A Meeting with Sir Garfield Sobers

" Mediocrity and arrogance go hand in hand. But a truly great person is always humble," the words of William Somerset Maugham apply to one truly great person: Sir Garfield Saint Auburn Sobers, or plain Sir Gary, whose 75th birthday falls on July 28. I've seen very many mediocres act and behave as if they're gods. And I've seen the great man and realised that truly greats are indeed self-effacing and oblivious of their greatness.

This quality of being unaware of one's astounding skills endears a person to all. I remember, I went to Swansea, Glamorgan (Welsh) on August 31, 1998. It was the 30th anniversary of Sir Gary's six consecutive sixes off Glamorgan's Malcolm Nash. Sobers was playing for Nottinghamshire on that historical day. Never have I seen any man with so much humility.
 In spite of getting innumerable chances to get autographs of the so-called celebrities, I've never sought anyone's except for Sir Gary. I'd a trepidation, whether the great man would oblige me. I went to him with my father. He told Sir Gary that his son was a great admirer of his immeasurable cricketing skills. " But you were not even born when I retired from all forms of cricket," Sir Gary was surprised.

I told him that my father was a great fan of the famed 3 Ws: Weeks, Worrell and Walcott, who hailed from Barbados, the same island Sir Gary came from. " I saw your clips and slides at MCC, Melbourne Cricket Club in London. " I see, do you also play? " He asked me. I told him that I was more of a spectator rather than a regular cricketer. I asked him how he could control Chinaman, a left-hander's googly?

He laughed and politely said, " I never had to try extra. It came to me spontaneously." The great batsmen of Sobers' era still vouch for the man's uncanny ability to bowl Chinaman along with a few searing and swerving deliveries. Yorkshire and England's opener Brian Bolus could never read Sir Gary's cutters and Chinaman and the way he was bowled in the 1966 series by a perfect Chinaman.

 I reminded him of his batting tips to Sunil Gavaskar on the tour of 1971, when Sunny scored 774 on his debut series. He again laughed and said, " Sunny required no help from anyone." "An absolute genius", he said of Gavaskar in his typical Bajan English accent despite his long stay in England and Australia. By the way, he'd an Australian wife, who was the only spectator who didn't applaud or give him a standing ovation when he scored that magnificent 254 for the Rest of the World against Australia in 1972. They were about to separate.

When I requested for his autograph, he asked my name and signed: Sobers to Sumit, no Sir Gary. His autograph is still with me and I'll ever cherish the humility of the great man. You seldom come across such magnificent human beings, who're so down to earth and feel embarrassed when they're reminded of their extraordinary exploits. One can learn a lot from a genius like Sir Garfield Sobers.                      
                                             ----Sumit Paul