If Don Bradman is the cricketer who has set the standards for batsmen in the sport, Sir Garfield Sobers stands at the pinnacle of the all-rounder list, setting the example for his achievements in all spheres of the game. The most fearful of the West Indian squad of the 1970s and 80s, Sobers, both statistically and with the kind of impact he had over the opposition, established a benchmark in consistency for others. Ian Chappell, not a man given to flattery or fulsome praise, describes him as the best batsman he has ever seen and that’s just the batting. Legends abound of him, at his peak, cavorting until 5am and showing up at 9am to score a Test century with a trademark nonchalance.
Aside from the fact that he shares a name with a sarcastic cat, there’s little that’s laughable about Garry Sobers. Well, okay, the surname was a bit of an irony at one point in time. But there has rarely been a more natural cricketer. Everton Weekes, who saw Sobers play cricket from the age of 12, recalled, “We never had to teach him anything. He taught himself. He started making runs, taking wickets and holding catches to overcome that nervousness.”
The reason Sobers is the greatest all-rounder – and consequently, the greatest cricketer to many lovers of the sport – is that he was, on most days, three cricketers rolled into one. Most top flight all-rounders can lay claim to being excellent in two disciplines but, Garry could bowl fast medium or spin, depending on the match situation, or his mood. And he was very effective with both. Surprisingly, it was spin bowling that got Sobers a place in a West Indies team. In his debut Test in 1954, Sobers came in to bat at no 9, and scored 14 runs. He later took four wickets conceding 75 runs, and followed that up by scoring 26 runs in the second innings, albeit for a losing cause.
In a remarkable turn of events, he would essentially be remembered as a batting all-rounder. He played 93 Test matches, scoring 8,032 runs at an average of 57.78. This is still among the best batting averages of all time. He scored 26 centuries and 30 half-centuries in Test cricket, none more memorable than the famous 365 not out he scored in 1958 against Pakistan.
In the third Test played in Kingston, Sobers came in at number three with the score at 87/1. In the 614 minutes he spent at the crease, he struck 38 boundaries and West Indies eventually declared at 790/3. They won the match by an innings and 174 runs. The 365 was a world record that stood for 36 years, until it was broken by Brian Lara in 1994. It is still the fifth highest individual score ever in test cricket.
Garry Sobers was the 3rd player after Wally Hammond and Colin Cowdrey to complete 100 catches as a fielder in his Test career. He scored 722 runs, took 20 wickets and caught 10 catches in a series of 5 Test matches against England in June 1966. No one else has managed even a combination of 500 runs, 10 wickets and 10 catches in a series. He was the first to score 3000 Runs, take 200 wickets and grab 100 catches in Tests. Only 3 others have managed to do it after him – Sir Ian Botham, Shane Warne, and Jacques Kallis. He also took 117 wickets of his 235 test wickets as captain. They are the 3rd most behind Imran Khan’s 187 and Richie Benaud’s 138. Sobers was the first batsman to hit six sixes in an over in first-class cricket. He achieved it while batting for Nottinghamshire vs Glamorgan at Cardiff on August 31, 1968, off the over bowled by Malcolm Nash.
In January 1972, in the Third (unofficial) Test between Australia and the Rest of the World XI at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Sobers played an innings of 254 which was described by Don Bradman as “probably the greatest exhibition of batting ever seen in Australia”. He reached his century in 129 balls and after a rest day, reached 254 in 326 balls. It was “one of the most magnificent innings seen on the Melbourne Cricket Ground” and his “superb display of forceful cricket” lasted 376 minutes and included two sixes and 33 fours.
In 2004, the International Cricket Council inaugurated the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy which is awarded annually to the player selected by ICC as its Player of the Year. The recommendation to name the award after Sobers was made by a panel consisting of Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Holding, who were asked by the ICC “to select an individual with whom to honour cricket’s ultimate individual award”.
Nobody is Perfect that is why pencils have erasers. The numbers say it all Sir Garry Sobers is, by some distance, the greatest all-rounder of all time. The data clearly supports Sobers’ status as the GOAT but there is one category in which he comes last. His bowling average still a very commendable 34.3 and is a long way short of the 22.3 that belongs to Hadlee, Imran Khan (22.8) and Miller (23) are also a long way ahead of Sobers.
By Paramdeep Rathee
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