Tests Through Time

Mr Cricket


If Sir Donald Bradman is the greatest batsman to have ever lived, then equally free from doubt is the fact that Sir Garfield Sobers is the greatest allrounder to have played the game.
He was the original Mr Cricket. A left-handed batsman who till he retired held the record for the highest individual Test score, Sobers could bowl pace, off-spin and leg-spin, all with equal proficiency.
Four years into his Test career (1958), Sobers stamped his name in history by overtaking Len Hutton's world record score of 364. It was the third Test of the series, and in the first Pakistan's Hanif Mohammad had posted his marathon 16-hour 337.
Coming in at 87 for 1, Sobers, who was yet to score a Test hundred, shared a 446-run partnership with opener Conrad Hunte. Sobers became the first West Indian to cross the 300-run mark on the fourth day and by then he had the 65-run target at the back of his mind.
Pakistan captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar tossed the ball to none other than Hanif when Sobers was on 363.
He took a single to equal Hutton's record, and the next time he faced Hanif, the Pakistani asked the umpire if he could bowl with his left-hand. "You can bowl with both hands if you like," said Sobers, and promptly took a single to seize the record and be engulfed by hundreds of ecstatic fans.
Sobers's masterpiece took 10 hours 14 minutes against Hutton's 13 hours 20 minutes -- that alone is testament to the West Indian's commitment to entertainment.
His captaincy was bold, though with mixed results. He declared early to give England a whiff of a chance in the final Test of the 1968 series. England somehow chased 215 successfully but Sobers would always be remembered for the series win against Australia in 1965.
He had many achievements to his credit, including being the first man to hit six consecutive sixes in an over in a first-class match. A great bowler by any standards, he took six five-fors in a strong West Indian attack and was as good a close-in fielder as there ever was.
To further underscore his legend, he never wore a thigh guard, let alone a helmet, while facing some of the fastest bowlers in the world.
To best understand the esteem he is and was held in by all who knew the game, the story of the Rest of the World Series against Australia will suffice. In a tour he and Bradman organised to fill the vacuum left by the cancelled South African tour to Australia in 1971, the Rest of the World team were embarrassed at Perth by the fearsome pace of a new bowler called Dennis Lillee.
Lillee had twice gotten the great Sobers for a duck, once in Perth and the next time in the first innings in Melbourne. In the second innings Sobers came in and smashed everyone in sight, Lillee included, to score 254.
When he was out, Lillee caught up with him on his walk back to the pavilion and said, "You know, I've read about you and now I've really seen you. We got our backsides cut good and proper today, and I still appreciate it."

-- Sakeb Subhan