Sir Garfield Sobers, better known as Garry Sobers, is widely regarded as the greatest all-round cricketer of all-time. An elegant yet powerful batsman, highly skilled fielder, deceptive spin bowler, devastating fast bowler and enterprising captain, Sobers’ versatility while playing the sport was truly incredible.
Born on the tropical island of Barbados in 1936, Garry Sobers showed his natural sporting ability from a young age, excelling in football and basketball, before turning his considerable talent to cricket. Sobers made his debut for the West Indies against England, aged just 17. Initially, he gained his place on his spin bowling ability alone but he quickly developed his batting before turning his attention to fast bowling, becoming deadly with the new ball. Not content there, he became adept at fielding in every position and completed his mastery of each of cricket’s disciplines.
Sobers’ impact on the national team was instant with figures of 4/75 in England's first innings on his debut, including a wicket in his opening over. He quickly established himself as a regular in the squad, playing in various different positions and utilising his immense talent. The statistics speak for themselves: in 93 international Test matches he captained the West Indies on 39 occasions, scored 8,032 runs including 26 centuries, took 235 wickets as a bowler and 109 catches as a fielder.
One of his crowning achievements came in the 1957-1958 tour of Pakistan where he set the record for the highest test score of all time, scoring an incredible 365 not out. Though he was just 21-years-old at the time, Sobers showed his mature head and strong temperament during his 614 minute innings. His record stood for an incredible 36 years and few
batsmen have surpassed this total today. In 1966, the year that England famously won the FIFA World Cup, Garry Sobers did his best to single-handedly take on the entire English cricket team on their home turf. During the five-match series, he was heralded as ‘King Cricket’ after scoring 722 runs, taking 20 wickets and 10 catches.
Arguably Sobers’ most iconic moment came in 1968, while captaining Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan when he faced the bowling of the unfortunate Malcolm Nash. In one fateful over, Sobers stunned the cricketing world by becoming the first man to score six sixes in a single over. With six swings of his bat, and despite being caught on the fifth ball before the fielder fell over the boundary, Garry Sobers seized yet another piece of cricketing history.
In 1971, Australia played five special Test matches against a Rest of the World XI led by Garry Sobers. During the third Test, Sobers played what the great Sir Donald Bradman described as “the greatest exhibition of batting ever seen in Australia", an innings that remains an inspiration to young batsmen today.
Sobers continued to captain the West Indies until his retirement from all forms of cricket in 1974. He played his last Test in March at Queen's Park Oval against England and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to cricket the same year. During his decorated career, Sobers has received countless accolades: Don Bradman named him amongst his all-time top XI and he was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Century in 2000. Sobers is universally admired in the cricketing world and he inspired many of the great all-rounders that followed him.