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Sir Garfield Sobers 75 not out on Thursday

CRICKET: Cricket's greatest all-rounder Gary Sobers - the West Indian star and a very affectionate friend of Sri Lanka, will celebrate his 75th birthday in four days time - July 28th. Sobers was born in Bay Street, Barbados on 28th July 1936. A kinky-haired boy grew up to be a legend in his lifetime.


Gary Sobers the Windies star allrounder

Sobers was an affectionate friend of Sri Lanka and a very good pal of one-time Sri Lanka Cricket Board President - the late Mr.Gamini Dissanayake who placed a lot of faith on Sobers to coach the Lankan cricketers.

Gary Sobers is a magic name. It conjures up all sorts of magnificent deeds on the cricket field, whether batting, bowling or fielding. Because of that, people argue about his greatness as a batsman and as a bowler of different styles as they compare him with the champions of the past.

No one, however, even entertain discussions on his claim of being the greatest all-rounder of all times. Such has been his deeds that he could easily be known as the miracle worker. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his services to cricket in 1975.

Looking back at the career of the boy from Bay Street, Barbados, who became Sir Garfield, one remembers 1963 at Leeds when the West Indians tottered at 71 for 3 before the lefthander walked to the wicket to face a fiery Fred Trueman and how, with an injured finger and in company with Rohan Kanhai, he flogged the best of England for a splendid 102 as the West Indies won by 221 runs.

Sobers to the fore

One remembers Lord's 1966 when the West Indies, after facing a deficit of 86, were 95 for 5 when Sobers and David Halford pulled off a fantastic recovery before the skipper declared the innings closed at 369 for 5 - Sobers 163 not out, Holford 105 not out.

Then, Brisbane 1960 when the West Indies floundered at 42 for 2 only for Sobers to do the rescue act again, with a superb 132, the century coming in even time as he thrashed the likes of leg-spinner Richie Benaud in a manner which caused old men to wonder and pinch themselves to make sure that they were not in a dream where the ruthlessness of a Bradman and the artistry of a Kippax had been made into one.

That innings ranks as one of the greatest of al times for it had everything - timing, as it could not have come at a better moment for the West Indies, authenticity and power, not to mention elegance in strokeplay.

Before the start of what was the First Test of the series, the West Indies and in particular Sobers had floundered against the Australian attack, especially Benaud. Men acclaimed that the six-foot Caribbean left-hander could not play Benaud as they questioned his reputation. On that day he played, like a man possessed.

They said that he could not 'read' Benaud but on that December 9 day, he was like a school master and Benaud the student.

Facing up to what was the last ball of an over from Alan Davidson, Sobers tried to play the ball to leg and lobbed the full toss to a fielder for a disappointing end.

"I wanted just a single because I had some unfinished business at the other end with Mr. Benaud", said Sobers afterwards.

Pulled Windies out of trouble

Many will swear on the Good Book that was the best of Sobers especially as a batsman. Probably it was, but to many thousand of spectators, the man who could well be called the batsman of Sabina, was at his best on February 12 and 13, 1968, when he batted the West Indies out of trouble and then bowled them almost to victory in a fairy tale performance.

Sobers played his first Test match in 1953, aged 17 years. Then five years later in 1958, he set a Test cricket record with his score of 365 not out against Pakistan in the 1957-58 series. Sobers batted for 10 hours and 14 minutes for that knock and tucked into it 38 fours with Conrad Hunte who made 260 (run out), Sobers was involved in a second-wicket stand of 446. It was Sobers' first century in Tests. The record of Sobers stood for over 36 years until it was overtaken by Brian Lara.

26 centuries

During his playing days, Sobers had 26 Test centuries to his career.

Vs PAKISTAN (3): 365 not out at Kingston, 1957-58, 125 and 109 not out at Georgetown 1957-58.

Vs INDIA (8):142 not out at Bombay 1958-59, 198 at Kanpur 1958-59, 106 not out at Calcutta 1958-59, 153 at Kingston 1961-62, 104 at Kingston 1961-62, 108 not out at Georgetown 1970-71, 178 not out at Bridgetown 1970-71, 132 at Trinidad 1970-71.

Vs ENGLAND (10): 226 at Bridgetown 1959-60, 147 at Kingston 1959-60, 145 at Georgetown 1959-60, 102 at Leeds 1963, 161 at Old Trafford 1966, 163 not out at Lord's 1966, 174 at Headingley 1966, 113 not out at Kingston 1967-68, 152 at Bridgetown 1967-68, 150 not out at Lord's 1973.

Vs AUSTRALIA (4): 132 at Brisbane 1960-61, 168 at Sydney 1960-61, 110 at Adelaide 1968-69, 113 at Sydney 1968-69.

Vs NEW ZEALAND (1): 142 at Bridgetown 1971-72.

Six sixes in one over

The great left-handed batsman Sobers had the rare privilege of hitting six sixes in one over while captaining Nottinghamshire in the English County Championship match against Glamorgan in Swansea on 31st August 1968. The bat that Sobers used on the occasion fetched a record price.

The famous bat - a short handled Slazenger fetched a record figure of dollars 146,875 from a mystery phone bidder in Melbourne around 11 years ago. The West Indian star used the bat during a 1968 County Cricket Match. Indian batsman Ravi Shasthri equalled this feat in 1985.

Another Sobers' bat, which clouted then world record Test score of 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958, was snapped up for dollars 129,250.

Sobers 115 vs Board XI

The great West Indian cricketer Sobers was a much loved person in Sri Lanka as well. He and his erstwhile friend - the late Gamini Dissanayake who was President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, pushed up the standard of the game here.

Before Sobers began his coaching stint in Sri Lanka, he showed the cricket fans what he is capable of with the bat too, like what he showed cricket elsewhere. On January 22 and 23 in 1967 at the Colombo Oval then, now the Saravanamuttu Stadium, a sparkling display of cricket was witnessed when a match was played with Michael Tissera led Ceylon and Sobers led the West Indies.

Ceylon batted first and made 290 for 9 wickets with Tissera making 52, David Heyn 69, Lionel Fernando 42, H.I.K. Fernando 42, Neil Chanmugam 72 and Ian Pieris 46.If Ceylon did impress on that occasion, then when the West Indies batted, it was sparkling batting by Garfield Sobers who made 115 together with Basil Butcher (152), Clive Lloyd (138) helped the West Indies to make 549 for 8 wicekts. Sarath Wimalaratne bowled best for Sri Lanka taking 4 for 141.

Sri Lanka made 163 for 3 wickets in their second innings, with Anura Tennekoon making 54 not out, Lionel Fernando 72 not out with D.P. de Silva (28) who put on 112 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket partnership.

 

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