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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 Indies team.

"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.

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