The Right Excellent Sir Garfield St. Auburn Sobers, AO, OCC
National Hero of Barbados
Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers AO OCC (born 28 July 1936), also known as Gary or Garry Sobers, is a former cricketer who played for the West Indies between 1954 and 1974, and is widely considered one of cricket's greatest all-rounders, having excelled at all the essential skills of batting, bowling and fielding.
Early life and education
Sir Gary was born Garfield St Aubrun Sobers on 28 July 1936 to Shamont and Thelma Sobers of Walcott Avenue, Bay Land, St Michael, Bridgetown, Barbados, and was the fifth of six children.
At birth he had two extra fingers, one on each hand, which he removed himself during childhood with the aid of catgut and a sharp knife. Sobers was only five when his father died at sea in January 1942, after his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
From an early age, Sobers demonstrated the talent and ability to play with great skill almost any sport involving a ball, particularly cricket, football and basketball. He and his similarly talented brother Gerald helped their Bay Street Boys’ School team to win the primary school Inter-School Cricket championship for three consecutive years. When he was 13, he was recruited to play for two cricket teams. These were the Kent St Philip club in the Barbados Cricket League (BCL) and the Wanderers club, located at Bay Land, in the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA). Garnet Ashby, captain of Kent St Philip, told him that this was his opportunity to play cricket with “the big boys.”
Sobers gained useful experience by bowling to Wanderers batsmen, including West Indies Test player Denis Atkinson, at practice in the nets and soon developed his great skill as a left arm spin bowler. More importantly for his career, he was observed by Inspector Wilfred Farmer, captain of the Police team in the BCL First Division. Farmer offered Sobers a chance to play for Police in the 1951–52 season while he was still only 15.
In the 1952–53 season, Sobers was invited to the Barbados trials for the colony’s tour match against the Indian touring team at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown. He was initially selected as 12th man but then made the team itself when Frank King was forced to withdraw. He therefore made his first-class debut on 31 January 1953, aged only 16. Batting at number nine, he scored 7 not out in his only innings but made an immediate impression as a bowler, taking 4/50 and 3/92.
International cricket career
At the beginning of a promising career, Sobers struggled with the bottle for years, as he admits freely in his autobiography. In 1959, his close friend O.G. “Collie” Smith died after sustaining injuries in an automobile accident with Sobers at the wheel.
Sober played in 93 test matches, made 8032 runs, 26 centuries, 235 wickets, 109 catches and captained the West Indies cricket team for 39 matches between 1965 and 1972, the Barbados team in 1966 and 1967, Nottinghamshire from 1968-1971 and the Rest of the World for two tours – one of England and the other of Australia.
Some of Sir Garfield's records still stand. At the age of twenty one he made an incredible three hundred and sixty five (365 not out) which was not surpassed for thirty six years. In 1994 Brian Lara the current West Indies captain scored three hundred and seventy five (375 not out).
Another of Sir Garfield's famous records is that of his sixth wicket stand at Lord's in 1966. Together with David Holford they established a record partnership, posting one hundred and sixty three (163) and one hundred and five (105) not out respectively.
In addition, Sir Garfield made history as the first batsman to score six, sixes in a six-ball over in a first class match.
During 1965 and 1972, Sir Garfield served as the Captain of the West Indies cricket team, a period of thirty nine matches. He also captained the Barbados team from 1966 to 1967, Nottinghamshire from 1968 until 1971 and what is termed as the Rest of the World for two tours, one of England and the other of Australia.
In 1966 Sir Garfield's image was placed on a Barbados Independence Postage Stamp and is considered a great national symbol/hero.
In 1969, Sir Garfield took cricket a further step and subjected himself to great criticism while also making one of his most outstanding contributions. At a time when racism was rampant, he is documented as one of the first cricketers to try and integrate apartheid countries through the sport. He selflessly lent his coaching skills to black youths and played in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Unfortunately, he was made to apologize publicly for his actions which in itself is ironic seeing as many players including that of the West Indies subsequently earned a living offering their services to South Africa before the era of apartheid ended.
In 1974, Sir Garfield Sobers retired from the sport of cricket due to the cartilage in his knee giving out.
The greatest all rounder in cricket history... Sir Garfield St Auburn Sobers brought the spotlight to the island of Barbados, encouraging the growth and popularity of cricket and sparked many Barbadians into following their dreams. An inspiration to many, his achievements ignited the desire, particularly that of the black underprivileged youth, to be all that you can be!
A true role model for success, the name of Sir Garfield Sobers is engraved on the hearts of all Barbadians and cricketers throughout the world.
Sobers was briefly engaged to Indian actress Anju Mahendru after he met her on the 1966–67 tour of India. He married Pru Kirby, an Australian, in September 1969. They had two sons, Matthew and Daniel, and an adopted daughter, Genevieve. The marriage ended in divorce in 1990 after the couple broke up in 1984; however, Sobers acquired dual Australian citizenship through marriage in 1980.
He says that his was a multi-sporting family who were all good at football, basketball, table tennis and tennis.His own favourite sport is golf and he has been an enthusiastic gambler. He is the author of a children's novel about cricket, Bonaventure and the Flashing Blade, in which computer analysis helps a university cricket team become unbeatable
Honours and awards
In 1975, Queen Elizabeth II changed tradition by bestowing Garfield Sobers with the honor of Knighthood at the Garrison Savannah instead of at Buckingham Palace.
Sobers was made a National Hero of Barbados by the Cabinet of Barbados in 1998 and is thus accorded the honorary prefix "The Right Excellent". He is one of only ten people to have received this honour and the only recipient still living.