National Heroes: Sir Garfield Sobers

Garfield St Auburn Sobers

The only living national hero and legendary all-round cricketer in history, Sir Garfield Sobers was fifth of six children. At birth he had two extra fingers, one on each hand, which he removed himself during childhood, “with the aid of catgut and a sharp knife.” It’s fair to say that when Sobers was ready to put his mind to something, he was ready to achieve anything.

Sobers was only five when his father died at sea in January 1942, after his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat. His cricketing days started early and he played his first first-class match when he was 16. A year later he played his next. Sobers has been considered the best all-round cricket player in history. He began as an orthodox left arm spinner and later developed the ability to bowl left arm wrist spin or chinaman and googlies. He was as good close to the wicket as he was an outfielder. In August 1968, Sobers played six sixes in a row, a world record with 36 runs in an over that  broke the 57 year old record of 34, held by Ted Alletson. When you visit the Parliament Museum in Bridgetown, you can see the collection of pieces dedicated to the ten National Heroes and the Gary Sobers piece is invariably cricket-themed.

His nine-year career as Captain of the West Indies team was excellent. He enjoyed spectacular success in England in 1966 and was widely acclaimed as “King Cricket”. In the five Tests he scored 722 runs at an average of 103.14 with three centuries, and had 20 wickets at 27.25, as well as taking 10 catches. West Indies won the series 3–1, with one match drawn. His status was celebrated at that time by the Trinidadian calypso artist Mighty Sparrow, with his song “Sir Garfield Sobers”.

In a teary interview, 21st October 2015, Sobers explained how his play wasn’t about ego or fame.

“I have always played for the west indies team. It was such a pleasure and joy to be able to do what I did. You know records meant nothing. The team was important. I don’t think we have that kind of person today in West Indies cricket anymore.”

In 2004, the International Cricket Council (ICC) 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”.

Barbados Parliament Museum, Bridgetown
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