovely anecdotes shared in these columns re his 254 etc.

I think Jacques Kallis pushes him close in many areas but Sobers still remains the complete cricketing package. The fact that I mention Kallis alongside him, is not to demean Kallis achievements, quite the contrary, but to place him very near Sobers in most respects.

Posted by harshthakor on (March 1, 2014, 4:47 GMT)

@sorcerer Imran Khan undoubtedly was with Viv Richards the best match-winning cricketer of his era,the and the best captain and all-rounder in his peak time from the mid 1980's.However the ultimate criteria is how a great all-rounder has performed with both bat and ball in test matches and series .In that light Imran has not equalled Botham's 1980 Jubilee test performance or that in the 1981 Ashes where he literally ressurected England from the grave single-handedly.Nor did Imran surpass Gary Sobers in his prime era from 1960-68 when he average above 62 with the bat and was the third best bowler in the world when averaging around 27.5 at a strike rate of around 76.2 when strike rates were much lower.Has Imran morally equalled Gary's all-round efforts in 1970 in England or in 1966?Infact in his peak era from 1977-82 Botham was the closest to Sobers averaging over 37 with the bat and 23 with the ball.Overall Imran ranks joint third with Botham .

Posted by Engle on (March 1, 2014, 3:56 GMT)

Sobers was to cricket what Ali was to boxing and Pele was to soccer - they were contemporaries spoken of in the same breath. (A good pic can be found of Ali and Sobers in the dressing room). Notwithstanding numbers, as all extraordinary athletes transcend mere math - they were swashbucklers and personalities who brought color and charisma to their game. One always got the feeling that Sobers sometimes drifted, not always extricating every ounce of effort like an Imran. But then again, had he done so, we would not have had the smiling calypso cricketer that garnered so much attraction from the sport and beyond.

Posted by   on (March 1, 2014, 3:21 GMT)

Rowayton, Benaud was a real good but not great leggie, and his strike rate was 77.

Posted by simonviller on (March 1, 2014, 0:20 GMT)

I know all these accolades bestowed on Sir Gary might be too much for some to bear ,when wanting to promote their own nominee ,but numbers alone don't tell it all . Seeing for ones self first and foremost ,or accepting the words of his peers should suffice . The great man played every stroke in the book with the precision and correctness of the genius that he is and could swing a new ball with the greatest effect ,not to mention his spin bowling and flawless fielding .

Posted by Nampally on (February 28, 2014, 22:39 GMT)

Those who watched Sobers at his best will appreciate how dynamic & versatile a Cricketer he was. I am seeing some people trying to raise their own country's heroes above Sobers even in the All rounder category. Over the years Miller ruled as the greatest all rounder. But when Sobers came to the fore, he placed himself so far ahead of Miller that one wondered at his genius. I saw many All rounders in action like Botham, Proctor, Richards, Imran khan, Kallis & others but none matched Sobers' versatility. The greatness of a Cricketer is measured by the quality of Cricket he plays. Runs scored & wickets captured matter but the process & quality of these stats. are more magical than their magnitude. I measure a Cricketer in such terms. Sobers surpasses one & all. Fingleton rightly described Sobers' 168 in Sydney test in 1960 as the greatest innings ever for the sheer joy of watching a genius at the wkt. who could hit a Six of the back foot off a new Ball over the sight screen- 85 M away!

Posted by android_user on (February 28, 2014, 18:15 GMT)

In modern era, we see Gayle playing devastating in IPL. Now we can imagine how fearful a batsman would be who played such way in entire career and that too in test cricket.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 28, 2014, 16:32 GMT)

Imran Khan is so far ahead in objective terms that he played Tests purely as a batsman (during times of stress fracture), being the lynchpin of batting along with Miandad. Also, in '83 WC, he played as a specialist batsman, and at the end of Pools stage, had the best average of all the players. Could Sobers with his strike rate of 93 balls ever be considered as being capable of selection as a specialist bowler?

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 28, 2014, 16:29 GMT)

Mind you, Sobers was nowhere the best batsman to come out of his country, let alone second to Bradman. The truly destructive batsman of Windies has been Viv Richards, and talking of ability tom score big, Lara leaves sobers in his wake.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 28, 2014, 16:27 GMT)

@harshthakor has made this ridiculously risible claim that Imran Khan became a Test-standard batsman near the end of his career! He needs to know Imran averages a rollicking 52 in the decade he was the skipper of the team! He saved Test matches in Australia in '84 playing purely as a batsman when he could not bowl due to stress fracture.

If Immi can't bat like Sobers did in an innings of 254*, Sobers cannot dream of bowling anywhere like Imran when he blasted 75 wickets in merely ten Test matches prior to his stress frature in '83, at a sub-13 average in Tests versus the mighty Indian batting line-up, Lankans and then tour to England..

Imran was undoubtedly a Test-standard batsman averaging 38 (Atherton and Lamb did that too), Sobers can be regarded as Test standard bowler with a highly mediocre strike rate of 93 balls per wicket? Isn't a bowling all-rounder worth much more than a batting one? Yes, both were all-time greats in their stronger discipline, and what about captaincy..

Posted by 2929paul on (February 28, 2014, 10:31 GMT)

@ Sorcerer on (February 28, 2014, 4:33 GMT) No I think you misunderstand. I am not saying he can turn a match on its head with three different styles of bowling. I said he can "turn his arm over" in three different styles, which is really just a flowery way of saying he can bowl in three different styles. Perhaps it's not a phrase you are familiar with?

That said, he could be devastating in short bursts with the new ball. I think @harshthakor's appreciations sum everything up brilliantly. Mere statistics cannot define him. We need someone as passionate as harshthakor to provide us with four wonderful posts like that to remind us that cricket is more than numbers, or winning, just as we need your passionate promotion of Imran Khan, who was a great but in a different way.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 28, 2014, 9:57 GMT)

In my esteem I rate Sobers above Bradman as a cricketer who could turn a a game more in the most difficult conditions and situations. At his best Ian Botham came closest to Sobers as a match-winner with both bat and ball.His performances in the 1980 Jubilee test and the 1981 Ashes were like Sobers being re-incarnated.Considering his role a a skipper Imran Khan would rank the closest as a match-winner consistently to Sobers.

Gary took cricketing art to it's ultimate zenith when scoring 254 at Melbourne in 1972 and 113 against England at Kingston.His all-round performance in the 1966 series in England scoring over 7220 runs and taking 20 wickets and for rest of the world in 1970 when he took 21 wickets and scored 583 runs have been unsurpassed.

Sobers is simply in a different league as an all-rounder even from greats like Botham ,Kallis and Imran.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 28, 2014, 9:46 GMT)

Sir Garfield Sobers was literally sent by God to play cricket.He was the ultimate cricketing genius whose game combined the skill of a technician with the originality of a painter.Sobers in full flow made the rest of the field look like mere pawns on a chessboard creating the impact of a blitzkreig ,whether batting or bowling.His batting combined artistry with technique and he could tear the best bowling attacks to pieces.No bowler could bowl fast,spin and chinaman like Sobers.In addition he took some of cricket's most spectacular catches.When striding on the field he created the impact of a Greek God.Figures never did absolute justice to Gary who proved that mere figures was never an accurate measurement of the true greatness of a cricketer.I rate Sobers as 2 great all-rounders combined into one and the greatest cricketer of them all.His performance in the 1970 for rest of the world has never been equalled.scoring 583 runs and taking 21 wickets.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 9:36 GMT)

Undoubtedly the best all rounder of the lot. I have been enjoying the game since 1964. To my knowledge. nobody can be compared with Great Gary. His match saving innings with Charlie Griffith at the other end against India in a slow turner at Chepauk, in Jan.1967. With his brilliant batting, he just pulled Windies from the jaws of defeat against some top class spinners of India. Truly one of the so many magnificent innings played by him. His 163 at Lords, 254 for World XI against Aussies spear headed by their super pace battery of Thompson, Lillee, and Proctor, without helmet. A versatile genius, can simply change the course of the game with his all round ability of a very high standard. I still remember his sportive gesture in calling back Kunderam in the Bombay test of 1966. After catching the ball, he slightly grounded the ball without anybody's knowledge. He explained that incident to the umpire and allowed Kunderam to continue before bowling him out for 79.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 28, 2014, 7:28 GMT)

No cricketer ever carried the elan and majestic command of Sir Garfield Sobers who strode on the cricket field exuding the command of a great emperor.In full flow he made the impact of a hurricane making the rest of the field look like pawns on a chess board whether launching a blistering attack on the bowling or charging in with full fury at opposing batsmen.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 28, 2014, 7:06 GMT)

There are some ridiculous claims of fans that Imran Khan was the better all-rounder or even Jacques Kallis.Imran Khan was the best match-winning cricketer of his time but was primarily a great fast bowler for most of his career who became a very good batsman towards the end of his career.Kallis was never a great bowler and batsmen consistently in matches or series.Critiqes point out that Sobers was not a great bowler and principally a batting all-rounder.Remember in his peak era as a bowler Sobers captures 124 wickets in 30 tests at an average of around 25 which was remarkable.He was a dangerous exponent of the new ball.Botham,Kallis,Miller or Imran could never equal Sober's 254 at Melbourne in 1972 for rest of the world or his 113 at Kingston against England.Sobers was the best illustration that mere figures never completely reflect the true greatness of a cricketer and he is in a different league from Kallis,Botham or Imran.Kallis comes closest to the great legend.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (February 28, 2014, 5:09 GMT)

By the look of the picture above it seems he held the bat similar to Adam Gilchrist.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 28, 2014, 4:37 GMT)

Who would you term the greatest all-rounder ever?

An all-time great batsman, a useful bowler albeit having mediocre returns, a great slip fielder - Sobers


An all-time great bowler (average equal to McGrath's), a Test standard batsman (averaging as much as Atherton and Lamb), and arguably history's greatest-ever skipper - Imran

Posted by ygkd on (February 28, 2014, 4:34 GMT)

Sobers is undoubtedly the greatest all-rounder the Test-playing era has ever seen. However, I would suggest that Imran is the greatest all-rounder/captain of the same long period and we shouldn't overlook the distinction between the two. And without wanting to upset the South Africans (enough fellow Aussies have done that lately), Kallis probably will go down in history as many things, such as brilliant, durable and even nigh-on unstoppable, but not actually the best ever.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 28, 2014, 4:33 GMT)

@2929paul You assert Sobers had the ability to turn the match on its head in three different styles. In 93 Tests that he played, you'll struggle to find more than a handful of matches, if anything, that he turned on its head through his bowling. his bowling record is mediocre - more than 15 overs he needed to take a wicket and averaged 34.

Posted by sknt on (February 28, 2014, 4:23 GMT)

Agree that Gary Sobers was the greatest ever allrounder. One of the important arguments put forward in this regard is his bowling..left arm orthodox, left arm chinaman, and left arm fast medium. But if we have a look at his strike rate, it is 91, that is means about 15 overs for a wicket on average. It is about the worst I can remember seeing for a specialist bowler. In my opinion, this put considerable doubt on his actual ability as a bowler, and thus as an allrounder, unless of course the reason for the above is something else I am not aware of. Could Mr Ramnarayan or anyone else throw some light on this?

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 4:10 GMT)

Superb article. Sir Gary was two cricketers in one, a volcano of talent who could change the game with either bat or ball and could hold his position in the side for 20 years as a bowler or a batsman. He is undoubtedly the greatest all rounder of all time. Next would be the fab four of the 1980s. Kallis was a great all rounder but more of a batsman who could bowl. Yet would consider him as the inheritor of Sobers legacy.

Posted by Leg-Breaker on (February 28, 2014, 2:45 GMT)

What a special breed, all rounders. You can call them batsman who can bowl or bowlers who can bat - but they all get into the test side because of that special ability to influence matches - Imagine this team of all rounders in their batting order

1. Ravi Shastri 2. Sanat Jayasurya 3, Watson 4. Kallis 5. Sobers 6. Young Steve Waugh 7. Imran Khan 8. Ian Botham 9. Hadlee 10. Pollock 11. Kapil Dev

Amazing one day team (hopefully one or more can keep !!!)

Posted by gotmymojo on (February 28, 2014, 2:29 GMT)

This matter of the greatest all-rounder was settled a long time ago. No one comes close to Sobers even by a mile. A magnificent batsman who was a delight to watch, scored runs at a fast rate on pitches that were not covered, fearless - you have a bat to defend yourself so you don't need a helmet according to him, played to win and entertain, bowled swing and spin. The ultimate cricketer, Bradman said so and put his name down first in his XI.

In my 50 plus years of watching and playing cricket I have not seen anybody to match him. The modern all-rounders were very good but not in the same league as Gary Sobers. Every sport has the numero uno like Pele, Usain Bolt, Rod Laver, Dhyan Chand, Sobers, Mohammmed Ali,... A humble modest man off the field, he is the God of Cricket!

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 1:28 GMT)

Too many of us incorrectly allow sentiment and tokenism to dictate our thoughts when we compare cricket's two eminent all-rounders - Garry Sobers and Jacques Kallis. To say one cannot compare Kallis with Sobers is almost asinine. Style, technique and so-called charisma should not be greater determinants of superiority than sustained excellence. Kallis' performance at the highest level of the game over a much longer period than Sobers places him as the game's greatest all-rounder, hands down!

Over 160 test innings, Sobers scored 8,032 runs at an average of 57.78. He took 235 test wickets at an average of 34.03. Kallis, on the other hand, scored 13,289 test runs in 280 innings at an average of 55.37 and took 292 test wickets at an average of 32.65.

Enough said!

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 1:18 GMT)

Sobers was clearly an outstanding batsman, but how well would he have held his spot as a bowler? An average of 34 isn't the sort of number that keeps you in a side permanently. This is why Keith Miller still deserves consideration. He was a sensational bowler and held his spot with his bowling alone. He also batted 4 or 5 and would have batted 4 or 5 even if he couldn't bowl. A test average of 37 doesn't do his talent justice (his first class average was 49) but are there any other allrounders in the history of cricket who would have had long careers in either facet?

Posted by Proteas-13thman on (February 28, 2014, 0:45 GMT)

Articles like this are so poorly informed~!! Firstly in South african conditions batsmens average across the board less by 3-5 runs~!! Now if you consider than KING KALLIS averages 55.37 with 50% of his games in south africa (meaning her should average 3-5 runs more) with more matches played and more accolades how can anyone think that he does not compare with Sobers???

Additionally Sobers always had excellent batting partners and once Kallis had the same he became unstoppable scoring large tons and double tons much like sobers did. Imagine he had AB devilliers /Amla/Smith batting with him from the start he would average higher~!

Then there is his bowling~!! almost the same and if you consider that he played much more cricket than sobers( consider ODI's and T20's) then you would have to agree Kallis is compariable

Then add the fact that Kallis faced the best bowling in his time as opposition such as Warne , Mcgrath , Gilliespie , Murali , Brett Lee ect.

he is just as great as sober

Posted by Rowayton on (February 28, 2014, 0:35 GMT)

I certainly regard Sobers as the best cricketer I have seen - indeed I regard him as the best batsman I have seen. For those who doubt his record as an all rounder; if he kept going at the same rate and had played as many tests as Tendulkar, he would not only have had a higher batting average but would have taken 490 wickets. Imagine a batsman as good as Tendulkar who also took 490 wickets in his 200 tests and you have Sobers. And his strike rate wasn't that bad - in his day batsman did not give spinners as many chances as they do now. Lance Gibbs, who held the world record for most Test wickets, had a strike rate of about 88 and he was a better spin bowler than anybody now, apart from maybe Ajmal.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 23:55 GMT)

The greatest ever cricketer

Posted by Venkatb on (February 27, 2014, 23:29 GMT)

I had the rare honor of meeting Gary Sobers, albeit under weird circumstances, at Eden Gardens on the WI 66-67 tour - on the fateful January 1 and the riots in the stadium, the WI players started running in all directions, and suddenly Sobers came running to our car and asked my father for a ride to the Great Eastern Hotel! Regrettably my father said no as we were waiting for my older brother to show up! I saw him in that Test, and subsequently our club played the video of the tied Brisbane Test. Sobers was the equivalent of 3 players, a live dynamo. His batting average of nearly 58 is the equivalent of 70 in today's helmet era, and would have been higher but for the strong WI batting line-up of the 60s that prompted him to come in at #6. The weakest sides he faced were India and NZ, unlike the luxury today's players have with at least 4 weak teams playing Tests. His interest faded after the loss to India in 70-71. No all-rounder comes close to him, Miller and Imran included.

Posted by JimmySA on (February 27, 2014, 23:25 GMT)

Do some people here actually question whether or not Sobers and Kallis are genuine all rounders? It would be the same as saying that either Tendulkar is not a batsman or Zaheer Khan is not a bowler.I have never watched Sobers play but I think he would edge ahead of Kallis and to be honest I don't think Kallis would mind that.

Posted by Yugandar on (February 27, 2014, 22:21 GMT)

Ram-An excellent article! I could only envy your luck of having the incredible opportunity to watch Sir Garry! Though my cricket watching began with 82 series in Pak I perfectly relate to/understand Garry's 'Genius'. I got his bio, aptly titled Sir Garry, by Trevor Bailey all the way from UK to Seattle. Thankfully there's enough footage to reconcile imagination with reality. In Sobers case the dazzling reality often dwarfed even the hype. One has to listen Keith Miller, Ian Chappell, Benaud and their absolute awe when describing Sobers....he must have been some player! When I watched Sobers footage I was actually very impressed with his bowling. I thought him to be Bedser kinda bowler but no Sobers was a genuine opening quick, could swing, bowl chinaman,offspin in addition to scoring runs for fun. If anyone said one single cricketer could do all these, there are more chances of getting therapy than anyone believing. Sir Garry is simply best ever cricketer!

Posted by Beazle on (February 27, 2014, 21:43 GMT)

I have sen them all since 1966 and Sobers was the greatest all rounder. He was also the best batsman I have seen in that time as well.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 21:15 GMT)

sobers , pele, michael jordan, mohammad ali, rod laver----a cut above the rest of the world

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 20:26 GMT)

As a boy I watched Sobers bat then bowl and field for WI against Yorkshire at Sheffield in 1963. He didn't turn the game on it's head, but it's a memory I've treasured all my life. Apparently effortless, not arrogant but cat-like ... what's a great cricketer ? "And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host ... Oh, my Sobers and my Sobers long ago".

Forget all-time World XIs; in the end cricket is a sport whose purpose is to entertain, and Sir G St A is truly *memorable*, and that says it all.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 19:17 GMT)

I have been watching cricket these 50 years. I have never seen a better cricketer than Sir Gary. Seen him dominate match after match with bat and turn matches in short stints with his bowling also. Plus his fielding was brilliant in an era when most did not field well. There is also a little matter of playing without helmets, not as good bats and on uncovered pitches. Crickets experts say that adds on 10-15 runs on the averages.

Posted by Mittaraghava on (February 27, 2014, 19:04 GMT)

Sobers is batting genius ,next only to Don bradman.His additional talents as an alround bowler(spin and pace) and a brilliant feilder,makes him tower above all other contenders of the best alrounder."Seeing is beleiving".One has to watch Sobers play ,one cannot imagine his talent .Stastics do not reflect talent.Hence Sobers canot be compared to any alrounder by satistics. Sobers physique,atheletism and his stylish manners and the self confidence he reflected , shows he was born to be a cricketer and make the game itself popular.This is what in short i can say and i was lucky to see him play at Hyderabad,when Wi toured India under his captaincy.Even as a feilder he was an alrounder,he was a brilliant close in feilder and once i saw him running from the slips to near third man position to complete a catch.At the fag end of his career his 254 against Aus.was acclaimed by Don bradman as the greatest innings he had seen.What more proof is needed to call Sobers "the greatest alrounder".

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 18:28 GMT)

who says that Kallis was not a match winner, he has 23 man of the match awards in test cricket, a world record of all time, and man of the match award goes to the best performer, usually a match winner, in the match. Kallis achievements are much much bigger than botham, hedlee, and kapil, over 13000 thousand runs, 45 test hundereds, 292 wickets at an avg of 32, 23 man of the match awrds, catching in slips skills and many more, so he is definatly in sobers and imran class if not above

Posted by LeftBrain on (February 27, 2014, 18:15 GMT)

Chirs-Cry, well summed up, I agree with your classifying Sobers, Kallis and Imran as the great all rounders of all time, not so convinced about Botham though. Botham was as good as other average all rounders like Hadlee and below average like Kapil.

How unfortunate it is though that we only saw three really great all rounders in the history of test cricket.

Posted by 2929paul on (February 27, 2014, 18:06 GMT)

The biggest myth about all rounders is that they can command a place in the team as either bowler or batsman. To do this the team is either weak or the player exceptional. Using Imran, Botham, Kapil, Benaud and Hadlee, as examples, we have players who were outstanding bowlers but also capable of scoring Test match centuries, sometimes to devastating effect. With the talent they possessed, no doubt they could have specialised as batsmen who filled in as bowlers.

Kallis and Watson, for example, are batsmen who bowl. And it's not just occasional stuff but pretty useful. However you wouldn't pick them as bowlers in their own right. Sobers fits into this category, although ironically (like Wilf Rhodes before him and Ravi Shastri more recently) he was first selected as a slow left arm finger spinner. However Sobers was not just the best batsman in the world in his time, he retained an ability to turn his arm over in three different styles. That's special. The greatest ever in my book.

Posted by Retour on (February 27, 2014, 17:57 GMT)

In my all-time 11, Sobers would be in my top 2 picks, the other being Don. If Sir Garry were playing today, I can see the IPL auctions going totally crazy to get him

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 17:51 GMT)

If Jaques Kallis were to score 300, about 30 people would come to watch. If Sobers were to score even 30, 30,000 plus will be there at the ground. I have only watched videos of Sobers. But it is so evident, just by the way he moves that he is definitely the most gifted cricketer ever. You can't even compare him with Kallis. Look at his fielding skills. Look at his bat speed. Look at his shots. Look at his versatile bowling. How can you even compare Kallis with him??? Can Kallis turn a match around in a matter of a few hours?? Sobers can do it time and again. Thats the difference.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 17:48 GMT)

i have picked "my top 20 cricketers of all time" (so far) on the basis of their achevements, these are: 1) sir don bradman, 2) sobers and kallis, 4) sachin and murli, 6) warne and lara, 8) imran khan, 9) viv richard, 10) lille, marshal and steyn, 13)dravid, ponting and sangakara, 16) wasim akram, 17) mcgrath, 18) sehwag, 19) gilcrist, 20) botham, hedlee and kapil dev. i think many ones will agree to this ranking, is there any fault,please tell me. thanks

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 17:46 GMT)

"Posted by godshand on (February 27, 2014, 5:58 GMT) Yes, Sobers was the best as he played in less batsmen friendly conditions."

then his bowling must have been even worse than his figures indicate.

Posted by AvmanM on (February 27, 2014, 17:14 GMT)

Jacques Kallis. Enough said.

Posted by Rajdev on (February 27, 2014, 16:53 GMT)

Batting average: Sobers 57.7, Kallis 55.1. Bowling (mean wickets per test): Sobers 2.35, Kallis 1.71. Catches per test (means given here): Sobers 1.17, Kallis 1.20.

Both are great but Sobers just shades Kallis.


Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 16:23 GMT)

Sobers was the first legendary all-rounder but Kallis is above him in all aspects!

Posted by Lilieswalker on (February 27, 2014, 16:14 GMT)

When people compare statistics of older players and current (or very recent) players you always have to remember the older were not able to play as many tests. There were far fewer test series! Kallis may have scored 73% more runs than Sobers but Kallis played 78% more tests than Sobers! They were both great all-rounders and statistics only give part of the story. Growing up Garry Sobers was the greatest player I have ever seen and to be honest I still think he is - he was wonderful to watch even when he was destroying my own team! He didn't even have the benefit of the bats they use now that score sixes off mishits! In recent times Kallis was the most consistent batsman (and slip fielder) in world cricket but showed an increasing disinclination to bowl.

Posted by Chirs-Cry on (February 27, 2014, 15:58 GMT)

There are 4 great all-rounders Sobers, Imran, Botham and Kallis. Out the top 4 all-rounders(GS, IK, IB & JK), Imran stands out for 3 reasons. He was better bowler than all of the 4 best All-rounders of all time. Imran is to bowling what Sobers & Kallis is to batting. He is the greatest Captain I have seen. Most importantly, He won the World cup. Imran was a match winner. To me thats a trait Kallis lacks. I rate Kallis as a as good batting allrounder as Sobers if not better. I would pick Imran in my all-time simply because I dont need another batsman(having Viv,SRT, Don, Gilly, Hobbs, Sunny) as much as a bowler because again Imran could bat better than most allroundess.

Posted by Metman on (February 27, 2014, 15:58 GMT)

@xolile ,you forgot to mentioned that Kallis played 73 MORE test matches than Sobers,so one would expect your percentages would have been in his favour.

Posted by Metman on (February 27, 2014, 15:42 GMT)

It is amazing that some people can say that Sobers could not make a team on his bowling alone BECAUSE of his av. of 34.03.and choose to ignore the fact that NONE of the other SO CALLED all rounders COULD NOT make a team purely as a BATSMAN as well,ALL ,with the exception of SOBERS and KALLIS !! Both Sobers and Kallis average over 55,the highest among the others is Imran Khan with 37.69 way below the av.expected of a test BATSMAN which is 40! I would pick Sobers because he bowled in 3 different styles and took wickets.Kallis is a notch below Sobers,with one style.

Posted by kentjones on (February 27, 2014, 14:42 GMT)

It is never easy to evaluate any players ability, like between Sobers,Kallis, Khan and others that occur over several eras.Often therefore many rely upon statistics to bring judgment and such reliance invariably invokes the famed words, "there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics." Since bare statistics without proper context and appropriate perspective could lead to inaccurate assessment.Alternatively though, independent evaluation of players over eras and times is complicated and filled with uncertainty as standards and conditions would have altered over the years.One dividing rod is the impact of the player on the game during the time he would have played, and of course, since.There is no doubting Sobers influence on the game then and even now. His exploits on the filed with both bat and ball is the stuff of legends.He has thrilled the hearts and raised the passions of many a man during his heyday and stamped his legacy on the game.All others must be measured likewise

Posted by cricketchopper on (February 27, 2014, 14:14 GMT)

Sober was not a genuine all rounder and so also Kallis. The true all rounders were Imran, Botham & Miller. Sober's average and strike rates do not make him eligible to get inclusion in the team on the basis of bowing though he was a great batsman. At their peak both, imran, Miller were eligible to be included both as batsman or bowler in the team so they were genuine all rounders

Posted by sitaram58 on (February 27, 2014, 13:46 GMT)

Great article Ram. Thanks for reviving memories of a good time. I was lucky enough to see Sir Garfield in 1966, west indies versus the combined universities at fateh maidan and my memory is of him hitting a straight six which thudded into the wall below the commentaotor's box - effortless & graceful!!!!

Not only did they break the mold after Sir Garfield it seems like they have broken the mold on the way cricket should be played, what with all the emphasis on T20.

Posted by Paulk on (February 27, 2014, 13:45 GMT)

Sobers was before my time so I cannot comment on his game except from what I have read and heard and from his stats. He is certainly a legendary figure. However, I will always say that from the time I started watching, breathing and living cricket, Ian Botham is the greatest match-winning allrounder with both bat and ball - especially in the first half of his career.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 27, 2014, 13:14 GMT)

Nostalgia getting in the way of judgement here, but don't let it ruin a good article. Kallis is King and was far more successful. In batting alone he ranks as one of the greatest, never-mind all the wickets and catches.

Posted by android_user on (February 27, 2014, 13:09 GMT)

Sobers...greatest all rounder of all time. A true entertainer. What the stats dont indicate is the 3 types of bowling he bowled. Also, being an attacking bowler always mean being an expensive bowler...once again, the stats dont show the full picture.

Dennis Lillee rated Sobers as the greatest batsman after Bradman.

Kallis...statistically the best all rounder.

Who would you rather watch as an all rounder?

Sobers, Botham, Imran, Miller.

If Botham played today he would have been greater as he would have been fitter and leaner.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 12:51 GMT)

Great article Ram. Although Sobers bowled with many styles, his strike rate is not as good as Kallis. Plus Kallis also has a terrific record at ODI. I would put Kallis in par with Sobers, little less in batting little better in bowling. Imran was a better bowler but Sobers was 10 notches over Imran in batting and Imran was a mediocre fielder. Sobers was better here no comparison...... unless you also take Leadership and captaincy as part of being an "Allrounder". Ian Chappell rates Sobers as the best batsmen. I have never seen Sobers; but if video clips can be used to assess a batsman, Brian Lara is the best I have seen!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 12:36 GMT)

Sobers couldn't have commanded a place in his team purely as a bowler. whereas, Imran averaged just above 49 with the bat and took over 4.5 wickets per match @ just over 20/wicket SIMULTANEOUSLY for just about 2/3 of his career. He is clearly ahead of all as an allrounder. Actually the one that beats him for the spot of an allrounder is not a batsman/bowler but the great Gilchrist.

Posted by BellCurve on (February 27, 2014, 12:29 GMT)

Kallis has 65% more Test runs; 24% more Test wickets; 83% more Test catches; 93% more Test fifties; 73% more Test centuries; a 4% better (lower) bowling average; a 25% better (lower) bowling strike rate; 134% more Test match victories; and more MotM awards than any other Test player in the history of the game; Sobers has a 4% higher batting average; a 27% better (lower) bowling economy rate; 17% more five-wicket hauls; and took 30% more wickets per Test match. The stats don't lie. Kallis is slightly ahead of Sobers. He deserves to be mentioned alongside Sobers. They are both legends.

Posted by kentjones on (February 27, 2014, 12:20 GMT)

It is amazing how the passage of time can dull the minds of men and alter their perception of many things.A case in point is Sobers, just a mere 5 years ago, no one disputed his position as the greatest cricketer of all time and certainly the finest all rounder ever.Richie Benaud described him as " the greatest all round cricketer the world has seen.Fred Trueman said "one of the greatest cricketers to have played the game, certainly the greatest all-rounder".Was celebrated by Famed Wisden in its 1967 edition and voted cricketer of the century in 2000.Sober has had figures of 6 for 73 and five other five fors in a bowling careers of 235 test wickets.Also scored 26 centuries including a triple century that was the highest test score for many years and still remains the youngest to score a triple.In a first class career of 383 matches he scored over 28000 runs and took over 1000 wickets. What else must he do? Maybe its because he played over 40 years ago. Yes it is the passage of time!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 12:16 GMT)

Thomas Jones, Sobers wasn't just a "good batsman of his time". He's in the all time top 10 test averages (taking a 2000 run cut off), which (to me) makes him an all time great (his test batting average is higher than Tendulkar, Lara or Kallis). He was also an attacking, cavalier batsman, when most were cautious, so great to watch. He was also a good bowler (not a great bowler like, say, Imran), but those who say batting was his stronger suit are clearly right. My own memory of Sobers live is my first international match: England v Rest of World Lords 1970. Having bowled England out cheaply first (he got 6/22 or so) Sobers then proceeded to destroy the bowling, hitting a majestic 183. Those who say you must consider Kallis and Imran (and also Keith Miller) are right, but Sobers was a cricket genius.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 12:15 GMT)

One fact about Sober's bowling - his 235 wickets at 34.03 may not seem much today, but in the context of HIS time there were only a three bowlers with more test victims - Statham 252, Benaud 248 and the world record holder FST with 307. Legends such as Lindwall, Miller, Grimmett, O'Reilley, Laker and Lock ended up with fewer wickets. Sobers was a genuine all-rounder who won matches for the Windies with both bat and ball. He was also a highly respected captain even if his generosity lost the Windies a few games (which seems to harm Clarke's reputation as captain not at all as he's "aggressive"). The only other all-rounder to come close to his record is Jacques Kallis. Botham, Imran, Kapil Dev and Hadlee, brilliant though they were, are not in the same class. Quite frankly, people who question Sobers' standing as the greatest all-rounder of all time do not know their cricket.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 10:51 GMT)

It was in 1986 India enroute to england were playing a few one dayers against holland . It was the first game at eindhoven whist chatting with dilip vengsarkar i looked over my shoulder and standing there right in front was the maestro The same upright frame , suddenly a small crowd gathered around him First time realised what an international superstar he was. god bless him

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 27, 2014, 10:20 GMT)

Reasons are being given to justify a bowling average of 34 and a Strike Rate of over 90 balls per wicket, as being acceptable. Plenty of eyebrows raised there. Sobers was nowhere a Test standard bowler. That Sobers tried different varieties can also be seen as a sign of being unable to specialize in any one discipline. He tried many varieties but was clearly good in none of them as the record proves.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 10:15 GMT)

It's a shame the article only really concentrates on his batting exploits and skips over his bowling which as some have eluded to wasn't perhaps as great as his battign ability.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 10:06 GMT)

In terms of getting bums on seats and turning on the television..most people would do that when Sobers is batting, he was an artist..cared little for stats and played in a carefree entertaining way. With all due respect to the author when saying "the greatest all rounder"...Statistically "no" Sobers isn't the greatest but in terms of pure natural talent and the ability to attract a crowd then "yes" Sobers is right up there.

Posted by ABHIJATJOSHI on (February 27, 2014, 9:42 GMT)

This might be useful to understand his bowling prowess. According to Mr. Boycott, he was a very good seamer, and a very average spinner. He bowled as a run-saving stock bowler as a spinner, and a fine attacking bowler as a seamer. As a spinner he bowled many overs to rest Hall and Griffith and himself [the seamer] without taking any wickets. This might explain his abnormally high strike rate. His bowling average is close to Zaherr Khan, and a seamer, he might be in that league if Tony Greig and Boycott are to be believed. That he was an all-time great batsman is beyond dispute. However, the mighty Kallis and the great Khan should always be remembered when talking of the very greatest. Luckily, I saw the latter two.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 9:38 GMT)

With others here, I think the problem is calling Sobers a great allrounder. He's clearly a good batsman, and should be remembered as one of the best of his era. Fans seem impressed that he could bowl in a variety of styles (seam, spin). But his test bowling record is very poor, and as this article shows it's hard to recall stories of him bowling his side to victory. Great allrounders earn their place as Batsmen and as Bowlers, and win matches as Batsmen and as Bowlers (Botham, Imran Khan).

It's quite a myth though, look at cricinfo's page on Sobers "While Bradman's status as the greatest batsman is increasingly under threat, no one raises an eyebrow at Garry Sobers being called the greatest allrounder. "

Plenty of eyebrows raised here.

Posted by sifter132 on (February 27, 2014, 9:29 GMT)

Sobers was a great player, no doubt, but I think his batting is actually UNDERRATED now, just because he is known as the great all-rounder. His bowling was quite useful and very versatile, yes, but his batting was clearly stronger. I think his bowling a bit overrated really - versatility is good, but it's not everything, as Andrew Symonds or Colin Miller would be first to tell you.

Posted by P.B.Mohan on (February 27, 2014, 9:25 GMT)

BCG - please get your facts right

The bowlers Sobers faced when scoring the 8,032 test runs included:

Australia - Lindwall, Miller, Archer, Johnson, Davidson, Meckiff, Benaud, McKenzie, Connolly, Gleeson,. Mallett, Mackay England - Trueman, Statham, Loader, Laker, Lock, Illingworth, Underwood, Grieg, Willis, Arnold, Old, Shackleton, D'Oliveira, Snow India - Prasanna, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Venkatraghavan Pakistan - Fazal, Khan Mohammad, Nasim-ul-Ghani

Secondly, the 152 for 2 is quoted as the scene which the writer witnessed, not as an example of a crisis.

Please attempt to understand the full context and the facts before maiing a remark.

However, you free to stick to your views about whom you feel is better - you are within your rights

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 27, 2014, 9:13 GMT)

Someone remarked that bowling standards were higher in the times of Sobers. Well, they need to do research into the bowling attacks sobers generally carted. The 365* against Pak, for example was against an attack which lost two front-line bowlers and thus the other two had to keep bowling on despite massively fatigued. Against England's fine attack, sobers was not that great.

Had Sobers been a right-hander, his aura would have been far less in the eyes of his fans. Lefties have that edge about them.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 27, 2014, 9:06 GMT)

When one talks about an all-rounder's credentials,. how can one sidestep the facet of cricket which impacts the game so much on the field - captaincy? Here, Imran Khan is streets ahead of other all-rounders. Yes, Imran was not a great fielder but I'd rather have someone who can strategise, motivate and make operational decisions to manage the match situation rather than someone whose role on the field when he's not bowling, is limited to merely saving 20-odd runs or taking a catch here and there.

Posted by B.C.G on (February 27, 2014, 8:51 GMT)

The myth of Sobers live on.He faced pretty pathetic bowling attacks in the 60s.IN the 1950s when teams like England had strong bowling attacks,Mr Sobie was nowhere.Plundered Pakistan at home with 365 but couldn't even make a third of that from 3 tests in Pakistan.The author writes-' for so often did he walk into a challenging situation and turn the game on its head almost effortlessly'.Really.How abt listing some of these 'numerous' situations?For example below you quote-'he joined Rohan Kanhai with the scoreboard reading 152 for 2'.Challenging indeed.Infact nearly all his test 100s have come from similar comfortable situations. Miller,Khan,Kallis,Dev,etc. are better than this 'genius'.

Posted by Gowza on (February 27, 2014, 8:36 GMT)

reckon mike procter would be in the mix if he'd had a decent length career. garry was a great batsman, great fielder and could bowl 3 types decently. imran was a great skipper, great bowler, solid batsman (not a very good fielder though). hadlee was a terrific bowler, and an ok batsman. kallis was a great batsman, really good slipper and a solid bowler. botham had the flair but couldn't do anything consistently enough. miller was terrific at everything on his day, didn't do justice to his batting talent at test level though.

Posted by AshesNotBiggestSeries on (February 27, 2014, 8:33 GMT)

The dashing presence of Sobers aside, his statistics are about the same as those from Kallis: batting average 57.78 vs. 55.37; bowling average 34.03 vs. 32.65; and catches per match 1.17 vs. 1.20. So Kallis was a slightly better fielder and bowler but Sobers was a slightly better batsmen. Of course Kallis scored more runs, took more wickets, claimed more catches, but this is a new era of more cricket.

Posted by fayyaz03 on (February 27, 2014, 8:31 GMT)

Sobers was one of the greatest batsman in the history of Cricket but Sorry I cant call him allrounder with the bowling strike rate of 90+. On base of part time performance if one can be called allrounder than I must say that India made a record of playing 6 allrounders in WC2011 final (Sehwag, Tendulker, Kohli, Yuvraj, Raina, Harbhajan). For me, Immi is the best allrounder ever played cricket.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 8:23 GMT)

When you talk about all rounders in the truest sense, a lot of people forget New Zealand's John R. Reid, who could not only bat, but could bowl brisk off spin, medium-fast seam, captain the side (he led NZ to its first three test wins) and could also keep wickets. His very first trip away with the NZ side to England in 1949 saw him go as the deputy wicket keeper and later on he achieved a test stumping. That is something not even Kallis, Botham, Miller, Imran or Sobers could claim, though Reid did have one fault. He never bowled leg spin!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 8:14 GMT)

Kallis is equally as good.. you just don't rate him cause he is quiet and unassuming. Like how people rate M.Ali as the best boxer because he had a big mouth and big charisma, when many other boxers have been just as good or better. Don't get me wrong sobers.. fantastic. But Kallis and Sobers stand equal in my opinion.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 27, 2014, 8:07 GMT)

@sidganesh .. I believe we must not use hyperbole. Sobers was nothing more than a decent bowler, but not test standard at all (strike rate above 90, average 34). How could he then as you said, walk into any XI purely as a seamer or spinner?

I find a lot of praise generally heaped on Sobers to be unbalanced especially since him being a batting all-rounder with a mediocre bowling record, is definitely nowhere close to the record of a bowling all-rounder like Imran Khan who was a Test standard batsman and an all-time great skipper too.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 27, 2014, 7:56 GMT)

Imran Khan is also history's greatest ever bowler-skipper with the best average having taken over 200 wickets. Interestingly, before Chanderpaul took over, Imran Khan also possessed the record for the highest average in Test history for a batsman at Number 6 - an astonishing 62! Yet, it's also known that his greatest contribution to the team performance was through his absolutely brilliant captaincy as he turned a team of average cricketer with internecine tendencies into a world-beating unit, so much so that under him Pakistan drew three intensely-fought historic Series with the mighty Windies of that time 1-1. So, Imran was a unique 3-in-one, an all-time great bowler (average same as of McGrath), a Test standard batsman (avarege identical to Atherton and Lamb), and an all-time great captain (Wisden Chief Editor Tim De Lisle calls him an automatic choice to captain an all-time Test XI). Easily, history's very best.

Posted by Sorcerer on (February 27, 2014, 7:34 GMT)

A wicket every 15 overs and you regard him as a Test standard bowler? One of the greatest batsmen of all time, but definitely not a great bowler by any stretch of imagination. Bowling all-rounders are worth much more, I'm sure no one can doubt this one. How about comparing the credentials and the utility of Sobers with one of the greatest bowlers of all time (average 22.8, same as McGrath), a Test standard batsman (average as much as Atherton and Lamb), and arguably the greatest skipper of all time - yes, the one and only IMRAN KHAN. Imran was an all-time great in two disciplines (bowling and captaincy) and of Test standard in a third (batting). One will struggle to find any other player in history who can come close to such an array. I know some will talk about fielding but I'd rather have a marvelous skipper guiding his bowlers and proteges from mid-on rather than someone standing chewing gum whole day in slips.

Posted by kentjones on (February 27, 2014, 7:32 GMT)

Simply the greatest cricketer who ever lived. He eptomised the game of cricket. He was excellent whenever he took the field whether batting, bowling or fielding. There has never been his equal in the history of the game!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 7:26 GMT)

Sobers made a quiet debut on March 30, 1954 in the six-day fifth Test at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica, against the touring MCC, when he made 14 not out and 26 batting at No. 9, and took 4 for 75 in the first innings of a match England won by nine wickets.

England or MCC?

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (February 27, 2014, 7:19 GMT)

That is non sense @JohnMR! Kallis generated no excitement when batting, bowling or fielding. Read the article. It is not about stats. It is about playing great exciting cricket to inspire others around. Botham is the most exciting cricketer along with Viv Richards and Dennis Lillee since 70's but Viv and Lillee were just onlookers when they were not bowling and batting respectively. They say Sobers fielded at short leg and often enlivened contests by impossible catches. Kallis is a nobody compared to Sobers.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (February 27, 2014, 7:01 GMT)

Sobers was the second best batsman of all time after Bradman.

Posted by JohnMR on (February 27, 2014, 6:44 GMT)

There are only 2 all rounders that should be mentioned as 'The Greatest'.

Kallis and Sobers. End of story.

Posted by sidganesh on (February 27, 2014, 6:34 GMT)

Sir Garry was the most versatile bowler, fielder AND batsman ever. He could walk into any XI purely as a spinner, seamer or batsman.

He could save Tests and chase down stiff targets with equal ease. He could field at any position and bowl as required by pitch conditions.

Sure, Kallis has taken a much heavier workload, bowled on less responsive pitches etc. but he was an effective bowler, great slipper and an all-time batting great.

Sobers is in a league which he shall always rule alone.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 6:08 GMT)

Sobers is a giant of the game but I think his stats show he bowled too much. a strike rate of 90+ while averaging 34 isn't really top line attack material, more just part-timer territory.

me, i would always go with the more attacking option of an Imran or Keith Miller, averaging 37 with the bat but making tons, and smashing teams with an average in the low 20s and striking around 52. those guys win matches, the Sobers of the world mostly save them. (anyone who knew Miller understand he was a mid-40's player at worst, he averaged 50 in first class and often sacrificed his dig for the team. or due to boredom.)

I would gladly pick Sobers for his batting alone, however.

PS Nutcutlet, Miller batted mostly at 5. Improper? or genius?

Posted by godshand on (February 27, 2014, 5:58 GMT)

Yes, Sobers was the best as he played in less batsmen friendly conditions. KD, RH, IB, IK would be the next ranked best all rounders. Kallis played not so great bowlers (only few like warne, mcgrath, murali, kumble) and facilities and rule made it more easier for batsment to do well. Hence, even though no.s might go in favour of Kallis, Sobers is the ideal best all rounder in cricket

Posted by Romanticstud on (February 27, 2014, 5:38 GMT)

As a kid I was intrigued by records and purchased the 'Guinness Book of Records'. This was in the period of South African isolation from the international arena ... I looked at it and saw Sir Garfield Sobers had the highest innings score of 365 not out ... which meant he could have made more ... Some teams don't achieve that milestone, let alone an individual ... One imagines how he slayed the bowlers to all corners of the ground ... Then I saw he also held the record for the most runs in an over of 36 ... and marveled at how great he was ... 6 sixes in an over ... only recently achieved by Herchelle Gibbs in ODIs and Yuvraj Singh in T20s ...

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 27, 2014, 5:37 GMT)

When cricket lovers jot down their best-ever XIs, there are three names that are, IMO, automatic choices for all those who know what they're about. Jack Hobbs to open; the Don at #3 and Sobers at #6, the right and proper place for the genuine all-rounder. The rest you can argue about and exercise and assert your prejudices - nationalist or otherwise. I saw Sobers play on a few occasions and the lasting impression that he's left on me was the panther-like grace in all he did. He was a player incapable of ugliness or even common awkwardness. There was too an easy enjoyment in his demeanour - the grace of his play extended into his attitude and his sportsmanship. And, it follows that as I'm not old enough to have seen the Don (let alone Hobbs!), Sobers is the best cricketer I have ever seen. I am highly unlikely to see his equal.

Posted by choc56 on (February 27, 2014, 5:07 GMT)

There won't be another Sobers! Everything he did, he did with flair. Probably the only comparison would be his soul-mate Keith Miller. I was honoured to see him at the Colombo Oval in 1964 (if memory serves me correctly!), and I was privileged to treasure one of the balls he hit for six for many years after. I was especially honoured when he was selected to coach the Sri Lankans for the 1983 World Cup (the first one India won). Since my father was the Vice President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka AND the SL Team Manager at that time, he was a frequent visitor to our house and regaled us with stories of his cricketing exploits. I vividly remember one evening when the whole team congregated at our house to watch the videos of the 254 for Rest of The World and the six sixes for Notts! He's The Greatest as was Ali and Pele!

Posted by kasey on (February 27, 2014, 4:19 GMT)

No matter the score, no matter the opponent, if Garfield Sobers was on your side and yet to bat you felt that you could win the game. Batting, bowling - fast medium, orthodox spin, unorthodox spin, fielding close up or anywhere else - he dominated every aspect of the game. No one in my lifetime compares to him!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 4:01 GMT)

What to say about Sobers? He was all-time great. No one can be compared. He did everything in style. Like the quote 'Here comes the Ceaser when comes such another'. Long live Sobers!

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V RamnarayanClose
V Ramnarayan A Chennai-born offspinner who represented Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s, V Ramnarayan is an intermittent columnist / blogger on cricket and other subjects. He is a translator and author, with books on cricket and the arts to his credit, a teacher of language and style at a premier journalism school, and editor-in-chief of Sruti, a leading Indian monthly on the performing arts. His works include histories of Tamil Nadu cricket and the Madras Cricket Club, and biographies.
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Players/Officials: Sir Garry Sobers
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