Cricket’s Greatest All-Rounder
Arguably the world’s greatest cricket all-rounder, Sir Garfield (Garry) St. Auburn Sobers began his first-class cricket career at the age of 16, and his Test Cricket debut for the West Indies a year later. He played cricket for the West Indies between 1954 and 1974, and in 1965 was made team captain, a role which he held until 1972. Cricketing great Richie Benaud has described Sir Garfield Sobers as “the greatest all-round cricketer the world has seen…a brilliant batsman, splendid fielder, particularly close to the wicket, and a bowler of extraordinary skill…”.
Born 20th July 1936 in Bridgetown, the nation’s capital, this local legend is the fifth of six children.
It is said that from an early age, Sobers demonstrated the natural talent to play almost any sport involving a ball, especially cricket, football and basketball.
Did you know?
At birth, Sir Garfield had two extra fingers, one on each hand, which he removed himself during childhood, “with the aid of catgut and a sharp knife.”
When he was 13, he was recruited to play for two cricket teams – the Kent St Philip club in the Barbados Cricket League (BCL) and the Wanderers club, in the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA).
It was at the age of 17 that he made his second first-class cricket appearance. It was clear that Sobers was a natural and he had shown enough talent to be selected for the West Indies team and his third first-class cricket appearance was in fact his Test debut.
In 1958, Sobers scored his maiden Test century against Pakistan and ended up with an unbeaten 365 runs, breaking the world record. In fact, at 21 years, he is the youngest player to break the individual scoring record in Tests, and remains the youngest triple-centurion.
Note: His record was not broken until Brian Lara scored 375 in 1994.
From 1965 to 1972, he captained the West Indies team and Sobers played 93 Tests overall for the West Indies.
Did you know?
In his 383 first-class matches, he scored over 28,000 runs and took over 1,000 wickets, also spending time with South Australia and Nottinghamshire teams towards the end of his career.
It was in 1974 that, due to a knee injury, Sir Garfield Sobers retired from cricket, a sporting legend and a national treasure.
Sir Garfield’s Achievements
Throughout his career, Sobers had many great achievements and honours bestowed upon him.
In 1969, Sir Garfield was the subject of both much critique and adoration – he was one of the first cricketers to try to integrate apartheid countries into cricket and also helped to coach black youths.
In another outstanding achievement for this local Bajan, Sir Garfield Sobers was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975 for his services to cricket, controversially presented at the Garrison Savannah in Barbados, instead of at Buckingham Palace.
In 2003, he was again presented another honour by being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, where he had played many first-class cricket matches.
The list of Sobers’ achievements really is endless. Some of the awards he won during his playing career are:
— West Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year (1958-59)
— Wisden Cricketer of the Year (1964)
— The Cricket Society Wetherall Award for the Leading All-Rounder in English First-Class Cricket (1970)
— Walter Lawrence Trophy winner (1974)
— Wisden Cricketer of the Century (2000)
The International Cricket Council (ICC) even went as far as to introduce a Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy in 2004, which is awarded annually to the ‘Player of the Year‘, as selected by the ICC.
In another big achievement for Sobers, in 2007 Wisden retrospectively selected the Leading Cricketer in the World for every year dating back to 1900 (except 1915-18 and 1940-45) – Sir Garfield Sobers was selected for the title for eight of those years.
Sobers Honoured in Barbados
Sobers was also highly honoured and acknowledged in his mother country of Barbados.
In 1966, his image was placed on a Barbados Independence Postage Stamp, as a sign of respect from his homeland.
In 1998, by an act of Parliament, Sobers was also publicly named as one of the ten official National Heroes of Barbados.
As another nod to the great respect held for Sobers in Barbados, the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex was built and is the island’s premier indoor multipurpose facility, conceived and designed as a venue for large sporting and cultural events.
Inside the Complex is a large gymnasium which also hosts a variety of events, as well as tennis courts and an aquatic centre, all dedicated to this great Bajan hero.
By: Brett Callaghan