For a small island, Barbados has exceeded all expectations by producing some of the world’s biggest cricketing legends.
No matter which country you visit, if you ask a cricket player what Sir Garfield Sobers is famous for, there can only be one answer – cricket.
Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers was born on 28 July 1936 in a suburb of Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados.
The fifth of six children, Sobers immediately made an impact on the world by being born with six fingers on each hand.
Little did anyone realize at the time that such an extraordinary beginning would lead to such a remarkable future.
Rising from the back streets of Barbados, Sobers soon proved himself to be an accomplished athlete, excelling at golf, soccer, and basketball.
But it was cricket that caught Sobers eye, and at the age of 16, he made his first-class debut.
Demonstrating his incredible bowling skill it took only one more year before Sobers appeared in his first Test match for the West Indies; at the remarkable age of just 17.
Sobers quickly established himself as one of the most excellent left-handed bowlers that the West Indies had seen, but it was four years later that Sobers unleashed his best form yet.
In 1958, at the tender age of 21, Sobers smashed a massive 365 not out against Pakistan claiming the record for the highest maiden Test century of all time, which he still holds today and the record for the highest individual score in a test match. This cricket achievement would stand for 36 years until beaten by a fellow West Indian, Brian Lara, who hit 375 against England.
Sobers’ batting achievement suddenly made the world sit up and listen – this was not just your average left-handed bowler!
In all Test matches between 1953 and 1974 Sobers amassed a mammoth 8,032 runs with an average 57.78.
And as if that wasn’t enough, his bowling accomplishments of 235 Test wickets at 34.03 runs each are a fantastic achievement. Made even more remarkable as he was able to achieve these wickets by bowling left-arm orthodox, left-arm fast-medium, and with a punishing chinaman – most bowlers are lucky if they are good at one of these styles!
And when Sobers was having a rest from bowling he is widely regarded as the most exceptional fielder when it comes to close-catching.
Then there is the small matter of Sobers being the first cricketer in the history of cricket to achieve maximum runs off one over – hitting six sixes off six balls!
His place in the history books was thankfully captured by the television cameras, and thanks to the wonder of the internet, we can all relive his remarkable achievement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8dLac__KKk
Sobers retired from cricket in 1974, widely recognized as the best all-rounder cricket player ever; a title that everyone still acknowledges today.
In the following year, in recognition of his services to cricket, Queen Elizabeth II made him a knight of the realm; and breaking with tradition, instead of performing the ceremony at Buckingham Palace she flew to Barbados and knighted Sobers at the Garrison Savannah.
Tributes to Sobers have continued since and in 1992 a new sporting facility, the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, was opened in Barbados.
In 1998, for services to cricket across the West Indies, Sobers was given the honor of the Order of the Caribbean Community in 1998.
Finally, in 1999, the Prime Minister of Barbados named Sobers as one of the ten national heroes of Barbados and granted the island a national holiday in recognition of their respective achievements.