The Greatest ever By Pryor Jonas
Stabroek News
March 29, 2003

Related Links: Articles on Windies cricket
Letters Menu Archival Menu

It's cricket of course, not boxing.

My young men got hold of My Own Story as told to Richard Durham, and asked if Muhammad Ali was indeed the greatest. "You mean Cassius Clay," I quipped.

But they wouldn't know I was referring to a two-time world heavy-weight champion-Floyd Patterson by name. They wouldn't know that he refused to call "the greatest" Muhammad Ali.

But, as I said, it's cricket, not boxing. I suggested that they name the two greatest, and by the process of elimination, arrive at their "greatest".

An Australian, I think, would have no quarrel with: first Bradman, second Sobers. An Englishman, with W.G. Grace first, Sobers next. An Indian, first Gavaskar, second, Sobers. A Pakistani-Imram Khan first, Sobers second. A South African-Barry Richards first, Sobers next. A New Zealander- Hadlee first, Sobers second.

But what about you, my Caribbean friend? Let me put you on the spot: Would you agree that it is Sobers first, whoever second? And that the "whoever" will depend on the depth of your own reading and/or viewing?

The point I'm making to you, young men, is that Gary Sobers-that's the name we knew him by (now, of course, were you to read his autobiography, it's two r's, not one)-is the finest all-round player in cricket's history.

In his heyday, he was "King Cricket". There was a stigma attached to him after his infamous declaration in 1968 at the Queen's Park Oval-a blunder for which he was never forgiven.

The sad thing is that Gary Sobers still believes he acted in his team's best interest, forgetting how much cricket has changed over the last generation.

But when you look at Gary Sobers, the cricketer pure and simple-those of us who saw him in action-you would agree that everything he did was marked by a supreme natural grace.

One of my treasured moments in cricket was witnessing Rohan Kanhai and Gary Sobers, leaving the pavilion at Bourda in the fifth and final Test match against Cowdrey's England.

Incidentally, it was only then that I realised deep within me I must give him the edge over Rohan Bholalall. Where batting was concerned, it was always Rohan first, Gary second.

Until that 1968 Test. And believe me, I'm in good company. One of Australia's best cricket writers, Johnny Moyes, who has compared our Rohan Bholalall with Australia's Charlie Macartney, wrote thus: "Like Macartney, Kanhai was never prepared to allow the bowler to call the tune....All in all, he was far more consistent than Sobers. He always seemed to handle spin bowling with greater skill... "

That was in 1961, but by 1968, Garfield Sobers was the world Test record holder, and, in the eyes of many, a greater batsman.

In that fifth Test match here at Bourda-a match in which Gary Sobers very nearly squared the rubber-responding to the Guyanese master's 150 and 22, Sobers scored 152 and 95 not out. And that's just the batting.

The game was drawn, with West Indies just one wicket short of victory. Though we have criticised his captaincy, we have lauded his batsmanship.

Next Saturday, we will look into his consummate fielding, versatile bowling and flawless sportsmanship. My young men are continuing with their reading, but have I said enough to convince you?

If not, I'm sure to next week.

Site Meter