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Thread: Celebrating Sir Garry Sobers - The Bowler

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    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    Celebrating Sir Garry Sobers - The Bowler

    I am sick of the Ignorant crap that is being posted in the forum about Sir Garry's Bowling. So I am starting this thread where we can post information about his bowling. I start with a Column from Sunny Gavaskar, who despite his faults, is one of my favorite cricketer and cricket writer .
    Here it is :-

    ON THE WRITE LINE -- Sunil Gavaskar Column

    ......But then Sobers was not only a batsman par excellence but a lethal quick bowler, who could swing the ball either way and when the ball got old he would bowl orthodox left-arm spin or 'chinaman'. And what about those astounding catches that he took. It was his outstanding skill in all the departments that made him the greatest cricketer ever in the history of the game.....

    Nobody before and definitely nobody after Sir Garfield Sobers has ever come close to his skills and more importantly deeds. So perhaps the Barbados government should look at other spots where they can install statues of Sir Garfield Sobers as a bowler and as a fielder.

    PS :- I would appreciate if this thread can be kept clean and all the statistical crap limited to other threads.
    Last edited by Sanz; 22-07-2008 at 10:03 PM.

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    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    Sobers bowling against England in 1963

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    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    Sobers bowling against England, 1970

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    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    U19 12th Man steve132's Avatar
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    Great posts.

    I'll just add a couple of comments from cricketers.

    Alec Bedser included Sobers in his list of the 10 greatest ever medium bowlers ( a list that stretched from S.F. Barnes to Botham). Tom Graveney ranked him second only to Bedser among post-war fast medium bowlers. Barry Richards said "The fastest bowling I ever faced was from Michael Holding in the 1970s, but on his day Gary Sobers, often under-rated as a fast man because of his other talents, could be deadly. Gary had a terrifying bouncer and his left-arm bowling, combined with great variation, often made him unplayable."

    Three distinguished Test players providing a very different picture of Sobers' abilities as a bowler from the one given by some of those who never saw him and know little about the game other than the record books.

  6. #6
    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1964 - Wisden Almanack

    Garry Sobers

    Opinions may differ as to which cricketer is entitled to the distinction of being named the finest all-rounder the game has produced but there can be no question that Garry Sobers, the West Indies left-hander, comes high in the list.

    He stands within two wickets of a unique double, 4,000 runs and 100 wickets in Test Cricket, and except for missed catches in the final Test against England at The Oval last August he would have already achieved that objective.

    The rise of Sobers has been phenomenal. When he began his Test career ten years ago he gained his place solely on his merit as a left-arm slow bowler. Next he developed his batting and soon opened the innings against Australia. Then he tried his hand at fast bowling and became deadly with the new ball.

    Later he realised that the hard pitches in India were better suited to disguised spin in the shape of the chinaman and googly which he successfully exploits so that now at the age of twenty-seven he can claim to be the most complete and best all-rounder in present day cricket.
    And, of course, like all really great cricketers he is a magnificent fielder in any position and particularly in the slips where he brings off amazing catches.

    So far, Sobers has appeared in 47 Tests, scored 4,098 runs at an average of 58.54 and taken 98 wickets at 35.02 runs each. Among his 14 Test hundreds is the individual record, 365 not out in ten hours eight minutes against Pakistan at Sabina Park, Kingston in 1957-58. When Sir Leonard Hutton made 364 -- the highest against Australia -- at The Oval in 1938 he was at the crease for thirteen hours, twenty minutes.

    Garfield St. Aubrun Sobers was born on July 18, 1936,in the tiny island of Barbados which has produced so many gifted cricketers. He took naturally to the game at about the age of ten at the Bay Street School in the parish of St. Michael's. He began unambitiously as an orthodox left-arm slow bowler and at no time did he receive any coaching.

    He watched the best players in the island and on leaving school at fourteen he played for the Police club in the Barbados Cricket Association. He soon attracted attention and appeared in trial games.

    He was only sixteen when Barbados chose him to play against India in January 1953. For one so young his full bowling figures in that match are worth repeating: 22--5--50--4 and 67--35--92--3; clear evidence of immaculate length and direction.

    Fourteen months later when Sobers was still only seventeen, he received his first invitation to play for West Indies. It was against England in the fifth Test at Sabina Park. His chance came because A.L. Valentine had broken down. Although West Indies were beaten for the first time at Sabina Park, Sobers emerged creditably. In an England innings of 414 (L. Hutton 205), he achieved the best bowling with four wickets for 75 runs.

    By this time the youthful Sobers had determined to improve his batting. He had learned a good deal by bowling to class batsmen and he made every effort to acquire sounder technique and at the same time to produce some shots of his own.

    Little did he expect that he was destined shortly to open the batting for West Indies. It happened when Australia visited the Caribbean in the early months of 1955. Never in any type of cricket had Sobers gone in first, but J.B. Stollmeyer, the captain, could not play and after Australia had amassed a total of 668 runs, Sobers had to face the fire of Lindwall and Miller.

    An audacious youth, he smacked 43 in fifteen minutes. As a run-getter he has never looked back. He concentrated more on batting and for a time his bowling declined.

    In order to prepare some of their younger players for stern struggles in the near future the West Indies Board of Control were pleased to accept an invitation to send a side to New Zealand in February and March, 1956. Some of the stars were left behind and Sobers was among those who took part in their first overseas tour.

    Different conditions presented new problems and Sobers experienced a lean time; he scored no more than 81 runs in the four Tests and took only two wickets.

    So we come to the West Indies tour of England in 1957. Now showing signs of maturity, Sobers attained the best aggregate in the first-class matches with 1,644 runs, including a grand innings of 219 against Nottinghamshire.

    Although his highest score in the five Tests was only 66, he averaged 32.00, and in view of the failure of the four recognised openers, he went in first against England at Trent Bridge and Headingley. He had modest bowling figures for the whole tour -- 37 wickets at 31.67 apiece.

    The value of that tour was soon shown on his return home. So far he had not hit a Test century but the first time he did reach three figures he broke the record with that scintillating 365 not out against Pakistan at Kingston.

    His partnership of 446 with C.C. Hunte (260) stands as a West Indies second wicket record. In the very next Test at Georgetown he made 125 and 109 not out, finishing the series with an average of 137.33, another West Indies record. Altogether Sobers scored 1,007 runs and averaged 143.55 from the Pakistan bowlers and became the first West Indies player to attain a four-figure aggregate in their comparatively short home season.

    The next stage in Sober's development as the complete all-rounder was a direct outcome of his 1957 tour of England. He changed his status by becoming a professional for Radcliffe in the Central Lancashire League. He stayed five seasons, living the whole time with the same family who came to regard him as one of their own. League cricket caused him to appreciate more the value of fast bowling and so in 1958, his first summer in Lancashire, he became a quicky.

    The following winter found Sobers in India and Pakistan and there on the hard pitches he indulged in yet another bowling experiment by trying left-handed googlies and chinamen. He had seen Denis Compton, Tribe and Wardle exploit these variations and he realised the value of such bowling given the right conditions of powerful sunshine and a firm surface.

    He continued to enjoy tremendous success with the bat excelling with the cover drive and hook. Scoring 25 and 142 not out, 4 and 198, and 106 not out in successive innings in the first three Tests in India he claimed six centuries in his last six Tests.

    Next he enhanced his reputation at the expense of the England bowlers in the West Indies in 1959-60. He began with 154 for Barbados and put on 306 for the third wicket with S.M. Nurse (213), the Island winning by ten wickets with three minutes to spare.

    A few days later came the first Test on the same ground at Bridgetown. Only eighteen wickets fell in six days and again Sobers was in his element, hitting 226. In a remarkable stand with F.M. Worrell (197), the pair were together from 4.50 p.m. on Friday until 11.40 a.m. on Tuesday, a total of nine and a half hours and they added 399. It was the highest partnership for any West Indies wicket against England and the best fourth wicket stand by any country against England.

    Sobers also hit 147 at Kingston and 145 at Georgetown, his full aggregate for the five Tests amounting to 709, average 101.28.

    Paying his first visit to Australia in 1960-61, Sobers promptly made his mark in the historic first Test at Brisbane -- the tie -- by hitting yet another century, 132; he also made 168 against Australia at Sydney where he scored his last 72 runs after tea, when the new ball was taken, in seventy minutes.

    South Australia recognised his brilliance by enlisting his services and for the last three seasons he has assisted them in the Sheffield Shield. In 1962-63, he set up an Australian record by being the first cricketer in that country to score 1,000 runs and take 50 wickets in the same season.

    Sobers is essentially a cricketer for the big occasion. The tougher the struggle the more he enjoys it. He admires the keen competition in Australia in all grades where the game is played the hard way and one continually meets good players. He considers that playing against New South Wales is equivalent to taking on Australia in a Test Match.

    He must have gained special satisfaction in February 1962 when he displayed his all-round qualities against New South Wales at Adelaide by scoring 251 in the second innings and finally seeing his side to victory when he switched from swing to spin and took six wickets for 72 runs.

    The full story of the part Sobers played in England last summer in helping West Indies to carry off the Wisden trophy is told in the section of this Almanack devoted to the tour. He was the key man in the series and he should continue to delight cricket crowds in various parts of the world for many years to come.

    John Wisden & Co

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    RTDAS pasag's Avatar
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    Looking for milksteak
    Good stuff Sanz.
    Rest In Peace Craigos

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    International Regular JBH001's Avatar
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    Great stuff, Sanz.

    Hope SJS, and perhaps even Archie and Neville have something to contribute from their extensive cricketing lore.

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    The best of the best?

    The cancellation of South Africa's 1970 tour of England left the TCCB with a headache but the Rest of the World XI provided an exhilarating tonic, says Matthew Ryder-Whish

    What is beyond question is that the cricket played in this strongly competitive series reached a very high standard. Sobers scored 588 runs at an average of 73.50 and was the leading bowler on either side with 21 wickets. Lloyd averaged 50 with the bat, scoring 400 runs, while Procter, with 292 runs at 48.66 and 15 wickets at 23.93, and Barlow, with 353 runs at 39.22 and 20 wickets at 19.80, demonstrated their worth as high-class allrounders.

    In addition, the World team was often capable of producing moments of sublime brilliance. Who of those present at The Oval could forget the sight of Sobers and Pollock, two of the finest cricketers of their generation, batting majestically together in the cause of international cricket?

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    Cricket's most versatile performer, 1975 - Wisden Almanack

    Sir Garfield Sobers
    John Arlott

    Sir Garfield Sobers, the finest all-round player in the history of cricket, has announced his retirement from full time county cricket at the age of thirty-eight. Circumstances seem to suggest he will not be seen again in Test Matches. He was not with West Indies on their recent tour of India and Pakistan; and they have no other international commitment until 1976, when their full length tour of England might well prove too physically trying for a forty-year old Sobers, most deservedly given a Knighthood in the New Year Honours.

    So it is likely that international cricket has seen the last of its most versatile performer. For twenty years -- plus, to be precise, seven days -- he served and graced West Indian cricket in almost every capacity. To review his career compels so many statistics as might mask the splendidly exciting quality of his play. Nevertheless, since many of his figures are, quite literally, unequalled, they must be quoted. Between March 30 1954 and April 5 1974, for West Indies, he appeared in 93 Tests -- more than any other overseas cricketer: he played the highest Test innings -- 365 not out against Pakistan at Kingston in 1958; scored the highest individual aggregate of runs in Test matches; and captained his country a record 39 times. His 110 catches and -- except for a left hander -- his 235 wickets are not unique: but his talents in those directions alone justified a Test place. I quote his West Indies figures.

    Garfield Sobers was seventeen when he first played for West Indies -- primarily as an orthodox slow left arm bowler (four for 81) though he scored 40 runs for once out in a losing side. His batting developed more rapidly than his bowling and, in the 1957-58 series with Pakistan in West Indies, he played six consecutive innings of over fifty -- the last three of them centuries. Through the sixties he developed left-arm wrist-spin, turning the ball sharply and concealing his googly well. Outstandingly, however, at the need of his perceptive captain, Sir Frank Worrell, he made himself a Test-class fast medium bowler. Out of his instinctive athleticism he evolved an ideally economic action, coupling life from the pitch with late movement through the air and, frequently, off the seam. Nothing in all his cricket was more impressive than his ability to switch from one bowling style to another with instant control.

    He was always capable of bowling orthodox left arm accurately, with a surprising faster ball and as much turn as the pitch would allow a finger spinner. He had, though, an innate urge to attack, which was his fundamental reason for taking up the less economical but often more penetrative chinaman, and the pace bowling which enabled him to make such hostile use of the new ball.

    As a fieldsman he is remembered chiefly for his work at slip -- where he made catching look absurdly simple -- or at short leg where he splendidly reinforced the off-spin of Lance Gibbs. Few recall that as a young man he was extremely fast -- and had a fine arm -- in the deep, and that he could look like a specialist at cover point.

    Everything he did was marked by a natural grace, apparent at first sight. As he walked out to bat, six feet tall, lithe but with adequately wide shoulders, he moved with long strides which, even when he was hurrying, had an air of laziness, the hip joints rippling like those of a great cat. He was, it seems, born with basic orthodoxy in batting; the fundamental reason for his high scoring lay in the corrections of his defence. Once he was established (and he did not always settle in quickly), his sharp eye, early assessment, and inborn gift of timing, enabled him to play almost any stroke. Neither a back foot nor a front foot player, he was either as the ball and conditions demanded. When he stepped out and drove it was with a full flow of the bat and a complete follow through, in the classical manner. When he could not get to the pitch of the ball, he would go back, wait -- as it sometimes seemed, impossibly long -- until he identified it and then, at the slightest opportunity, with an explosive whip of the wrists, hit it with immense power. His quick reactions and natural ability linked with his attacking instinct made him a brilliant improviser of strokes. When he was on the kill it was all but impossible to bowl to him -- and he was one of the most thrilling of all batsmen to watch.

    Crucially, Garfield Sobers was not merely extremely gifted, but a highly combative player. That was apparent on his first tour of England, under John Goddard in 1957. Too many members of that team lost appetite for the fight as England took the five-match rubber by three to none. Sobers, however, remained resistant to the end. He was a junior member of the side -- his twenty-first birthday fell during the tour -- but he batted with immense concentration and determination. He was only twice out cheaply in Tests: in two Worrell took him in to open the batting and, convincingly, in the rout at the Oval, he was top scorer in each West Indies innings. He was third in the Test batting averages of that series which marked his accession to technical and temperament maturity.

    The classic example of his competitive quality was the Lord's Test of 1966 when West Indies, with five second innings wickets left, were only nine in front and Holford -- a raw cricketer but their last remaining batting hope -- came in to join his cousin Sobers. From the edge of defeat, they set a new West Indies Test record of 274 for the sixth wicket and, so far from losing, made a strong attempt to win the match.

    Again, at Kingston in 1967-68, West Indies followed on against England and, with five second innings wickets down, still needed 29 to avoid an innings defeat. Sobers -- who fell for a duck in the first innings -- was left with only tail-enders for support yet, on an unreliable pitch, he made 113 -- the highest score of the match -- and then, taking the first two English wickets for no runs, almost carried West Indies to a win.

    For many years, despite the presence of some other handsome stroke-makers in the side, West Indies placed heavy reliance on his batting, especially when a game was running against them. Against England 1959-60 and Australia 1964-65, West Indies lost the one Test in each series when Sobers failed. His effectiveness can be measured by the fact that in his 93 Tests for West Indies he scored 26 centuries, and fifties in 30 other innings; four times -- twice against England -- averaged over one hundred for a complete series; and had an overall average of 57.78. There is a case, too, that he played a crucial part as a bowler in winning at least a dozen Tests.

    To add captaincy to his batting, different styles of bowling and close fielding may have been the final burden that brought his Test career to an early end. He was a generally sound, if orthodox, tactician but after thirty-nine matches as skipper, the strain undoubtedly proved wearing. In everyday life he enjoys gambling and, as a Test captain, he is still remembered for taking a chance which failed. It occurred in the 1967-68 series against England, when he made more runs at a higher average -- and bowled more overs than anyone else except Gibbs -- on either side. After high scores by England, the first three Tests were drawn, but in the fourth, after Butcher surprisingly had bowled out England in their first innings with leg spin, Sobers made a challenging declaration. Butcher could not repeat his performance and Boycott and Cowdrey skilfully paced England to a win. Thereupon the very critics who constantly bemoaned the fact that Test match captains were afraid to take a chance castigated Sobers for doing so -- and losing. The epilogue to that failure was memorable. With characteristic confidence in his own ability, he set out to win the fifth Test and square the rubber. He scored 152 and 95 not out, took three for 72 in the first England innings and three for 53 in the second -- only to fall short of winning by one wicket with a hundred runs in hand.

    Students of sporting psychology will long ponder the causes of Sobers' retirement. Why did this admirably equipped, well rewarded and single-minded cricketer limp out of the top level game which had brought him such eminence and success? He was only thirty-eight: some great players of the past continued appreciably longer. Simply enough, mentally and physically tired, he had lost his zest for the sport which had been his life -- and was still his only observable means of earning a living. Ostensibly he had a damaged knee; in truth he was the victim of his unique range of talents -- and the jet age. Because he was capable of doing so much, he was asked to do it too frequently. He did more than any other cricketer, and did it more concentratedly because high speed aircraft enabled him to travel half across the world in a day or two. Perhaps the long sea voyages between seasons of old had a restorative effect.

    In a historically sapping career, Sobers has played for Barbados for twenty-one seasons; in English league cricket for eight, for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield for three, and Nottinghamshire for seven; he turned out regularly for the Cavaliers on Sundays for several years before there was a Sunday League in England; made nine tours for West Indies, two with Rest of the World sides and several in lesser teams; 89 of his 93 Tests for the West Indies were consecutive and he averaged more than four a year for twenty years. There is no doubt, also, that his car accident in which Collie Smith was killed affected him more profoundly and for longer than most people realized.

    The wonder was not that the spark grew dim but that it endured so bright for so long. Though it happened so frequently and for so many years, it was always thrilling even to see Sobers come to the wicket. As lately as 1968 he hit six sixes from a six ball over. In 1974 on his farewell circuit of England he still, from time to time, recaptured his former glory, playing a lordly stroke or making the ball leave the pitch faster than the batsman believed possible. As he walked away afterwards, though, his step dragged. He was a weary man -- as his unparalleled results do not merely justify, but demand. Anyone who ever matches Garfield Sobers' performances will have to be an extremely strong man -- and he, too, will be weary.

    An amazing man, he still insists, "As long as I am fit and the West Indies need me, I will be willing to play for them." Only time will tell if we shall see him in the Test arena again. In October last he joined the executive staff of National Continental Corporation to promote the company's products in the Caribbean and United Kingdom.

    And now he has joined his lamented compatriots Sir Learie Constantine and Sir Frank Worrell with the title Sir Garfield Sobers.

    John Wisden & Co

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    West Indies 0 India 1

    India in the West Indies, 1970-71
    DJ Rutnagur

    "...The West Indies tried various combinations of bowlers, of whom Sobers, when roused, looked the most dangerous. For one who had always to be prepared to play a long innings, Sobers did a considerable amount of bowling. His quicker style left its mark on more than one Indian innings and he also bowled a couple of dangerous spells of wrist spin. Perhaps he should have bowled more of this variety, particularly at Solkar....."

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    India 0 West Indies 2

    West Indies in India, 1966–67
    D.J. Rutnagur

    One's immediate estimate at the end of this short tour was that the West Indies had declined in strength. There could be little doubt about the validity of this impression where the great fast-bowling team of Hall and Griffith was concerned. Yet when it came to the failure of the majority of the batsmen to reveal the ability we have come to expect of them, one felt that the tour, limited to the three Tests and five other matches, was too short to let them prosper.

    The potential of the team (which won the Test rubber two-nil and won two and lost one of the other matches), was reduced after the first Test by Holford contracting a serious illness that kept him in a nursing home till he was strong enough to undertake the long journey home.

    In the three matches he played, the all-rounder from Barbados distinctly enhanced the reputation he made in England, scoring 157 runs at an average of 52.33 and taking 11 wickets. This record included a splendid all-round performance in his only Test match.

    Sobers' fantastic genius and the versatility of the side as a whole covered up the loss of Holford's services and all their other shortcomings. However, when it came to individuals, only Sobers, Gibbs, Hendriks and, to an extent, King, lived up to the high standards the West Indians have set up for themselves over the last eight or nine years.

    From their point of view, the least satisfying feature of the tour was their failure to find an adequate opening partner for Hunte. Robin Bynoe, of Barbados, who, at 17, had gone to India eight years earlier and then been left in the back-ground, played regularly on this trip and yet averaged only 29.30 in fourteen innings, showing marked vulnerability against spin bowling.

    He made one good score of 94, and 36 and 48 in the final Test but without looking a player of international standard. He held his place because the other candidate, Bryan Davis, of Trinidad, never came to terms with himself.

    The touring term included two new names in Clive Lloyd and Rex Colleymore, both of Guyana. Lloyd, given his opportunity through a finger injury to Nurse, became an outstanding success.

    Looking very scholarly behind thick-rimmed spectacles, this left-hander hit the ball off the back foot with startling power; and the manner in which he battled his way out of a period of immense torment in his maiden Test innings marked him as a player of fine temperament. As a fielder in the deep, he was quite outstanding. Colleymore's chances as an orthodox left-arm spinner were limited by his captain's domination of the department.

    Among the old-stagers, Hunte made a workmanlike century that proved the foundation of West Indies' win in the opening Test. He never really mastered the spin attack, yet he was never found wanting.

    Kanhai had the satisfying Test average of 56.75, but he enjoyed more than a fair measure of luck and was the biggest beneficiary of India's disastrous catching. Kanhai seemed to have reached a stage in his career when a curb on his adventurous spirit might have served him well. Too often was he either caught or missed at mid-off or mid-wicket from shots badly miscued.

    Butcher, in spite of a good start to the tour, played not one innings of distinction in the Test matches, but Nurse's 56 at Calcutta was an effort of considerable merit.

    Hall fell and injured his left knee at the nets before the first match and the tour was far gone before he fully recovered. A terror on his previous trip, this time he could not bowl with the sustained hostility of old, and his form was erratic. His opening spell in the first Test was superb, and worthy of a great fast bowler. Griffith was neither impressive nor terrifying, and I often wondered why King went through the tour without playing in a single Test.

    Both as batsman and bowler, Sobers added further lustre to his brilliant career. In two of the Test matches, at Bombay and Madras, India were in challenging positions till Sobers arrived at the wicket, as late as number seven in the third Test. Each time India found him ruthless and devastating and apart from his last innings in the series, when he was dropped twice before reaching 10, the poor Indians must have thought him absolutely infallible.

    He did not score a single century, and yet amassed 342 runs, influencing the destiny of the rubber as no one else did. Sobers took only two wickets in his quicker style but captured 12 as a slow bowler, changing from wrist spin to orthodox variety as the occasion demanded.

    Another of the team who carried all before him was Gibbs, whose 27 wickets on the tour, including 18 in the three Tests, stamped him as the most successful off-spinner ever to tour India.

    It is hard to recall more than one dropped catch or stumping by Hendriks in the entire series and Murray, on the occasions he deputised for him, proved most able.

    It is pleasant to record that the nature of India's Test pitches showed a change designed to produce better and more positive cricket. At Calcutta, however, the pitch was grossly underprepared on purpose. India probably gambling on winning the toss; but they lost it and were hoist by their own petard.

    Apart from Borde, who scored two centuries and altogether 346 runs in six innings, the Indian batting was too patchy and inconsistent to trouble such strong opposition. There were stray flashes of brilliance from Kunderan, Engineer, Pataudi, Durani and Wadekar, but mainly the Indian batting was of disappointing quality. Whatever its other faults, however, it was never dull or unattractive.

    As in every series he has so far played, Chandrasekhar was the foremost Indian bowler. In the first Test he bowled with practically no support, but Bedi was introduced to Test cricket in the second encounter and both he and Prasanna played in the third, giving the attack greater ability and thrust.

  13. #13
    Hall of Fame Member Sanz's Avatar
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    And Now the Greatest Writer of them all (IMO) Writes aBout Sir Garry Sobers :-

    The greatest ever? Certainly the greatest allrounder today, 1967

    Sobers -- The Lion of Cricket
    Sir Neville Cardus

    Almanack home -1967 home

    Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, 30 years old in July 1966 -- the most renowned name of any cricketer since Bradman's high noon. He is, in fact, even more famous than Bradman ever was; for he is accomplished in every department of the game, and has exhibited his genius in all climes and conditions. Test matches everywhere, West Indies, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, England; in Lancashire League and Sheffield Shield cricket. We can safely agree that no player has proven versatility of skill as convincingly as Sobers has done, effortlessly, and after the manner born.

    He is a stylish, prolific batsman; two bowlers in one, fastish left-arm, seaming the new ball, and slow to medium back-of-the-hand spinner with the old ball; a swift, accurate, slip fieldsman in the class of Hammond and Simpson, and generally an astute captain. Statistics concerning him speak volumes.

    Sobers holds a unique Test double, over 5,500 runs, and close on 150 wickets. Four years ago he set up an Australian record when playing for South Australia by scoring 1,000 runs and taking 50 wickets in the same season. To emphasise this remarkable feat he repeated it the following summer out there.

    Only last January he established in India a record for consecutive Test appearances, surpassing J.R. Reid's 58 for New Zealand. He is also amongst the select nine who have hit a century and taken five or more wickets in one Test, joining J.H. Sinclair, G.A. Faulkner, C.E. Kelleway, J.M. Gregory, V. Mankad, K.R. Miller, P.R. Umrigar and B.R. Taylor.

    Is Sobers the greatest allround cricketer in history? Once upon a time there was W.G. Grace, who in his career scored 54,896 runs and took 2,876 wickets, many of which must really have been out; also W.G. was a household name, an eminent Victorian, permanent in the national gallery of representative Englishmen.

    Aubrey Faulkner, South African, a googly bowler too, scored 1,754 runs in Test matches, average 40.79, and took 82 wickets, average 26.58.

    In 1906, George Hirst achieved the marvellous double performance of 2,385 runs and 208 wickets. When asked if he thought anybody would ever equal this feat he replied, "Well, whoever does it will be tired." But Hirst's record in Test matches was insignificant compared with Sobers', over a period. (All the same, shouldn't we estimate a man by his finest hour?)

    There was Wilfred Rhodes, let us not forget. In his career he amassed no fewer than 39,802 runs, average 30.83, and his wickets amounted to 4,187, average 16.71. In first for England with Jack Hobbs at Melbourne in 1912, and colleague in the record first-wicket stand against Australia of 323; and in last for England in 1903, partner of R.E. Foster in a last-wicket stand of 130. Again, what of Frank Woolley, 39,802 runs in Tests, 83 wickets?

    It is, of course, vain to measure ability in one age with ability in another. Material circumstances, the environment which moulds technique, are different. Only providence, timeless and all-seeing, is qualified to weigh in the balance the arts and personality of a Hammond and a Sobers.

    It is enough that the deeds of Sobers are appreciated in our own time, as we have witnessed them. He has, as I have pointed out, boxed the compass of the world of present-day cricket, revealing his gifts easefully, abundantly. And here we touch on his secret: power of relaxation and the gift of holding himself in reserve. Nobody has seen Sobers obviously in labour.

    He makes a stroke with moments to spare. His fastest ball -- and it can be very fast -- is bowled as though he could, with physical pressure, have bowled it a shade faster. He can, in the slips catch the lightning snick with the grace and nonchalance of Hammond himself. The sure sign of mastery, of genius of any order, is absence of strain, natural freedom of rhythm.

    In the Test matches in England last summer, 1966, his prowess exceeded all precedents; 722 runs, average 103.14, 20 wickets, average 27.25, and ten catches.

    In the first game, at Manchester, 161 and three wickets for 103; in the second, at Lord's, 46 and 163 not out and one wicket for 97; in the third, at Nottingham, 3 and 94, five wickets for 161; in the fourth, at Leeds, 174 and eight wickets for 80; in the fifth, at The Oval, 81 and 0, with three wickets for 104.

    A writer of highly-coloured boys' school stories wouldn't dare to presume that the hero could go on like this, staggering credulity match after match. I am not sure that his most impressive assertion of his quality was not seen in the Lord's Test. Assertion is too strenuous a word to apply to the 163 not out scored then; for it was done entirely free of apparent exertion, even though at one stage of the proceedings the West Indies seemed beaten beyond salvage.

    When the fifth second-innings wicket fell, the West Indies were leading by nine runs only. Nothing reliable to come in the way of batsmanship, nobody likely to stay with Sobers, excepting Holford. As everybody concerned with cricket knows Sobers and his cousin added, undefeated, 274.

    It is easy to argue that Cowdrey, England's captain, did not surround Sobers with a close field. Sobers hinted of no technical flaw, no mental or temperamental anxiety. If he slashed a ball when 93, to Cowdrey's hands, Cowdrey merely let us know that he was mortal when he missed a blistering chance.

    Bradman has expressed his opinion that few batsmen of his acquaintance hits with the velocity and strength of Sobers. And a sliced shot can travel at murderous pace.

    At his best, Sobers scores as easily as any left-handed batsman I have seen since Frank Woolley. He is not classical in his grammar of batsmanship as, say, Martin Donnelly was. To describe Sobers's method I would use the term lyrical. His immense power is concealed, or lightened, to the spectator's eye, by a rhythm which has in it as little obvious propulsion as a movement of music by Mozart (who could be as dramatically strong as Wagner!). A drive through the covers by Sobers sometimes appears to be quite lazy, until we see an offside fieldsman nursing bruised palms, or hear the impact of ball striking the fence.

    His hook is almost as majestic as MacLaren's, though he hasn't MacLaren's serenity of poise as he makes it. I have actually seen Sobers carried round, off foot balance, while making a hook; it is his only visibly violent stroke -- an assault. MacLaren, as I have written many times before, dismissed the ball from his presence.

    The only flaw in Sobers's technique of batsmanship, as far as I and better judges have been able so far to discern, is a tendency to play at a dangerously swinging away off-side ball with his arms -- that is to say, with his bat a shade (and more) too far from his body. I fancy Sydney F. Barnes would have concentrated on this chink in the generally shining armour.

    He is a natural product of the West Indies' physical and climatic environment, and of the condition of the game in the West Indies, historical and material, in which he was nurtured.

    He grew up at a time when the first impulses of West Indies' cricket were becoming rationalised; experience was being added to the original instinctive creative urge, which established the general style and pattern -- a creative urge inspired largely by Constantine, after George Challenor had laid a second organised basis of batting technique. Sobers, indeed, flowered as West Indies' cricket was coming of age. As a youth he could look at Worrell, at Weekes, at Walcott, at Ramadhin, at Valentine.

    The amazing thing is that he learned from all these superb and definitely formative, constructive West Indies cricketers; for each of them made vintage of the sowings of Challenor, George Headley, Constantine, Austin, Nunes, Roach, and Browne -- to name but a few pioneers.

    Sobers began at the age of ten to bowl orthodox slow left-arm; he had no systematic coaching. (Much the same could safely be said of most truly gifted and individual cricketers.) Practising in the spare time given to him from his first job as a clerk in a shipping house, he developed his spin far enough to win a place, 16 years old now, in a Barbados team against an Indian touring side; moreover, he contrived to get seven wickets in the match for 142.

    In the West Indies season of 1953-54, Sobers, now 17, received his Test match baptism at Sabina Park, Kingston. Valentine dropped out of the West Indies XI because of physical disability and Sobers was given his chance -- as a bowler, in the Fifth game of the rubber.

    His order in the batting was ninth but he bowled 28 overs, 5 balls for 75 runs, 4 wickets, when England piled-up 414, Hutton 215. In two innings he made 14 not out, and 26.

    Henceforward he advanced as a predestined master, opening up fresh aspects of his rich endowment of gifts. He began to concentrate on batsmanship, so much so that in 1955, against Australia in the West Indies, he actually shared the opening of an innings, with J.K. Holt, in the fourth Test. Facing Lindwall and Miller, after Australia had scored 668, he assaulted the greatest fast bowlers of the period to the tune of 43 in a quarter of an hour.

    Then he suffered the temporary set-back which the fates, in their wisdom, inflict on every budding talent, to prove strength of character. On a tour to New Zealand, the young man, now rising twenty, was one of a West Indies contingent. His Test match record there was modest enough -- 81 runs in five innings and two wickets for 49.

    He first played for the West Indies in England in 1957, and his form could scarcely have given compensation to his disappointed compatriots when the rubber was lost by three victories to none. His all-round record then was 10 innings, 320 runs, with five wickets costing 70.10 each.

    Next he became a professional for Radcliffe in the Central Lancashire League, where, as a bowler, he relied on speed and swing. In 1958-59 he was one of the West Indies team in India and Pakistan; and now talent burgeoned prodigiously.

    On the hard wickets he cultivated his left-arm googlies, and this new study did not in the least hinder the maturing of his batsmanship. Against India he scored 557, average 92.83 and took ten for 292. Against Pakistan he scored 160, average 32.0 and failed to get anybody out for 78.

    The course of his primrose procession since then has been constantly spectacular, rising to a climax of personal glory in Australia in 1960-61. He had staggered cricketers everywhere by his 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958; as a batsman he has gone on and on, threatening to debase the Bradman currency, all the time swinging round a crucial match the West Indies' way by removing an important opposing batsman, or by taking a catch of wondrous rapidity.

    He has betrodden hemispheres of cricket, become a national symbol of his own islands, the representative image on a postage stamp. Best of all, he has generally maintained the art of cricket at a time which day by day -- especially in England -- threatens to change the game into (a) real industry or (b) a sort of out-of-door Bingo cup jousting.

    He has demonstrated, probably unaware of what he has been doing, the worth of trust in natural-born ability, a lesson wasted on most players here. If he has once or twice lost concentration at the pinch -- as he did at Kennington Oval in the Fifth Test last year -- well, it is human to err, occasionally, even if the gods have lavished on you a share of grace and skill not given to ordinary mortals.

    The greatest ever? -- certainly the greatest allrounder today, and for decades. And all the more precious is he now, considering the general nakedness of the land.

  14. #14
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    Since this is about celebrating Sobers - the bowler, I wish only that part of the articles was posted to make it short and sharp or at least highlight the relevant portions. Still it is very laudable that in all the haze of statistics-driven appraisals, someone is relying on the word and remarks of those who have seen, played with or against the great man.

    Let me try to dig out some stuff to add to this commendable effort.
    Last edited by SJS; 22-07-2008 at 10:04 PM.

  15. #15
    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend honestbharani's Avatar
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    Best thread here in ages.. for me.

    Thanks so much, Sanz.. HOpe the other seniors can also contribute so that we can learn more about an astonishing cricketer.
    We miss you, Fardin. :(. RIP.
    Quote Originally Posted by vic_orthdox View Post
    In the end, I think it's so utterly, incomprehensibly boring. There is so much context behind each innings of cricket that dissecting statistics into these small samples is just worthless. No-one has ever been faced with the same situation in which they come out to bat as someone else. Ever.
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