Sobers: I worked very hard to achieve what I achieved

Garry Sobers was a quintessential team man. "My goals were built around my team," he says in the second part of the feature.

Sir Garfield Sobers chats with West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood during the tour of Sri Lanka recently. The legendary West Indian says that he is a great believer in sport.   -  AP

Sir Garfield Sobers was one of the finest all-rounders the game has ever seen. “I could bowl in three different ways, could field anywhere and could bat anywhere. If they needed an opening bat, I would go and open. If they needed someone to open the bowling, I would open the bowling,” says the legendary cricketer.

Here's the second and final part of the feature.

On records: My moment in the game of cricket is not records. I did not want to do things to be the greatest. My goals were built around my team. What the team wanted me to do, I did. I could bowl in three different ways, could field anywhere and could bat anywhere. If they needed an opening bat, I would go and open. If they needed someone to open the bowling, I would open the bowling. I started as a left-arm spinner. I did all those things. Records, to me, are not the way to go. If they come in the way of helping your side to be successful, then I am all for it. People set records and break them – to me that is not part of the game. That is trying to make you proud and forget the team. Throughout my career, whether I played for the Police, Barbados, Nottinghamshire, South Australia, West Indies, you will find I always performed when the team was down – not when it was up. I was a team man, and whatever I achieved, I achieved through that. I think a lot of people did recognise that. Whatever genius I had, I worked hard to make it that way.

On golf: It is a wonderful game. When I got into the West Indies team, Sonny Ramadhin, the great little mystery bowler, started his life as a caddie. He said to me one day, ‘Why don’t you go play some golf?’ I had never been to a golf course. In Barbados, there was one golf course, and it was built by the merchants. It was a nine-hole course. The only way you could go there was if you were going to be a caddie. And I did not want to be a caddie. I said to him, ‘That stupid game, you hit the ball, and when you lose it, you find it and you hit it again’.

The last day in Australia, when he had that fantastic series (1960-61), when we were playing in Canberra, we were staying at a hotel with a golf course. Because we were not playing, we went there. He (Sonny) put this little ball down. I swung at this ball, and you would not believe it, I missed it. I said to myself, ‘Bloody hell! You hit the moving ball and you miss the still ball?’ I tried again and missed again. Wes Hall showed me how to hit it. He was making sure he was not going to miss it. He took 10 pounds of the turf out of the ground and the ball was still flying in the air (laughs). I started to take up the game and I found it to be a beautiful game. To me, golf is the best sport I have ever played. I played table tennis, basketball, soccer and cricket and I loved golf. I don’t think there is a better sport. Golf is the only sport (where) you can go on a holiday – you take a club with you and you can have a wonderful holiday. Because it takes only one person; it’s the only sport in the world where you can play by yourself. If you are honest, you will say, ‘I have had a 65 or 110, whatever’. There’s no other sport in the world where you can play on your own. I just love it. It brings out the character in you. You don’t have a lot of cheats involved. I am very glad I play golf. When I am home, I play golf six days a week. If I don’t find a partner, I play alone. It keeps me fit too.

 

Favourite moments: As a young boy, I believed in sport. My whole life was built around sport. In Barbados, I must have played seven different sport for the island. I always said I was not an academic. Because I believe sport is very, very important. That was the way I was brought up. My father died when I was five and my mother had six of us. My eldest brother was 11 and he had to leave school early and go to work to help the family. Therefore, we were not exposed to the kind of education that the boys of today and the people of today are. You had to play in those days. When you have six kids, and when mother is not working, it is very difficult to find money to pay. I recognised that sport was the thing that I wanted to do, as all my brothers. As a matter of fact, when I tell people that I was not as good a batsman as my brother Gerry, they still don’t believe it. He was very good. As a matter of fact, he was even better than Seymour Nurse, and you have seen Seymour Nurse. Because he and Seymour Nurse were on par, they always chose him because he was an opening batsman. But he (Gerry) came at the wrong time. I was very fortunate. I came at the right time. I came when it was a little bit easier to get into the West Indies team. Or even a Barbados team because in those days Barbados was so strong that they could have taken on the world. The three Ws were all from Barbados; then we had Roy Marshall, Denis Atkinson, Conrad Hunte – they were all top class. I was fortunate and I worked hard at the game because a lot of people used to admire me. And they let me know. I have heard people talking, ‘That little boy, he has got a lot of ability’. I worked very hard to achieve what I achieved.

(Concluded)