The Rt Excellent Sir Garfield St. A Sobers
By Dale S. Brown
September 9, 2021
England toured the West Indies during the 1967/68 season and won the 5 Test series 1-0. England were gifted the 4th Test match which was played at Queens Park Oval, Trinidad, when Sobers made an ill-advised declaration and summarily lost the match.
Sobers declared the West Indies first inning closed at 526 for 7, to which England replied with 404 runs. Sobers then controversially declared at 92 -2 in the second inning setting England 215 runs to win which they did while losing 3 wickets.
Garfield Sobers was the leading batsman as he scored 545 runs with 2 centuries at an average of 90.83. He took 13 wickets to finish behind Gibb’s 20 and he also led the team with 4 catches.
Sobers then led the team on a tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1968/69.
Australia easily defeated the West Indies by 3 -1.
Sobers was again the leading batsman by scoring 497 runs with 2 centuries at an average of 49.70. He placed second with 18 wickets with Gibbs leading with 24 wickets. Sobers and Joey Carew snared 6 catches each to lead the team.
He led the team on the second leg of the tour to New Zealand for a 3 Test series. The series was drawn 1-1. He was the 5th leading batsman with 70 runs and was the 3rd most successful bowler with 7 wickets. Gibbs took 6 catches to lead Sobers’ 5.
The next stop was another tour to England for a short 3 Test series. The home team won 2-0. This time Sobers was the 6th leading run getter with 150 runs at an average of 30.00. However, he took 11 wickets to finish behind John Shepherd’s 12. Sobers was third with 2 catches behind Roy Fredericks and Lance Gibbs 3 each.
India toured the West Indies for a 5 Tests and won a historic first ever series 1-0 against the home team.
Garfield Sobers made 3 centuries and scored 597 runs at an average of 74.63 to lead the team in all categories. He finished second to Jack Noriega’s 19 wickets with 12 and led the team with 4 catches.
New Zealand followed with their first visit to the Caribbean and drew all 5 Tests.
Sobers scored 253 runs and averaged 36.14 to finish behind Roy Fredericks 487, Charlie Davis 466 and Lawrence Rowe 419.
He finished 3rd in the bowling with 10 wickets behind Vanburn Holder 12 and Inshan Ali 11. He only held two catches to finish 4th in that category.
End of a World Record Streak
Garry Sobers had played the last few seasons on an injured knee. Now, aged 36, he had to undergo an operation in order to repair the knee. He also resigned as West Indies captain having served in that capacity for 39 Tests.
After recovering from the surgery, Sobers informed the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) that he was available for the upcoming series against Australia. The WICBC stated that they were not satisfied that he was fit enough to play Test cricket and would not select him to play against the touring Australians unless he proved his fitness.
Sobers did not attempt to prove his fitness and his streak of playing in a then World Record 85 consecutive Test matches came to an abrupt end.
The Return in 1973
The West Indies under the captaincy of Rohan Kanhai, toured England for a 3 Test series in 1973. Sobers was then selected to play.
He contributed to the 2-0 West Indies victory by scoring 306 runs, second to Clive Lloyd’s 319 and took 6 wickets. Keith Boyce 19, Gibbs 9, Holder 7 and Julien 7 took more wickets than Sobers who also led the team with 7 catches.
Garfield Sobers’ illustrious Test career came to an end after England’s tour of the Caribbean during the 1973-74 season. The series was drawn 1-1.
Sobers played in 4 of the 5 Tests, missing one due to fatigue. The great man signed off by scoring a disappointing 100 runs to be the 8th highest scorer for his team. However, only Gibbs and Julien with 18 and 16 wickets respectively, finished ahead of Sobers’ 14.
In his last 33 Tests, Sobers was the leading scorer with 2518 runs with 9 centuries at an average of 50.36. He also took the most wickets (91) and the most catches (31)
The Numbers All Time Test Cricket
Garfield Sobers’ Test career spanned from 1954 to 1974, where he played 93 matches and was crickets’ all- time leading scorer with 8032 runs.
He scored 26 centuries to be number two behind Sir Donald Bradman’s 29.
His 365 not out was the highest individual score in Test cricket.
He took 235 wickets to finish with the 7th highest total behind Freddie Trueman (England)307, Lance Gibbs (WI)265, Brian Statham (England)252, Richie Benaud (Australia)248, Graham McKenzie (Australia) 246 and Alec Bedser(England)236.
Sobers also held 109 catches a total bested by Colin Cowdrey (England)117 and Walter Hammond (England) 110. (Wicket-keepers are not included)
The career statistics are a reflection of longevity, consistency and remarkable stamina.
Beyond the Boundary of Statistics
Garfield Sobers’ batting was described by CLR James as, “the most beautiful batting I have ever seen. Never was such ease and certainty of stroke, such early seeing of the ball, such late and leisured play, such command by the batsman not only of the bowling but of himself.”
Only a few of the elite batsmen can be viewed as equal to or better than Sobers. There have been great fielders but Sobers is definitely on par with the best close to the wicket fielders in history. Certainly, there have been many better bowlers, but absolutely none has been more versatile or possessed a complete mastery of the different styles of bowling.Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, a most extraordinary cricketer and simply the greatest cricketer in the history of the game.
Editor’s Note: Dale Brown is a sports historian and host of SECOND BASE, the total sports show airing Tuesdays, 7-8 pm, on the Wee Radio Network at; www.weeradioonline.com