March 30, 2014

Sobers supreme

Sixty years ago today, a 17-year-old Bajan cricketer made his debut for West Indies, and went on to touch with his genius all those who saw him play for the next two decades
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Garry Sobers: "genius in all climes and conditions" © PA Photos

Sir Garry Sobers - the Right Excellent Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, to accord him his full title as a knight of the realm and the only living national hero of his native Barbados - is not the type who makes a fuss over his achievements as, in the words of the 1965 calypso, "the greatest cricketer on Earth or Mars".

If he is inclined to play down his two coincidentally simultaneous anniversaries on Sunday, he is sure to have been reminded of their significance several times in the past few days. They mark the start and the end of his celebrated Test career.

March 30 is 60 years to the day since Sobers first appeared in a Test match for West Indies, against England in 1954 in Kingston's Sabina Park. It is precisely 40 since his last, also against England, in Port-of-Spain's Queen's Park Oval in 1974.

He took the field at Sabina as a boy of 17 from the working-class district of Bayland on the outskirts of Bridgetown, raised, along with five siblings, by a mother widowed by the loss of her seaman husband to a German torpedo during World War II; her second son had no formal coaching, just a love and an aptitude for any ball game.

He was a late, like-for-like replacement for left-arm spinner Alf Valentine, who was injured; he batted at No. 9. His selection was based primarily on his unquestionable talent, obvious in only two preceding first-class matches for Barbados, against the touring Indians the year before and the Englishmen earlier on their tour. He was so anonymous that Wisden Cricketers' Almanack listed him as H Sobers in the India scorecard.

"Not a soul was there when I walked into the dressing room, they were in the nets practising," Sobers recalls of the day he turned up in the Kingston Cricket Club pavilion for his debut Test. "You then looked around and saw the names on the team sheet - Weekes... Worrell... Walcott... Rae... Stollmeyer... Ramadhin... I said to myself: 'You've arrived, you've made it'."

"I used to swim a lot. I used to live at the beach. I used to play a lot of beach cricket. I played cricket every day"
Sobers' fitness routine

A return of 28.5-9-75-4 and scores of 14 not out and 26 as England won by nine wickets verified his temperament as much as his skill. By the time he strode on the Queen's Park Oval 20 years later, also against England, for his farewell match. after 92 Tests against all five of West Indies' opponents of the day, he had certainly "made it". It was a shame, but immaterial, that there was no grand finale; he was out for 0 and 20 and collected just three wickets in the match.

He had long since become a batsman supreme, departing as Test cricket's leading scorer, with 8032 runs, at an average of 57.78. His 26 centuries had been bettered only the insatiable Don Bradman's 29. His 235 wickets in three contrasting left-arm styles were second to Lance Gibbs among West Indians. His 109 catches, snared mostly with Venus-flytrap reflexes in the slips or round the corner off Gibbs, were eight short of Colin Cowdrey's tally.

He captained West Indies in 39 matches, the most until Clive Lloyd came along to carry his formidable teams for 74.

His name remained affixed to 365 not out against Pakistan in Kingston in 1958 as the highest Test innings for 36 years until Brian Lara, a similarly gifted West Indian left-hander Sobers had mentored since he appeared in the annual, long-running International Schools tournament in Barbados that carries Sobers' name, passed it in 1994.

They are statistics that explain Sobers' widely acknowledged status as the most complete all-round cricketer of his time, indeed all time. They do not tell the whole story of his remarkable endurance.

His first 85 Tests were in succession; no one had ever had such an unbroken sequence. He is adamant that he never left the field, not once, in any of them. In addition to West Indies and Barbados, he had three stints with South Australia (where he became the first player to complete the double of 1000 runs and 50 wickets in an Australian season), with English county Nottinghamshire for seven years, and with clubs in the Lancashire League. He captained Rest of the World teams against England and Australia.

At the height of Sobers' preeminence in the 1966 series in England, the renowned English writer Sir Neville Cardus contended that he was "even more famous than Bradman ever was, for he is accomplished in every form of the game and has exhibited his genius in all climes and conditions".

On the Saturday of the final Test of the memorable 1960-61 "tied Test" series, the temperature at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was as roasting as it was at the recent Australian Open tennis, where some players were felled by heat stroke. It didn't stop Sobers sending down 22 consecutive eight-ball overs on the day, mostly in his quicker style - and returning for another 19 on the Monday.

Such exhausting facts are even more astonishing given his legendary enjoyment of life, a capacity I marvelled at during several nights on tour in his company. He was never concerned that it would affect his game. It was his way of relaxation. Cooped up in his room, he said, would unnecessarily get him worried about the cricket. To each his own; his justification is in the record books.

And what about keeping as fit as he did? Certainly gym work and personal trainers were hardly known during his time.

"I used to swim a lot. I used to live at the beach. I used to play a lot of beach cricket. I played cricket every day," he said. "There was tennis and other sports [he represented Barbados at soccer and basketball even before he did at cricket]. I got myself fit because I knew how fit you had to be to be at your best for five days of a Test match and not leave the field."

As we marvel at the action, athleticism and all-round ability of the players in the current World T20 in Bangladesh, it is not difficult to imagine how Sobers' talent would have flourished in the abbreviated formats that came along after he had swapped the cricket field for the golf course, a place where he habitually indulges what has long been a passion. It is another sport that he has inevitably mastered.

Now 77, the passing years have generally treated him kindly. He has been technical consultant to the West Indies team and advisor to the team's sponsor. For the past three decades, his global fame has made him the ideal ambassador for Barbados tourism, the island's economic mainstay.

The hilarity heard from the boxes at Kensington Oval, where he and several of his old mates gathered for West Indies' three T20 matches against England last month suggested a kindling of happy memories.

The memories will also feature on Sunday for those of us lucky enough to have experienced the Sobers magic during our lifetime.

March 31, 09:18: The photograph, which was a flipped image, has been replaced.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • DaredevilsUnlimited on April 1, 2014, 2:06 GMT

    I was a 8 years cricket fan when i heard over AIR he was playing along with my fav Rohan Kanhai.I followed them till 1980's when both retired.Indian team was getting beaten all over the world when sardesai and sunil carved out a victory over Sobers led WI teamafter the greatman had not realised of being asked to follow on in a 5 day test curtailed by 1 day due to rain instead of 200 runs it was 150 runs which India won for the first time against WI. I was very happy but sad that my hero led team was defeated i consoled myself that it is part of any sports.But Sir Gary Sobers except the greatest legend Sir Donald Bradman, was undoubtedly the greatest cracker the world will produce. Infront of them Sachin,Kallis, Warne ,Murali, Sanga et all look too puny keeping in mind covered pitches, knight looking safety guards, heavy bats,heavy seamed cricket balls etc amidst money making at all costs match fixing spot fixing et all shaming the great Gentleman's game of cricket HAIL SIR GARY

  • Insightful2013 on March 30, 2014, 13:52 GMT

    Sobers fielded like Jonty, batted like Richards, Gower and Carl Hooper combined and bowled mostly like Laker but used exceptional cricketing intelligence to trouble most batsmen. He was far more athletic than Kallis, in fact any other all rounder, I can think of. He appeared to play beach cricket in a professional environment. He seemed to enjoy his cricket that much! He never appeared weighed down with worry or responsibility and played exuberantly!

  • on March 30, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    I had the pleasure of watching Sobers bat on a number of occasions at Sabina Park and on tv at various other venues. No other batsman excited me more. No other batsman seemed so much in control .i can't remember him being tied down and unable to get a bowler away. I think we can all acknowledge without debate that Sobers was the greTest all rounder . However he also has legitimate claims to be the best batsman of all times. In my view, no one surpasses him. Great story Tony.

  • on April 2, 2014, 12:30 GMT

    Chris Campling: I wouldn't say Sobers was "better" than Graeme Pollock, but I wouldn't say he was in any way inferior either. For me the two greatest left hamders of all time (with apologies to Brian Lara). Sobers was probably more attacking than Pollock as a batsman, and almost as good as Peter Pollock as a bowler. Some cricketer!

  • Nampally on April 2, 2014, 1:10 GMT

    60 years of debut of Sir Gary deserves a standing ovation. I watched Sobers in test matches in India in 1961 series,in England when I was a Research student & also in his captaincy years with Nottingham. Never have I seen a Cricketer as complete & talented as Sobers. Starting from his graceful lilting walk like Calypso music in motion to his stiff Collar, he looked every inch a Champion. His 3 in 1 bowling on itself would have won him a Test place. His batting was majestic, stylish with 360 deg. arc & so powerful that an Oz fielder at deep extra cover tried to stop his cover drive from Sobers but failed. He was wringing his hands in pain on the fence! Sobers hit an OZ pace man, McKieff bowling with second new Ball in a test for a six "off the back foot" over the sight screen 85M away! I was listening on the Radio in India. Jack Fingleton rated his 168 at Sydney Test(1960) as the greatest innings in living memory! Congrats Sir Gary,the Greatest Cricketer Ever to walk on cricket field!

  • zxaar on April 1, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    @Rowayton "zxaar - interesting use of statistics, although you do realise your conclusion is completely unsupported by the stats you have provided, don't you? By the way, if Tendulkar had taken 235 wickets in his first 96 tests, then we could rate him as highly as Sobers." ----------------- Which stat was wrong, care to point out. Also it will be easier for you to check out that being better batsman does not involve taking wickets. It is bowlers job, if you do not understand this much, I will advise check some tutorial on cricket. Also by same token Kallis sobers etc have not stumped batsman so Sangkkra must be greatest ever batsman.

  • on April 1, 2014, 8:07 GMT

    i never saw sobers bat, but i did see pollock a lot, and if sobers was better then he must have been spectacular. watching graeme pollock bat made me fall in love with cricket when i was a kid

  • Rowayton on April 1, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    John Yelton, I think you are basically right, although Sobers did bowl some spin after 66 - he won a test in Brisbane in 68/9 bowling spin. I think his shoulder problem was more with bowling wrist spin, he could still bowl finger spin, although my impression was that he did not rate his own finger spin bowling that highly.

    zxaar - interesting use of statistics, although you do realise your conclusion is completely unsupported by the stats you have provided, don't you? By the way, if Tendulkar had taken 235 wickets in his first 96 tests, then we could rate him as highly as Sobers.

  • Venkatb on April 1, 2014, 1:09 GMT

    With today's protective gear, plus sub-par teams such as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India (overseas), etc. Sobers would have averaged well over 75. Except Bradman, there is broad daylight between Sobers and the next batsman, whether it be Hammond, Tendulkar, Ponting or Lara. I equate Kallis with Barrington and Hobbs - good batting average but a dour stonewaller. I have watched Sobers play - other than Clive Lloyd who could hit harder, nobody came close to Sobers for this batting or fielding prowess. In bowling, he could outdo Bedi in left-arm spin, switch to medium pace and then to genuine pace matching Hall or Griffith. He had 3 setbacks in his later years - the 67-68 MCC tour of the Caribbean, the tour of South Africa later that invited rebuke and the loss to India in 71, though he did exceedingly well as a batsman. We were all hoping he would come out of retirement to play in the first World Cup - Kanhai played but Sobers chose to stay away!

  • on April 1, 2014, 0:40 GMT

    It is interesting how most players compare Sobers in the batting department, but he was a super bowler with pace and two types of spin. He also was such a brilliant fieldsman few or none can compare with. Hands down he is the greatest cricketer who ever lived.

  • DaredevilsUnlimited on April 1, 2014, 2:06 GMT

    I was a 8 years cricket fan when i heard over AIR he was playing along with my fav Rohan Kanhai.I followed them till 1980's when both retired.Indian team was getting beaten all over the world when sardesai and sunil carved out a victory over Sobers led WI teamafter the greatman had not realised of being asked to follow on in a 5 day test curtailed by 1 day due to rain instead of 200 runs it was 150 runs which India won for the first time against WI. I was very happy but sad that my hero led team was defeated i consoled myself that it is part of any sports.But Sir Gary Sobers except the greatest legend Sir Donald Bradman, was undoubtedly the greatest cracker the world will produce. Infront of them Sachin,Kallis, Warne ,Murali, Sanga et all look too puny keeping in mind covered pitches, knight looking safety guards, heavy bats,heavy seamed cricket balls etc amidst money making at all costs match fixing spot fixing et all shaming the great Gentleman's game of cricket HAIL SIR GARY

  • Insightful2013 on March 30, 2014, 13:52 GMT

    Sobers fielded like Jonty, batted like Richards, Gower and Carl Hooper combined and bowled mostly like Laker but used exceptional cricketing intelligence to trouble most batsmen. He was far more athletic than Kallis, in fact any other all rounder, I can think of. He appeared to play beach cricket in a professional environment. He seemed to enjoy his cricket that much! He never appeared weighed down with worry or responsibility and played exuberantly!

  • on March 30, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    I had the pleasure of watching Sobers bat on a number of occasions at Sabina Park and on tv at various other venues. No other batsman excited me more. No other batsman seemed so much in control .i can't remember him being tied down and unable to get a bowler away. I think we can all acknowledge without debate that Sobers was the greTest all rounder . However he also has legitimate claims to be the best batsman of all times. In my view, no one surpasses him. Great story Tony.

  • on April 2, 2014, 12:30 GMT

    Chris Campling: I wouldn't say Sobers was "better" than Graeme Pollock, but I wouldn't say he was in any way inferior either. For me the two greatest left hamders of all time (with apologies to Brian Lara). Sobers was probably more attacking than Pollock as a batsman, and almost as good as Peter Pollock as a bowler. Some cricketer!

  • Nampally on April 2, 2014, 1:10 GMT

    60 years of debut of Sir Gary deserves a standing ovation. I watched Sobers in test matches in India in 1961 series,in England when I was a Research student & also in his captaincy years with Nottingham. Never have I seen a Cricketer as complete & talented as Sobers. Starting from his graceful lilting walk like Calypso music in motion to his stiff Collar, he looked every inch a Champion. His 3 in 1 bowling on itself would have won him a Test place. His batting was majestic, stylish with 360 deg. arc & so powerful that an Oz fielder at deep extra cover tried to stop his cover drive from Sobers but failed. He was wringing his hands in pain on the fence! Sobers hit an OZ pace man, McKieff bowling with second new Ball in a test for a six "off the back foot" over the sight screen 85M away! I was listening on the Radio in India. Jack Fingleton rated his 168 at Sydney Test(1960) as the greatest innings in living memory! Congrats Sir Gary,the Greatest Cricketer Ever to walk on cricket field!

  • zxaar on April 1, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    @Rowayton "zxaar - interesting use of statistics, although you do realise your conclusion is completely unsupported by the stats you have provided, don't you? By the way, if Tendulkar had taken 235 wickets in his first 96 tests, then we could rate him as highly as Sobers." ----------------- Which stat was wrong, care to point out. Also it will be easier for you to check out that being better batsman does not involve taking wickets. It is bowlers job, if you do not understand this much, I will advise check some tutorial on cricket. Also by same token Kallis sobers etc have not stumped batsman so Sangkkra must be greatest ever batsman.

  • on April 1, 2014, 8:07 GMT

    i never saw sobers bat, but i did see pollock a lot, and if sobers was better then he must have been spectacular. watching graeme pollock bat made me fall in love with cricket when i was a kid

  • Rowayton on April 1, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    John Yelton, I think you are basically right, although Sobers did bowl some spin after 66 - he won a test in Brisbane in 68/9 bowling spin. I think his shoulder problem was more with bowling wrist spin, he could still bowl finger spin, although my impression was that he did not rate his own finger spin bowling that highly.

    zxaar - interesting use of statistics, although you do realise your conclusion is completely unsupported by the stats you have provided, don't you? By the way, if Tendulkar had taken 235 wickets in his first 96 tests, then we could rate him as highly as Sobers.

  • Venkatb on April 1, 2014, 1:09 GMT

    With today's protective gear, plus sub-par teams such as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India (overseas), etc. Sobers would have averaged well over 75. Except Bradman, there is broad daylight between Sobers and the next batsman, whether it be Hammond, Tendulkar, Ponting or Lara. I equate Kallis with Barrington and Hobbs - good batting average but a dour stonewaller. I have watched Sobers play - other than Clive Lloyd who could hit harder, nobody came close to Sobers for this batting or fielding prowess. In bowling, he could outdo Bedi in left-arm spin, switch to medium pace and then to genuine pace matching Hall or Griffith. He had 3 setbacks in his later years - the 67-68 MCC tour of the Caribbean, the tour of South Africa later that invited rebuke and the loss to India in 71, though he did exceedingly well as a batsman. We were all hoping he would come out of retirement to play in the first World Cup - Kanhai played but Sobers chose to stay away!

  • on April 1, 2014, 0:40 GMT

    It is interesting how most players compare Sobers in the batting department, but he was a super bowler with pace and two types of spin. He also was such a brilliant fieldsman few or none can compare with. Hands down he is the greatest cricketer who ever lived.

  • Moppa on March 31, 2014, 20:57 GMT

    My main thought on the Sobers vs Kallis debate, stats-wise, is that Sobers bowled a lot more than Kallis. In other words, the Windies relied more on his bowling than the Proteas did Kallis. The simple numbers: Kallis bowled 121 deliveries per match (or around 20 overs), and Sobers nearly twice as many - 232 per match (or almost 39 6 ball overs). This explains in part Sobers' high strike rate - he had to toil on unresponsive surfaces much more than Kallis. Generally Kallis would 'chip in' while Donald, Pollock, Steyn etc did most of the damage.

  • on March 31, 2014, 20:54 GMT

    I was privileged to watch Sobers bat at my first live "international" match, the England v Rest of the World "test" at Lord's in 1970. Sobers won that match for the RoW by taking 6-20 odd on day one as England were bowled out for 110 (I missed this, sadly), then scoring 183 in scintillating style, batting with the likes of Graeme Pollock (arguably the two greatest ever left handed batsmen together). That feat is still on the Lord's honours board, and I know of no other cricketer who has got his name on the Lord's board for both batting and bowling in the same match (I know Botham did it in the Jubilee match against India). Anyone?

  • BillyCC on March 31, 2014, 19:54 GMT

    Until I see or read an honest opinion from someone who saw both Sobers and Kallis play in their prime and can honestly say that Kallis was better, the thought cannot be entertained. Certainly no commentators that are old enough have ever suggested this eg. the Richies and the Tony Griegs of this world.

  • zxaar on March 31, 2014, 17:48 GMT

    There are many people who just look at average without considering any other thing. The average also depends on how many matches you play, longer you play harder it is to maintain that average. Sobers played 96 matches his average was 57.8 with 26 hundreds. After same 96 matches Kallis averaged 57.24 with 23 hundreds. Tendulkar averaged 57.58 with 29 hundreds. From this it is clear that if Tendulkar played the same number of matches and we compared apples to apples, Tendulkar comes out to be superior batsman. To make things more interesting, Tendulkar was not out only 15 times in these 96 matches while Sobers was not out 22 times and Kallis was not out 28 times. As usual Kallis averages is boosted by his not outs.

  • on March 31, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    Sobers was a wonderful batsman and very good bowler. For many years he was ranking (using the latest ranking system) one of the top dozen in the world, with a highest ranking of 4. I remember him well in 1966 (thus showing my age), and he was a very good fast medium swing bowler. However, although we hear stories of him changing style of bowling, I do not remember him ever bowling spin in that year, or indeed afterwards. Apparently it hurt his shoulder to bowl slower. So, to a large extent, he was a slow bowler in the first part of his career, and then a quick one. If I am wrong, people, please let me know!

    Sobers probably did not optimize his numbers in the way that Bradman and Kallis did. When he played for Notts, he was intermittently brilliant, but found continuous cricket quite a grind. I think he would have had trouble keeping up the intensity if he had internationals as frequently as the players of today.

  • Cool_Jeeves on March 31, 2014, 13:50 GMT

    It is difficult to justify Kallis being in the same class as Sobers. Sobers was simply head and shoulders above his contemporaries in terms of the impact he made. With Kallis, you have to look into the numbers, and they are indeed good.

    But Kallis is likely to be feted by the young readers (born in the 80s) based on his numbers, but the same readers will quickly switch to Tendulkar based on his style/dynamism etc. though Kallis has better numbers than Tendulkar plus was an all rounder with a massive haul of wickets and catches.

    Here is an earlier cricinfo article which is astonishing. It appears that between 1961 and 68, Sobers would have been averaging in the mid 60s with the bat and 27 with the ball...beat that.

  • On-Drive on March 31, 2014, 12:36 GMT

    Heard from a West Indian fan that Sobers was an accomplished sprinter. This is besides Cricket, Basketball and Soccer.

  • Cricinfo-Editorial on March 31, 2014, 9:20 GMT

    @ Ennarkay The photograph, which rightly bewildered you, was a flipped image. Thanks to you and other feedbackers who pointed this out. We've changed it to a different one now.

  • on March 31, 2014, 7:34 GMT

    There is only one complete cricketer in the history of the game. He is none other than Garfield Sobers. An astute batsman, a cunning swing-cum-spin bowler and a pantherlike fielder, he has his own style in everything that he did. Even Punch once related his lazy swagging walk to the late coming of the boys to schooIs. It would be wise for any budding player to idolize him for the improvement of ones game. Besides his game it was his personal attitude that spoke volumes of self. A man full of humbleness, he could be a role model for most of the present day players, who make a scene after taking a wicket. And sledging could be related to such street cricketers only. Afterall he is a Lord ! How many can match his charisma in his approach to the game. An ideally suited to every walk of life, UN could use his services as an ambassador to spread peace and harmony through this game.

  • Rajdev on March 31, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    @Cantbowlcantbat: Among Sobers's contemporaries, Walcott averaged 56.68, Barrington 58.67, Gavaskar 51.12, Graeme Pollock 60.97. Yes, there have been more batsmen in recent times to average 50+ because of covered wickets, better bats, and other conditions that benefit batting. But that would make Kallis's test career bowling performance more impressive than that of Sobers. Different eras different challenges. Kallis's contemporaries would say that he is the best allrounder that they have played with or against. Let Don Bradman have the last word: A great player in one era would have been great in any other. Rajan

  • IndianInnerEdge on March 31, 2014, 4:41 GMT

    Simply the greatest, i wish i was born in the era to see him play in the flesh....just watching the old videos...am a fan of just watching the man walk....leave alone his cricketing skills....there is a an unbelievable fluidity, a languid grace, almost panther like posture when he walks.....ah u legend....:)

  • Cantbowlcantbat on March 31, 2014, 3:14 GMT

    Sobers and Bradman are without doubt subject to more revisionist history than any other cricketers alive or dead. These posts are filled with derogatory statements by those who never saw them play and don't understand statistics. Sobers averaged >57 in an era when his leading contemporaries (eg Harvey, Worrall, Boycott) averaged in the mid to high 40s. Kallis averaged 55 in an era when many of his contemporaries averaged well over 50- covered wickets, big bats, shortened boundaries etc. Almost without exception, ex-players who played with him and against still him rate Sobers the best all-rounder ever.

  • Rajdev on March 31, 2014, 1:37 GMT

    @Shripathi Kamath et.al. Sobers batting average 57.78. Kallis 55.37. Sobers wickets/ test 2.53. Kallis 1.76. Sobers catches/test 1.17. Kallis 1.20. Statswise, Sobers just edges ahead of Kallis. The expectation from both was to bat and bowl. For those who denigrate Sobers as a bowler: has anyone taken 235 wickets and had a higher batting average than Sobers? No. Has anyone with a 50+ batting average taken more than the 292 Kallis took? No. If they were only bowlers then of course their bowling stats are mediocre. But taken in conjunction with their batting and fielding records, both Sobers and Kallis are incredible. QED. Rajan

  • on March 31, 2014, 1:36 GMT

    Dear Tony,I must commend you on this article and the many articles you have written and just like Sir Garry Sobers being a giant in the cricket arena you to must be recognized for disseminating such in-dept information relative to cricket in the Caribbean, your legacy would be very hard to emulate.

  • Ennarkay on March 31, 2014, 1:09 GMT

    What's with the photograph? Left hand at the top off the handle? Is it posted in reverse o the page or is there a Sobers-batting-right-handed atory behind it?

  • Gowza on March 30, 2014, 22:39 GMT

    mike procter was actually pretty decent when he bowled off spin. sobers was a great all rounder, solid spinner and a very good left arm pacer not to mention a terrific fielder and incredible batsman. let's not forget sobers first got selected as a spinner, you're not going to get selected to play test cricket as a spinner if there isn't something there but batting became the focus and his left arm pacers kind of took over from his spin.

  • Hutton364 on March 30, 2014, 22:11 GMT

    Re: KentJones.I agree stats are not everything, although they do reflect consistency of performance over long careers. Every great player has great stats. Sport is not art, so a player cannot be judged on aesthetics alone. Cricket is the most beautiful of games, but it is also a sport and so performance matters. It's not enough to look good. It's necessary to win. Other views of cricket are too romantic. It''s not ballet, or theatre. It's also the case that you can see stylish cricketers at league level, but they are not effective enough to play first-class cricket. Conversely, great batsmen such as Barrington and Chanderpaul are not classically beautiful. So, yes, Sobers may well have been a stylish bowler and had natural grace. But my point is that his bowling was not in the same league as his batting.Other allrounders such as Imran and Botham were much stronger in their second suit (which for both of them was batting). That's not to say I'm arguing they were better cricketers..

  • Hyderabadi_Nawab on March 30, 2014, 21:36 GMT

    Re. the action photo at the top, I wonder what stroke the great man has played to end up in that position!? A pull shot seems unlikely as his back should be to the camera, he is facing the camera in a way and so should have played a shot on the offside, but then his body position is all curled up like an onside shot...still wondering....

  • on March 30, 2014, 18:45 GMT

    Garry's bowling was excellent ! His figures look mediocre because when the conditions suited seam, Garry was the spinner, and when they suited spin, he'd bowl the seam...................... Pretty handy for any team to have that !

  • cattlewash on March 30, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Folk. One observation is telling in the debate on whether Kallis or Sobers was the best. Tens of thousands went to cricket specifically to see Sobers. Few, if any, went to see Kallis.

  • on March 30, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    @ LillianThomson .. Sir Everton Weekes !

  • harshthakor on March 30, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    Purely as a cricketer Gary Sobers is my no 1 choice over Don Bradman.Sobers created the impact of a hurricane on a cricket field more than the Don .Whether batting ,bowling or fielding his presence could create the impact of thunder on a cricket field.Whether in 1966 in England when he scored 722 wickets and took 20 wickets,whether at Kingston v England in 1968-69 when he scored 113 and took 8 wickets or whether in England in 1970 when he scored 583 runs at an average of 73 and took 21 wickets Sobers was simply on another pedestal.As an artist Kallis,Botham or Imran could not come close to Gary .If you consider his record as a skipper Imran ranks closest to Sobers after his retirement as a cricketer,while in his peak era as a pure all-rounder Botham was closest to Gary.Overall Kalis is Sober's closest rival as an all-rounder.W.G.grace,Jack Hobbs,Don Bradman are to me Gary's greatest rivals for the best cricketer of all.

  • harshthakor on March 30, 2014, 18:07 GMT

    Jacques Kallis statistically is inches ahead of Sobers but never compared favourably with Sobers as match-winner or a cricketer who consistently turned matches with both bat and ball.Sobers was twice as dynamic and in a league ahead in terms of artistry.At his peak Botham matched Gary's match-wining prowess in turning matches with both bat and ball while Imran was an equally effective match-winner as fast bowling allrounder who became a world -class batsmen towards the end of his career.Howver combining ball and bat consistently Gary wa sin another class.As a batsman Sobers was a champion as a match-winner and in a crisis while as a bowler he was devastating with the new ball and also effective with an old ball.Morally we have to throw light on Gary's capturing 124 wickets at an average of around 27 run sin 30 tests as the yardstick as he never really got a fair chance for a significant period as a bowler.To me it would take an Imran and Botham together to equal Sobers.

  • harshthakor on March 30, 2014, 17:52 GMT

    It was as if God sent Sir Garfield Sobers to play cricket who was the equivalent of a prophet to the game of cricket.Morally,he revealed marginally more superiority over his rivals than even Bradman did with mere figures doing Sobers scant justice.Overall Gary Sobers could turn the complexion of game as an all-rounder more than Bradman could do as a batsman and maybe 2 great all-rounders combined in a single team would match Sober's worth.Gary was the perfect 3 into one cricketer who posessed depths of cricketing genius that none ever posessed.He had a devastating range of strokes ,could bowl pace spin and chinaman and could pull of the most blinding of catches.No all-rounder could turn a match more than Gary or ever equal Gary's all-round performance for rest of the world in England in 1970 when he literally ruled like an emperor.Sober's cricket combined technical prowess with artistry of infinite proportions.Even Kallis ,Imran or Botham are not in Sober's league.

  • thejesusofcool on March 30, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    Genius is an overused word.

    Not with this guy, though!

    Dennis Lillee, at his fastest when very young in 1972, was amongst those carted around MCG in that 254. All without helmets!

  • on March 30, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    He was the ultimate joy of cricket,what wud he have done if he is born in this gen is anybody's guess

  • tutorial on March 30, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    Sobers was the definition of "cricket", batted, bowled and fielded exceptionally well,he was no Richards, no Lara, but even a better leader, this is a man that carried to the field PRIDE, CLASS and most of all DISCIPLINE, he was before my time, but i go back and pull up some of his old matches when i have the time, Sobers is well admired by WI fans and fans around the world, my only wish is for WI present cricketers to take a page out of his book (learn something from him).

  • Beazle on March 30, 2014, 16:46 GMT

    I saw a lot of Sobers and I saw a lot of Kallis.

    Sobers was a better batsman - a far greater fielder and a more versatile bowler.

  • on March 30, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    kentjones on (March 30, 2014, 11:10 GMT) @Hutton354, My Dear Sir, the sad mistake many make including yourself,when judging past performances is to rely solely on statistics and thus take performances on the field out of context. ___________________________________________________________________ OK, go ahead, put them in the context of the field, rather than glibly asserting that "statistics is not everything" and then offering NOTHING. It is the same naivete exhibited by people who say "money is nothing everything" and fail to explain why it is that almost all of the rich lead far more comfortable lives than the poor.

  • on March 30, 2014, 15:56 GMT

    Bowling twenty different styles is only relevant if that variety contributed to his getting wickets, or unsettling partnerships. Sobers was a phenomenal batsman, second only to Bradman. As a bowler, he was mediocre. A wicket every 92 deliveries or so. Other than one magnificent series, his excellence as an all-rounder was largely folklore.

    This hagiography has to stop. This is only because Kallis recently retired and people keep wanting to rank them. No contest, Kallis was not at all flamboyant, and he was not the sublime batsman Sobers was. His bowling had less variety than Sobers's.

    But easily, by a British mile, Kallis was the better all-rounder. This is simply fact.

  • Puffin on March 30, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    If Bradman had been an all-rounder, his career stats might well have looked something like this. There's something special about being a great all-rounder, able to contribute huge performances in all aspects of the game, it adds something magical to a team who is lucky enough to have one.

  • on March 30, 2014, 14:39 GMT

    All you have to do is look at the you tube examples of Sobers against the best of his day. Look at the 254 in Australia against Lillee. Question his bowling. The man bowled GENUINELY in 3 styles. Name another player proficient in 2 much more 3. By the way, he did well in all three.

  • BradmanBestEver on March 30, 2014, 11:49 GMT

    Yes Sobers was without doubt the second best batsman of all time because he averaged over 57 while playing a major role in the field as a front line bowler and important fieldsman.

    Without doubt he was not in the top 20 bowlers of all time and neither was Kallis but they were still good enough to be front line bowlers in their teams. And they were very good fieldsmen to boot. These extra roles that they had during the game distinguishes their batting performances over other batsman who did not play such major roles in the field.

    In other words, had Sobers and Kallis not bowled their batting would have been a lot better - much higher than Lara, Richards etc

  • Rowayton on March 30, 2014, 11:35 GMT

    Like the last couple of posters I dispute Hutton364's stats. For one thing, people batted differently then, particularly against spinners. Out of interest, Bedi who was probably the best left arm spinner I saw, had a strike rate of 80, Gibbs had a sr of 88 and he was the world record holder for test wickets, Venkat's sr was 96, and he was probably about Ashwin standard.

  • kentjones on March 30, 2014, 11:10 GMT

    @Hutton354, My Dear Sir, the sad mistake many make including yourself,when judging past performances is to rely solely on statistics and thus take performances on the field out of context.It is an understandable but sometimes annoying characteristic that often displays ignorance and a level of naivete.I am sure you are an exception.Sobers was a giant on the field of play, which those who have witnessed will attest - as you said you were not around to see.All sports, as indeed life unfolding, are organisms of living reality and are designed to be played on an arena and viewed, appreciated, and best analysed, by those present.Once one has been removed from the playing area, one is impelled to rely on those present to give account, since the statistical record will not offer the full scenario. Many objective and knowledgeable people who have seen have given him the highest grade. If one is wise such should be acceptable. Remember "there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics"

  • on March 30, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    @Hutton 364 stats alone can't describe genius. Sobers' bowling average can't indicate his brilliance. He was immensely versatile and often called upon at times when Windies bowling was not at its strongest. He was a SUPREME batsman and OUTSTANDING fielder. These numbers can't be questioned. His bowling may have been third string compared to his other two disciplines but he bowled spin AND pace. And took 235 wickets! Not many can lay claim to do that. No all rounder in the history of cricket can lay claim to having 50+ avg with the bat AND <25 avg with the ball AND be an outstanding fielder. Average diff is the accepted standard to distinguish the exceptional all rounders and in that regard, he comes out no. 1! His diff is 23 (57 bat, 34 ball). I think Kallis was 22 (55 bat, 33 ball). Khan and the rest of the 80's all rounders weren't close. So statistically he was the oustanding all rounder of all time. The aesthetics of his play and his sportmanship only enhance his reputation.

  • henchart on March 30, 2014, 10:44 GMT

    @crimsonbull : The greatest batsman ,so far,to have played the game is Bradman.It is always Bradman and the rest when it comes to batting.No two opinions on that. Period.

  • Hutton364 on March 30, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    Sobers is routinely dubbed greatest allrounder ever. But it's rarely written that 90 per cent of this status comes from batting skill. He was one of the greatest batsmen ever. I am too young to have seen him. But I'd like to point out - heresy no doubt - that his bowling figures are unimpressive. He took 235 wickets, but that was in 93 tests. His average was 34 and his strike rate was a huge 91.9! (Dale Steyn's is 42, Imran Khan's 53) If you took batting out of the equation, would he justify selection in, for example, the current England attack? Surely the greatest allrounder should be worth his place for batting and bowling.

    As a comparison with Sobers, I looked at another left-arm swing bowler who didn't last long - Alan Mullally - 19 Tests, 58 wickets, at 31 with a strike rate of 78. Much better. Found wanting.

    So my question is this - has Sobers bowling been overrated because of. 1. Natural athleticism and elegance. 2. Supreme batting. 3. Ability to bowl some spin?

  • BradmanBestEver on March 30, 2014, 9:41 GMT

    All the more amazing is he played with no helmet and with a "normal" cricket bat, rather than the supercharged bats used by batsmen in recent times - just image the extra runs and higher average he would have obtained if he has those advantages...

  • kentjones on March 30, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Hail Gary Sobers, the greatest cricketer who ever lived. It is a tremendous pity that many of the modern day cricket fans have little idea of his genius. This fact is quite obvious when recent debates surrounding Kallis, Khan and others, some were questioning his position as the greatest. Sobers was a compelling figure and a powerful force of nature, who mastered the art of cricket as indeed no man before him or any other yet, since cricket came into being. He excelled on the field of play and was probably the most gifted player the game has ever seen with either bat or ball. He was described by the renowned John Arlott as "the finest all round player in the history of cricket" and Fred Trueman as "one of the greatest cricketers to have ever graced the game", and he was the best for those who were fortunate to see him grace the field. Sir Garfield Sobers, we thank you for your magnificent contribution to the game of cricket. You have left an indelible mark on this beautiful game

  • crimsonbull on March 30, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    The greatest all-rounder ever. I don't think Bradman is the the greatest batsman ever. He only played 52 Tests and only against England.

  • on March 30, 2014, 8:21 GMT

    Elegant cricketer of his time

  • rhtme on March 30, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    @ Naikan

    The shot does seem to be reverse sweep, the position in which Sobers is suggests that he got up after playing the shot & that it's possibly reverse slog sweep, because his grip is left handed which makes it nigh impossible for him to play a switch hit(hook/pull) & so the author is right IMO.

  • Headbandenator on March 30, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    "He is playing a hook/pull shot maybe in a reverse way,which is famous nowadays in one day/T 20 cricket!!" As well as playing the reverse sweep, Sobers bowled off breaks, leg breaks, bouncers, yorkers, zooters and curries - RIGHT HANDED. All the old photgraphs ever seen were in reverse, but not this one.

    Now, where is that, "Aren't they young, bless!" smiley when you need it?

  • BradmanBestEver on March 30, 2014, 7:39 GMT

    The second best batsman of all time.

  • Naikan on March 30, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    hehehe - That Photo that you see is a printer's error. I dont think Sir Gary tried the reverse sweep - there is no mention of him ever doing so and any way that looks like a hook-pull which I dont think anyone has ever attempted (at least not of a fast bowler). I believe the negative was used on the reverse side while printing - making the left handed Sir Gary look Right handed.

  • LillianThomson on March 30, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    I'm staggered by the suggestion that Sobers - admittedly the greatest cricketer of all time - is the "only" surviving national hero in Barbados.

    Greenidge and Haynes had marvellous careers, as did Sir Wesley Hal and Joel Garner. If they were Antiguan they would all be knights of the realm.l

  • on March 30, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    Gary is not batting right handed in the picture!! Incidentally no batsman will play with stumps in front of him,even in gully cricket!! He is playing a hook/pull shot maybe in a reverse way,which is famous nowadays in one day/T 20 cricket!!

  • NalinWikkey on March 30, 2014, 4:24 GMT

    I think the pic is correct, he looks like he's hit a lofted shot on the offside?

  • NalinWikkey on March 30, 2014, 4:24 GMT

    I think the pic is correct, he looks like he's hit a lofted shot on the offside?

  • on March 30, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    Gary is not batting right handed in the picture!! Incidentally no batsman will play with stumps in front of him,even in gully cricket!! He is playing a hook/pull shot maybe in a reverse way,which is famous nowadays in one day/T 20 cricket!!

  • LillianThomson on March 30, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    I'm staggered by the suggestion that Sobers - admittedly the greatest cricketer of all time - is the "only" surviving national hero in Barbados.

    Greenidge and Haynes had marvellous careers, as did Sir Wesley Hal and Joel Garner. If they were Antiguan they would all be knights of the realm.l

  • Naikan on March 30, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    hehehe - That Photo that you see is a printer's error. I dont think Sir Gary tried the reverse sweep - there is no mention of him ever doing so and any way that looks like a hook-pull which I dont think anyone has ever attempted (at least not of a fast bowler). I believe the negative was used on the reverse side while printing - making the left handed Sir Gary look Right handed.

  • BradmanBestEver on March 30, 2014, 7:39 GMT

    The second best batsman of all time.

  • Headbandenator on March 30, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    "He is playing a hook/pull shot maybe in a reverse way,which is famous nowadays in one day/T 20 cricket!!" As well as playing the reverse sweep, Sobers bowled off breaks, leg breaks, bouncers, yorkers, zooters and curries - RIGHT HANDED. All the old photgraphs ever seen were in reverse, but not this one.

    Now, where is that, "Aren't they young, bless!" smiley when you need it?

  • rhtme on March 30, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    @ Naikan

    The shot does seem to be reverse sweep, the position in which Sobers is suggests that he got up after playing the shot & that it's possibly reverse slog sweep, because his grip is left handed which makes it nigh impossible for him to play a switch hit(hook/pull) & so the author is right IMO.

  • on March 30, 2014, 8:21 GMT

    Elegant cricketer of his time

  • crimsonbull on March 30, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    The greatest all-rounder ever. I don't think Bradman is the the greatest batsman ever. He only played 52 Tests and only against England.

  • kentjones on March 30, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Hail Gary Sobers, the greatest cricketer who ever lived. It is a tremendous pity that many of the modern day cricket fans have little idea of his genius. This fact is quite obvious when recent debates surrounding Kallis, Khan and others, some were questioning his position as the greatest. Sobers was a compelling figure and a powerful force of nature, who mastered the art of cricket as indeed no man before him or any other yet, since cricket came into being. He excelled on the field of play and was probably the most gifted player the game has ever seen with either bat or ball. He was described by the renowned John Arlott as "the finest all round player in the history of cricket" and Fred Trueman as "one of the greatest cricketers to have ever graced the game", and he was the best for those who were fortunate to see him grace the field. Sir Garfield Sobers, we thank you for your magnificent contribution to the game of cricket. You have left an indelible mark on this beautiful game