Now, this in a way is a very odd event – yet, my goodness it’s also a completely wonderful one! Over the years I’ve worked in schools andI have had the chance to meet some inspiring people, often at an `Awards event or a Presentation evening. I saw Danny Crates, for example at an event in Southend – he is an amazing man!
So, there have been opportunities but none quite like this one. I was in a fortuitous place when an email came from the other secondary school in the town – The Billericay School – it was an invite to the Headteacher to a lunch with Sir Gary Sobers!
I wouldn’t exactly say I begged, but I certainly wasn’t shy about the hope that I might be able to go along! I make no secret of my passion for sport and of course we’re in the midst of the cricket season, and my colleagues know I’ve been at games galore.
I was very kindly given the chance to go and meet one of the finest cricketers we have seen – the man who was the first to hit six 6’s in one over and a whole lot more than that!
Sir Gary was at the school to talk about his cricket tournament in Barbados, but before he did that he gave a small talk then took questions. I don’t have my usual array of photos – but a few of Sir Gary with Headteacher Sue Hammond and other guests too.
A few snippets from Sir Gary’s initial chat –
He picked cricket having had ability at several, as it was the only sport with a chance to travel, the other sports were inter Island.
In his experience you have to watch to see the hint of ability, the way a child moves, picks the ball up, bats, that’s how you spot a child who’s going to succeed.
He had some useful advice for the students in the room – You have to work hard if you want to achieve He was keen to impress that – If you do the wrong things you’ll never get there. He reinforced that fact that it takes sheer hard work, dedication and doing things the right way to be the one that makes it in life.
Sir Gary then opened the floor to questions, asking tongue in cheek that they didn’t get too personal!
- Who is the best player you played with or against – Best bowler – Freddie Trueman
Best Batsmen – Sunil Gavaskar and Ted Dexter
Sir Gary went on to say that he admires the way the way England are playing cricket, that for many years it appeared that in English cricket it was pad not bat first to the ball. Ted Dexter was one of the only English players who played with the bat.
Spin bowler Subhash Gupte got a mention too, he’d been the best bowler he’d seen in the West Indies, taking 28 wickets in 1954.
On the changing face of the game Sir Gary shared his thoughts that cricket is a batsman’ game, with the rules setting the field. In his day there were no covered wickets, and bowlers could bowl as many bouncers and beamers as they liked.
- Which was your favourite test match and why? The tied test in Australia Oz were 218 for 3, with less than 20 to get, captain felt they could get them out, the possibility was there! It was such an exciting game, the whole season was tremendous! Lords in 1966 got a mention too, when England led by 89 runs, the West Indies were 93 for 6, Sir Gary was captain and he had plans! With a day and a half to go the bowlers were on top so he went out and played a few shots, he and David Halford batted right through the day and declared at lunch the next day without losing another wicket.
- Which did you enjoy the most? – Sir Gary was a bowler as well as a batsman he took 235 test wickets. He enjoyed all of it, he was a team man! He made sure to reiterate that you have to play together. He bowled as needed, spin or fast and enjoyed it, he didn’t specialise in either discipline.
- What were you thinking when you were on 5 sixes – This amazing feat didn’t happen in the short version of the game, but it was very clear that Sir Gary isn’t a fan of T20 in his words – it’s not cricket, it’s entertainment. Therefore his response figures – six 6’s isn’t cricket, he didn’t intend to hit six 6’s wanted to bat for a few more overs before declaring. As a young player he used to sit and listen to the older players and learn from them. One such session was spent listening to Everton weeks and Learie Constantine he asked them – What is your version of playing this game of cricket? Weeks response was – I keep the ball on the ground – he hit only one 6 in his career and that was a mistake – his tactic was to keep the ball on the ground where he couldn’t be caught. Constantine took an opposing view – his way – Mine is to hit it out there, but clear the boundary so no one can catch you out! On this historic day Sir Gary decided to hit six 6’s Malcolm Nash bowled a faster, flatter ball, Sir Gary drew a laugh when he said – I knew 2 days before he bowled the ball how it was going to be – he hit the final 6 over square leg! As he was being interviewed a smiling Malcolm Nash said – You know you couldn’t have done that without me!
Sir Gary was very keen to state his opinion on one particular aspect of cricket today, again in his words – If you snick the ball you walk! It’s cheating if you don’t, he walked on one occasion before any player shouted Howzat!
- Which was your favourite ground? – Jamaica – he played his 1st test, hit his 1st 100, and captained his 1st test there It had a very quick wicket, he enjoyed that wicket the most.
- What do you make of the protective clothing worn? Sir Gary was adamant that there is no comparison between cricket now and then. Uncovered wickets, a bowler who had to have his back foot, rather than front foot behind the line, and a field that could be set wherever you wanted it. The change to the no ball rule had come after England wanted to make the wicket 23 yards, that didn’t happen but the front foot rule came in to slow the West Indies bowlers down
He reiterated his opinion of 20/20 yet acknowledged that the income is very much needed! He feels that it has helped English cricket. It was interesting to hear him mention Steve Smith as a great player – the summer will reconfirm his opinion I’m sure.
I feel that I could go on forever here and Im way past my usual word count – so rather than write about Sir Gary’s tournament here’s a link to go and take a look at his website – both Alistair Cook and Brian Lara played at the tournament in their youth.
It was a thrill to be able to talk to Sir Gary over lunch – we were truly in the presence of a legend! I have to thank The Billericay School for giving me the chance to meet the great man!