|Tuesday, 10 June 2003|
Very few know of Sobers' world record in Malaysia
by Geoff Wijesinghe
Very few of the cricketing fraternity are aware of Sir Garfield Sobers' bowling world record in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A Commonwealth team was touring Malaysia and one of the members was the West Indian all rounder Gary Sobers.
He was at the height of his career and in the middle of a sensational ninety three-match test record, which would bring him an average of 57.78 as a batsman, and 34.03 as a blower. To add to it all his record brought him a catch, a match on the field. Being the most sensational cricketer in the world crowds flocked to the stadium in Malaysia that day, in March 1964.
If one were to compare Sobers as a batsman with Lara or Tendulkar he was far greater. As much as Lara was supple Sobers was not only supple but his timing was perfect. His wrists seemed made of steel and he was tougher than the present West Indian captain for he is the greatest all rounder ever produced.
Not only was Sobers a free flowing left handed batsman of grace and deceptive power, which left the fielders astounded, in addition he bowled almost every variety of left arm speed and spin and it was an acknowledged fact that his faster ball was faster than the fastest bowler could ever produce.
It is apt to mention the fact that when Sobers as a seventeen year old accompanied the great Warrel, Weeks and Walcott on his first tour to England he was taken as a bowler. However, Len Hutton, that master batsman and connoisseur of the game who was contributing an article to the Times of Ceylon predicted that Garfield Sobers would not only be a cricketing great, but one of the best batsmen ever produced.
Hence, as a result of Sobers' reputation a very large crowd of several thousands had gathered at the Malaysian stadium. There was no other attraction but him. Malaysia captain Mike Shepardson won the toss and put the opposition into bat.
The Commonwealth opening pair put together a quick sixty-eight, before Ken Taylor the Yorkshire stalwart was bowled off his pads, according to an account detailed in Andrew Ward's "Crickets strangest matches". This brought Sobers to the wicket with the crowd applauding him right from the pavilion to the wicket as they expected a masterpiece of sparkling batting.
Alex Delilkan a bowler with likely Sri Lankan connections as most of the Delilkans hailed from Kotahena and one of them was a senior member of the Ceylon Observer who migrated to Malaysia, flighted the first ball to Sobers. Sobers reached forward and the ball turned gently, breaking onto the off stump past the outside edge of the bat.
The crowd was stunned as they saw the ball hit the off stump and realized to their great amazement that the magical West Indian was out first ball for naught. Then, McLachlan managed to prevent a hatrick.
In the middle of the afternoon, it was suggested to Gary Sobers that he might have something to delight the spectators on the rare occasion they could watch him play. What Sobers did was very special indeed. With the fourth ball of his first over with the new ball and Malaysia yet to score, Sobers had Houten, who if I remember right was hit for six consecutive sixes by the West Indian during a tour of England, out caught by Collin Ingleby - MacKenzie.
The next ball Sideck was out LBW and Sobers was on a hatrick. The captain Shepardson faced the last ball of the first over. Up came Sobers with that distinctive loose limb twirl of his left arm, his shirt flapping in the breeze, and there went another catch to Ingleby - Mackenzie who was fielding close in. Malaysia were naught for three and Sobers had his hatrick.
That was the last ball of the first over. Ranjith Singh the other opener and Martends got three from Richard Hutton's over. Martends was facing the first ball of the second Sobers over and it clean bowled him. Malaysia were three for four and Sobers' had four wickets in four balls. Nobody had taken five wickets in five balls in a first class match, and very few were in a position to think about it. Sobers came into Gurucharan Singh and bowled him first ball. Five wickets in five balls and Malaysia were three for five Sobers had certainly atoned for his first ball duck.
In the second innings Malaysia recovered to make on hundred and eight. Continuing into the next day Sobers batted again and the crowd collected in droves. But once again he was caught at first slip for a single. No matter, for the spectators had seen the star West Indian create magic with the ball. The commonwealth team went onto win by one hundred and thirty runs. Sir Garfield Sobers is no stranger to Sri Lanka. He is friend of this country and even coached our national side. I once had the privilege of interviewing Sobers a few minutes before the "SS Orcades" weighed anchor.
He spent the day here and the Lake House reporter accompanied by Sobers' good friend, the most stylish and according to me the best batsman we have ever produced were waiting in the lobby for a day of golfing on the Havelock race course. I was up a gum tree but I managed to summon enough courage to climb half way up the staircase and whisper to the great man that I was from the Ceylon Daily Mirror which sponsored the match against six of the Great West Indians who had tied the series with the Aussies.
He promptly obliged my request for an exclusive interview and although he was travelling first class he told me to meet him at seven that evening in the second-class lounge bar. True enough he turned up. He was held in such high regard that the entire lounge bar stood up as a show of respect to the great man. True to his word he gave me an exclusive page one lead story interview, that was the calibre of the man.
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