Worrell’s belated appointment as captain in 1960 marks then the start of the “revolution”; and Sobers’s succession to the leadership seems to consolidate it for, as C. L. R. James has written, he is “the first unambiguously native West Indian who has arrived at the exalted position.” He is the most complete of cricketers; he is the most professional of cricketers. Sobers is in the long tradition of underprivileged West Indians who raised their own social status by conspicuous excellence at cricket. Therefore, it is particularly fitting that he should be available both to help in the consolidation and extension of the local limited revolution and to carry its exciting doctrines outside the West Indies. Sobers has neither inherited nor acquired any of the high-status social and economic advantages – no rich father, no high colour, no good school, no university degree. His total assets have been his ability at games, particularly at cricket, and his determination to rise to the top of this game. He has set himself over the last ten years to master most departments of the game. Starting his international career in 1954 as an orthodox slow left-arm bowler who could also bat, he developed his batting until he became the world’s leading batsman by 1960. In the meantime, he decided to experiment with ‘chinamen’ and googlies, and later on he developed his talents as a medium-fast swing bowler. Today his mastery of all these arts is plain to see: a compelling batsman, a successful and dangerous swing and seam bowler, a deceptive spinner, a magnificent slip fieldsman who is peerless at leg-slip. He has played cricket for a living and for pleasure in most parts of the world; from the time of his early successes in the Barbados Cricket League when he was only fourteen to his records in the Australia Sheffield Shield in 1963 and 1964 to his captaincy of the West Indies cricket team, cricket has been his life.
But he is no mere journey-man, no jack of all trades. He is no Barrington of dull utllitarian competence; he is both a professional and a genius. When he moves in the field or onto the field, the whole game sits up and take notice: the master has arrived and, particularly when he is batting, every moment becomes charged with expectancy. He possesses, as Neville Cardus has discovered, “a rare store of genius” which has perhaps been most fully displayed since he has become captain of the West Indies team. E. w. Swanton caught a glimpse of that genius during the recent Test match at Bourda. Ile writes in The Cricketer: “One’s abiding memory of this game will be of Sobers – batting with an almost arrogant freedom, bowling fast, bowling Chinamen, bowling orthodox slow, picking up slick catches near the bat, giving his side in the field a general example that they vied with one another in following, directing the whole effort, and all the time looking every inch what he is, the most marvellous natural cricketer in the world”. One can only add to this that his considerable technical skills, his flair for the whole game and his ability to take and hold command make him better equipped· and qualified than any other cricketer to keep West Indian cricket supreme and to throw down the challenge (in the title and content of his recent book) Cricket Advance! The only regret is a selfish one. The art of batting has lost a rare adornment if Sobers has decided, as he seems to have decided, to call himself an all-rounder and bat at number six.
Perhaps such a decision means that Sobers becomes more valuable to the team; but we will all miss the aesthetic thrill of his easy arrogant dominance of the bowlers.