Widely regarded one of the finest all-rounders in world cricket, Sir Garfield Sobers celebrates was born on July 28, 1936. Through his extraordinary all-round abilities, Sobers has left such an indelible mark in the game that his name shall always be taken whenever we speak of great all-rounders in the game.
There are several reasons why the man who once hit six sixes in an over in a county game, Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, is considered as the greatest ever all-rounder. Here is looking at a few of them.
An all-rounder par excellence:
In 93 Tests, Sobers scored 8,032 runs with 26 hundreds and 30 fifties at an extraordinary average of 57.78 – only six batsmen with more than 3,000 runs have had a better average in history. As outstanding a batsman as Sobers was, he was also a superb bowler and had 235 wickets in his career with 6 five-wicket hauls and 8 four-wicket hauls. Sobers was a genuine match-winning all-rounder and produced some magnificent all-round efforts through his career that left his mark in world cricket forever.
On more than one occasion Sobers was able to leave his mark with both the bat and the ball in series. The feat of scoring 300 runs and taking 20 wickets in a single series has only been achieved 16 times in the history of Test cricket. Sobers alone was able to achieve this three times in his career – more than anyone else in history. He did so twice against England, and once against India.
His most notable all-round performance in a series was scoring 722 runs at 103.14 and capturing 20 wickets at 27.05 against England in 1966. Another of Sobers’ exceptional all-round effort was scoring 583 runs and taking 21 wickets against England while representing the Rest of the World.
The difference between Sobers’ batting and bowling average is almost 24 and only Jacques Kallis has a bigger difference than him.
He scored the two of the greatest Test knocks ever:
It took Sobers some time to show his batting brilliance, but when he eventually did he became unstoppable. For the first three years of his career, Sobers had just two fifties to his name. Then at the age of 21, he went on to smash a monumental unbeaten 365 against Pakistan in Kingston in 1958. It was Sobers’ first Test hundred and was the highest individual Test score at that time – a record that stood for 36 years until Brian Lara overtook it in 1994. The knock displayed the class, brute force and versatility in Sobers’ batting and kick started his path to greatness.
Another imperious knock of Sobers that isn’t recalled much these days is his outstanding 254 against Australia at the MCG in 1972 while playing for the World XI. Sobers smashed the Australian attack that also included a rampaging Dennis Lillee and exhibited one of the finest displays of batting ever. Even the great Don Bradman described that knock as “probably the best ever seen in Australia.”
Two underrated and brilliant match-winning bowling performances:
Not much is discussed about Sobers’ bowling performances because his batting held so much more value. However, Sobers did produce some brilliant match-winning bowling performances regularly. Two of his most noted ones were 6-73 against Australia at Brisbane in 1968 and 8-80 (match haul) against England at Leeds in 1966.
The 6-73 came when Australia needed 366 to win on a decent pitch at Brisbane. Sobers ripped through the Australian top and lower order and never allowed them to challenge the target. With his steady mix of variations and good lines courtesy his orthodox left-arm spin, Sobers utilised the pitch beautifully and kept flummoxing the batsmen to eventually grab his career-best figures to help his team win the match by 125 runs.
His 8-80 came on a placid Leeds wicket when England was attempting to overhaul West Indies’ first innings score of 500. Sobers first polished off the England lower order with a brilliant 5-41 and when England were forced to follow-on, Sobers punctured them again with a 3-39 that toppled England over, which resulted in a massive innings and 55-run victory.
The distinct and remarkable traits of his all-round abilities:
What made Sobers unique was that he had very distinct and remarkable traits both as a batsman and a bowler.
A naturally attacking player who had more than two strokes for every shot, Sobers was an extraordinary batsman who could slay any attack on his day. Sobers, however, was not just about blind and savage hitting. A gifted stroke maker, Sobers was quick on his feet and loved to cut and pull with ferocity. His drives and through the off-side, though, were elegant and classy to watch.
As a bowler, Sobers might not have been an excessively threatening bowler, he surely was effective. He was versatile as well. Sobers made his debut as an orthodox left-arm spinner and relied on accuracy and variations to get the job done. Later on, Sobers molded himself into a fast-medium bowler as well where he troubled batsmen with his late inswing and subtle changes in pace. Sobers switched his bowling styles according to the conditions and to this day no bowler has been able to match his versatility.
A superb fielder:
An aspect of Sobers that is not often discussed is his superb fielding abilities. Sobers was a brilliant and complete fielder in the slips and in the covers. He was also supremely good as a close-in fielder and loved standing in the backward short leg and leg-slip regions to the spinners. Sobers plucked 109 catches in Test cricket and a total of an incredible 407 catches in First-Class cricket. While he may not have been a Jonty Rhodes, Sobers was a natural athlete and always wanted the ball to be in his hands. He ran fast and covered ground very swiftly. As a child, Sobers had worked hard on his fielding by throwing stones at mangoes and catching them before they fell to the ground. Sobers was thus magnificent in all the aspects of the game.