Sir Garfield Sobers
Universally recognised as the greatest all-rounder in post-war cricket, Sobers was the prime target for the county circuit, when the regulations were relaxed to permit instant qualification for one overseas cricketer per county. Sobers signed for Notts in the winter of 1967-68 and made his first-class debut for the team in May 1968. He played for Notts then right through until his retirement from first-class cricket at the close of the 1974 summer.
In 2000 the Wisden Almanack summoned 100 experts worldwide to select their individual choices of the 'Five Cricketers of the 20th Century'. Only one player was picked by all one hundred experts, namely Don Bradman. Sobers came second with 90 votes out of the hundred. A long way down came the third player with just 30 votes. Those facts surely say more than enough about the merits of Sobers.
When he arrived at Trent Bridge he was already captain of West Indies and aged 31 he had in fact just led West Indies against England in the 1967-68 series and finished that set of matches with a batting average of 90.83. He was appointed captain of Notts, who had languished in 15th place in the Championship. Sobers had an outstanding first season, topping the batting averages with 1,590 runs @ 42.79 and taking 84 wickets @ 23.38. His season ended with the famous six sixes in an over off Glamorgan and Notts ended in fourth place in the Championship table. In the Gillette Cup he hit 75* v Lancashire in the first round, 95* in the second round v Worcs and 76 in the third round v Glos. He also took eight wickets as Notts' opening bowler. In 1969 West Indies toured England, so Sobers was restricted to eight Notts Championship games. He again topped the batting and came second in the bowling table. Notts did reach the semi-finals of the Gillette Cup, where they met Yorkshire at Scarborough. Unfortunately Notts lost, but was it a coincidence that, because of Sobers, presence a ground attendance record was achieved with over 15,000 watching the game?
In 1971 Sobers' appearances were unexpectedly curtailed when England v Rest of World matches were substituted for Tests v South Africa. Sobers led the Rest and topped their batting table with 588 runs @ 73.50 (he also took 21 cheap wickets). For the third summer running, Sobers headed the Notts batting averages and came second in the bowling. in fact he led the first class averages for the country with 1,742 runs @ 75.73.
The strain of full time county cricket was now beginning to tell. The season report noted, Sobers is so committed to cricket that sometimes the impression is given that even this splendidly fit athlete is feeling the strain of the full time English game. In 1971 he had to be content with second place in the Notts batting table and third in the bowling, but he still hit 1,485 runs and took 53 wickets in the Championship. In 1971-72 he was obliged to captain a Rest of the World touring side to Australia, due to the cancelling of Test v South Africa. This took its toll and soon after returning to Notts for the 1972 summer his knee gave way he played only six Championship games that year.
In 1973 he was back at the top top of the Notts batting table and second in the bowling despite that credit, which would satisfy any normal player, he was not at the peak of his form anymore. In his final Notts year of 1974 he again headed the batting, but the weakness in his legs affected his role as a bowler. Sobers did hit the fastest hundred of the year v Derbyshire at Ilkeston and in his ultimate first-class game, 132* and 77 v Lancashire he was unable to bowl due to injury. His final career bating average for Notts of 48.89 remains the highest by anyone who hit at least 5,000 runs.
Garfield St Aubrun Sobers was born on 18 July 1936 in St Michael's, Barbados. He made his first-class debut for Barbados in 1952-53 and his Test debut for West Indies fourteen months later, (as a replacement for Valentine, therefore being drafted in as a slow left-arm bowler, batting at no.9!) Two seasons later he was opening the batting for his country. In 1957-58 he created a new Test record by scoring 365*. His feats on the test field are well-documented elsewhere and his brilliance when he played for South Australia for three seasons, belongs to another book. He was knighted for his services to cricket soon after his retirement.