On July 28th, 1936, Thelma Sobers gave birth to Garfield St. Aubrun Sobers. A beautiful bouncing baby boy who brought joy to his mother and father. What they had no idea of at the time, was the legendary status their little boy would take. Born into a big family he was the fifth of six children and lived in the urban community, Bay land St. Michael. Unfortunately, beyond the economic hardships faced by the family, the young Sobers had to deal with the tragic loss of his father at the tender age of 5. Sobers like most boys turned to sports to escape the daily grind. He, however, demonstrated superior skills, which distinguished him from his peers. Basketball, football, and cricket were his sports of choice, but it was his prowess in cricket that brought him attention. During his schooling days at Bay Boys School, he along with his brother led his school to three consecutive championships.
His talents continued to develop which led him to secure a spot on two teams at only 13 years old; Kent a league team based in St. Philip and Wanderers which originated from his hometown of Bayland. This was a tremendous opportunity for the teenager to not only showcase his talent but to develop and garner invaluable experience. It was during this time that he also advanced his craft of left-arm spin bowling. A skill that would reap great rewards later in his career. As usual, the young talented Sobers attracted attention while on the cricket field. One of the persons who gave him that attention was Wilfred Farmer, the captain of the Police Team, a first division cricket team on the island. This was a rare opportunity for a 15-year-old and was eagerly accepted. Again, he impressed all those concerned, and this landed him an invitation to the Barbados trials to play against a touring Indian side. As talented as he was, lady luck also played a hand in his career. He was selected to play on the Barbados team as a 12th man. However, because of an injury to one of the players, he was elevated to a starting position. Again, he did not let the opportunity to impress pass him by and returned match figures of 7 for 142.
Sobers had to wait another year before he had the chance to showcase his talents again against another touring team this time from Australia, the Marylebone Cricket Club. He did not only impress with the ball but this time with the bat as well, scoring 46 and 27, batting at number 5 and taking two wickets. This led to the big break he was craving, a call up to the West Indies team, and in 1954 at age 17 he made his debut. Sobers played in the 5th and final test in Jamaica against England. There he collected 4 wickets and a score of 14 not out and 26.
There was no looking back for the young Sobers who continued to build a following. However, his support base was frustrated with the young Sobers who had failed to translate good batting starts into big scores. The promising young star removed all doubts of his ability and commitment by scoring his maiden test century against Pakistan and continuing to score 365 runs. This was the highest test score at the time. It also made him the youngest player to score a triple century and the youngest to break an individual record. Sobers went on to show the world his tremendous talents with the bat and the ball gaining admiration from across the globe, in particular in Australia and England. His legacy was beginning to form and talks of him being the greatest all-rounder to play the game were being held. His versatility, skill and passion for the game were beyond compare.
Notable on-field Achievements
- Youngest to score a triple century and the youngest to break an individual record in test cricket. He was 21 years and 216 days old
- His record stood for 36 years until it was broken in 1994
- Sobers scored one hundred in the famous first-ever tied test in the history of cricket, played at Brisbane Cricket Ground during the 1960-61 series. He scored 132, which was considered by many as the finest hundred they had ever seen.
- He was awarded the title ‘Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World’ eight times in his cricketing career.
- He was the first West Indian captain to win a series against Australia.
- His 722 runs had three centuries at an astonishing average of 103. He also took 20 wickets and 10 catches. His performance earned him the nickname ‘King Cricket.’
- He was one of the first cricketers from the West Indies to play as a professional in the English league cricket. He represented Radcliffe Cricket Club in the Central Lancashire League from 1958 to 62.
- He was the first-ever player to score six sixes in an over. He scored these off Malcolm Nash in the Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan match on August 31, 1968.
- He was selected as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century in 2000. He garnered 90 votes out of a possible 100.
- He played 93 tests scoring 8032 runs and took 235 wickets. He has played 383 first-class matches and has scored 28,000 runs with 1000 wickets
His exploits and domination on the field spoke for themselves, but it was off the cricket field where his impact and influence were further felt:
- His story, a poor boy from Bridgetown, Barbados to being heralded as the greatest cricketer the world has ever seen was an inspiration for many within and outside the shores of Barbados and still is.
- His humility and willingness to help make a significant contribution to his status as a national hero.
- He positioned Barbados on the map as a birthplace of cricketing greats, and all eyes were on the tiny nation, watching for who would be next.
Due to his inspiration, Barbados did not disappoint, giving the world scores of cricketing heroes who went on to dominate the world stage. After he had retired from the game in 1974, he did not recede into the background leaving only a memory of his dominance. He made himself available to help the development of the Barbadian and West Indian cricket, coaching many young players along the way. He was honoured in song, dance, drama and many other forms of national recognition. He has been bestowed the Knighthood by the Queen of England and is the only living National Hero of Barbados, an honour that is rightly deserved.