Sobers foretold Sri Lanka's future
Gary Sobers recalls the days he saw a group of
cricketers in the country and predicted their future that culminated in
a World Cup triumph:
Former West Indian cricket icon Sir Garfield St. Auburn Sobers pored
his heart out and brought back nostalgic memories of his visits to Sri
Lanka first as a player and then as a coach saying nearly everything he
saw and touched in the island materialised into something special.
Sir Garfield St. Auburn Sobers
Sobers is currently in Sri Lanka watching his team play in a Test
series in honour of him.
"It was a great pleasure to see Sri Lanka gaining Test status and I
was given the opportunity to coach. Coaching is a very important aspect
and how you approach it looking for players. When I came here and
started my sessions with the team, one thing I realized was that the
team was well coached. They had all the technical aspects of batting. I
didn't have to go deep into that. WAN Silva the previous coach had done
a magnificent job. I thought what was my job? Sri Lankans were
vulnerable against genuine fast bowling. There were plenty of them in
most countries at that time. I had to brainwash the Sri Lanka players
and tell them how to play fast bowling", said Sobers.
"I did not have a really tough job. I can remember Asantha de Mel was
as quick as any fast bowler at that time. Having him I had a flying
start at the 1983 World Cup. He was one of the quickest. In 1983 I said
that in ten years Sri Lanka will win the World Cup and they won it in
1996. I felt very proud about it because I saw the ability of the
players. Today they have produced some great players and have gone from
strength to strength", recalled Sobers.
But Sobers had a taste of Sri Lanka cricket even before he coached
the players when on two tours in 1961 and 1967 he played with the West
"During my visits even before Sri Lanka gained full Test status you
had some very good players. When I came as the coach (of the Sri Lanka
team) I was told about a particular player Arjuna Ranatunga whom
everybody was talking about. When I went to the ground and saw Arjuna
from the pavilion I thought here is a man with a tremendous amount of
talent. Apart from him there were the Wettimunys and many more. I am not
talking about Michael (Tissera) because he was the first one I saw when
I came here in 1967. Every member of the West Indies team was very
impressed watching him bat", said Sobers.
Asked what happened to West Indies cricket which is now no longer a
mighty and feared team, Sobers said: "Cricket was at such a low ebb that
players got absolutely nothing out of it. Playing in England in 1957 I
got five pounds for a month. In the Caribbean some players come from
very humble families, so you can't blame them. But I believe Test
cricket is the utmost.
"There is talent but they still need more time. They should be
handled in the right way and given the right ingredients. I am quite
sure that West Indian cricket will blossom again. But it will take a
little longer than Sri Lanka".
Sobers further said that the teams and the formidable pace attack
which the West Indians had in the 1970s and the 1980s with their strong
batting helped them to dominate for fifteen years.
Sobers said he welcomed the International Cricket Council's move to
play day-night Test cricket arguing it is the only way to bring back the
crowds to watch the traditional format of the game which is giving way
to T20 matches which he said was not his cup of tea.
"These days Test cricket is played to empty grounds. I believe night
Tests can be a good move to bring back the crowd. People who work in
particular cannot watch cricket and take their family with them. But
day-night Tests will make more people watch cricket. It should bring
back to the game what we have lost", said Sobers.