Sir Garfield Sobers is widely regarded as one of cricket’s greatest ever all-rounders, having excelled at all the essential skills of batting, bowling and fielding. Often referred to as three cricketers rolled into one, Sir Sobers is boasted as the greatest cricketer ever lived!
Sobers 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.
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.
Sir Garfield Sobers retired in 1974 after his knee cartilage finally gave out, he featured in another precedent when, in 1975, Queen Elizabeth II overturned tradition when she knighted him in an open-air ceremony at the Garrison Savannah instead of at Buckingham Palace.
Sobers married Prudence Kirby an Australian in 1969 (divorced in 1985) and moved to Australia with her for seven years until deciding to return to Barbados in 1985. He and his wife have two sons Matthew and Daniel and a daughter, Genevieve.
In 1998, Sir Garfield Sobers was declared a National hero of Barbados. He now travels the world as a legendary sportsman giving speeches yet always finds time for his new sport of choice – golf!
SIR GARFRIELD SOBERS IS A WORLD SPORTS LEGEND!