The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
There has been nobody quite like him

My Autobiography By Garry Sobers Headline, £ 3.25

ďWhen I play, I donít play alone, Collie plays with meĒ: thus Gary Sobers in a previous attempt at an autobiography. The memory of his closest friend, Collie Smith, who died in a car accident when Sobers was at the wheel, haunted cricketís greatest all rounder throughout his life. This autobiography, written by Garry (mark the difference in spelling. A printerís gaffe, or has Gary Sobers begun to spell his name differently') Sobers, also begins with a chapter on the importance of Smith in Sobersís life and on his phenomenal cricketing abilities.

This is not an autobiography in the strict sense of the word. There is no chronological line. The chapters are thematic and Sobers jumps between times and eras. There are also separate chapters on batting, bowling, fielding and all rounders. The book appears to be the product of a series of conversations that Sobers had with his ghost, Bob Harris.

Sobers confirms here all the impressions that cricket lovers have of him. He was a natural at the game, and he supplemented his exceptional abilities with tremendous hard work and thought. Contrary to most natural cricketers, he was a thinking man. He observed and thought all the time. He described himself once as a human sponge.

After Collie Smithís death, Sobersís life had acquired a wild and reckless dimension. But he pulled himself together. This is not to say that he gave up his drinking and his late nights even when he was playing. He loved gambling in the casino and a flutter on a horse. His simple philosophy was that so long as all this did not affect his cricket, it was fine. And it never affected his game. On numerous occasions, he scored runs, bowled and took catches after a night out on the tiles. When his tummy gave way, he restored it with a mixture of port and brandy!

His philosophy for cricket was also simple. He believed in attack. While batting, however tight the situation, he played his shots; and while bowling, he aimed at getting wickets. On the field, he was everywhere ó at second slip, around the corner, in the outfield. The only thing he didnít do was keeping wicket to his own bowling!

This book is racy, but it does not lack in analysis. There are anecdotes galore. What is conveyed above all is Sobersís immense love for the game. For the better part of his adult life, Sobers did little else save playing cricket and thinking about it. He also played cricket, despite being a keen competitor ó and this point needs to be underlined today ó in its proper spirit. He is the true knight of cricket.

Rudrangshu Mukherjee
Email This Page