Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Any literature on all rounders always provides for a fascinating perusal.Be it a TV program or a book, the pleasure of finding out how the spirit and mind of an individual tirelessly earns to contribute in more than one way to the success of a cause or a team. If the article is a well written book by an admiring peer the joy is doubled indeed.
I am writing this precisely the very moment Ian Botham is praising Andrew Flintofffor his all round performance contributing to the phenomenal success that Englandhave achieved in the land of proteas. Cricket is a wonderful game, but a game that requires loads of stamina and persistence of concentration (again loads of it) to participate and participate successfully. Being an allrounder in cricket is all the more difficult. Imagine being a player who is expected to bat and score centuries, bowl and take bucketful of wickets, stand at close in positions and take amazing catches and to cap it all captain the side with astuteness. Do not think that I am referring to God almighty playing cricket. I am referring to the only true allrounder that ever was in cricketing legends. It is the legend of Gary Sobers. Added to this curious mixture of a master batsman , superb fielder and bowler par excellence is a heart that is surprisingly simple and incredibly large. It was a pleasure to get to know a great human who played thegame of cricket in its true gentlemanly spirit. For any budding cricketer this book "Sir Gary" isa must read. This delightfully candid book is authored by another cricketing legend Trevor Bailey, an allrounder himself.
Before reading this book, I had only heard interesting anecdotes of Gary from my father who followed the games that Windies played in his early times via the reliable old valve radio.He had told me once that once Sobers was sleeping in the dressing room and when his turn came, just went out blasted 95 runs in no time to come back to the dressing room to continue hissiesta from where he had left! I had doubted such tall tales, doubting them to be stories fabricatedby hardcore fans of the legend. After reading the book I was convinced about the amazing physicaland mental strength of the first jet setting cricketer who can blast any bowling attack, jet lagor no jet lag. The book dwells considerable portion on introducing us to "Sobers the human being".It tells us this fairy tale story of a young widow from a poor Barbados family who single handedly rised her sons to positions of affluence, the story of Thelma Sobers which is told as an interesting chapter.
Coming to the references to India and Indian players in this book, I was again surprised to know thatthe great Gary was briefly engaged to hindi film actress Anju Mahindu. Luckily for Gary that engagementdidn't fructify into a marriage. Trevor details candidly Gary's flirtatious nature prior to his marriageand also how he was an avid gambler. Another significant remark on India comes from Gary's assessment of bowlers whom he thought had him in more than a spot of bother. He mentions generously that Subash Gupte's leg spin was something that he found very difficult to play.
Now what are the ideal qualities that a legend like Gary expects from a batsman? He says "An ideal batsman is onewho is able to destroy bowling attacks without appearing to give away his wicket". Well, going by this yardstick,the only batsman in our Indian team who comes to my mind as I read these words from Gary was Sachin Tendulkar before his niggling injuries. Looking outside Indian team, I can think of only Mathew Hayden of 2003 and Justin Langer of 2004. One tends to think about the young Michael Clarke of australia and Andrew Strauss in line withGary's definition of perfect batsman, but it is too early to judge them. So my vote surely goes to Sachin Tendulkar!
The most interesting fact about Gary was that he could bowl left arm orthodox spin, left arm fast medium, and googlies and chinamen too. More awesome is the fact that he used to take international wickets consistentlywith all these types of bowling. So truly a player who cannot be kept out of the game!!! Go get this book if you dont have it already. Look out for the beautiful foreword by Richie Benaud!! On the whole a delightful book for a cricket lover!!


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