By Tony Deyal
The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) boasts that it is “the Caribbean region’s leading multimedia organisation dedicated to excellence in communication services” and “its developmental mission is to work with media houses in the region to highlight the best skills in journalism…” But when I saw the headline by the CMC on March 17, 2022, “Roach eclipses Sir Garry…” all I could think was that if this is an example of CMC’s dedication to excellence and an example of the “best skills in journalism” they should haul their content into deep space.
The Oxford Dictionary has two meanings or applications for the word “eclipse”. The first defines “eclipse” as “an occasion when the moon passes between the earth and the sun so that you can see all or part of the sun for a time.” While Sir Garry Sobers is a gifted son of Barbados and its brightest star in cricket, he is not hemispheric. He is down-to-earth and is famous as a cricketer. Don Bradman, the greatest batsman of all time, called Sobers a “five in one cricketer” since he excelled in all cricketing skills with wicket-keeping being the only exception.
So, let’s go to the relevant meaning of “eclipse” in the context of Roach “eclipsing” Sir Garry. The Oxford Dictionary defines this as “a loss of importance, power, etc. especially because somebody/something else has become more important, powerful, etc.” In other words, by using “eclipse” the CMC is saying that Roach has become more important and powerful than Sir Garry. In fact, Oxford’s “Lexico” defines “the eclipse of his rival” with words like “outshining”, “overshadowing”, “outclassing”, “outstripping”, “dwarfing” and even “shaming”. The Cambridge dictionary described that kind of “eclipse” as “To make another person or thing seem much less important, good or famous.”
Fortunately, neither of my two Bajan children and millions of cricket fans throughout the world will ever believe that Roach can “eclipse” Sobers, or that there is any cricketer who can do so. In that sense, nobody can hurt Sir Garry, his reputation and the respect that he has earned for his prowess and personality. The stupidity is more a reflection on the CMC and the person who wrote the article than on Sir Garry.
While Kemar Roach celebrated his “eclipsing” of Sobers with, “It’s good to be among the greats. To write my name on the wall above Sir Garry when it comes to wickets is a fantastic achievement, so I’m happy for that”, Sir Garry looks at success differently. His view is, “The game is always going to be bigger than the man and it doesn’t matter what you are doing; records or whatever, somebody is just going to come along and break your records. But to achieve something that people would always look up to is something you will always appreciate.” He added, “Records must not be the focus and that’s the most important thing. It mustn’t come at the cost of the team.” Roach is not in the world’s top ten bowlers but Courtney Walsh is.
Sobers is humble about all he has done in, and for, cricket and does not get involved in arguments about whether he is the best or, as some people believe, Jacques Kallis of South Africa “eclipses” him and is the greatest all-rounder of all time. In terms of the “stats” Sir Garry played 93 matches, made 8,032 runs and had a batting average of 57.78, scoring 26 centuries (100s). As a bowler he got 235 wickets with a bowling average of 34.03. Kallis played 166 matches, making 13,289 runs and had a 55.37 batting average, scoring forty-five 100s. As a bowler, he got 292 wickets at a 32.65 bowling average. However, when we West Indians claim that Sir. Garry is the best all-rounder ever, we are not alone.
In an article by Jon Anderson from the Herald Sun, the headline is “Jacques Kallis doesn’t rate despite having the best all-rounder’s stats” and is followed by, “Yet ask cricketers, past and present, where Kallis sits on the list of great all-rounders and you won’t find the 33-year -old (Kallis) in the top 10.” One reason is that Kallis never made a double hundred. Another is a comment by Keith Stackpole, former Australian opening-batsman, “If you watch Kallis bat you are left with the feeling he bats for his average. And you ask yourself, ‘Would I have wanted to play with him?’. The answer is no because he plays for himself.”
Sir Garry’s approach was always different and he put the team before himself, “If you take five wickets, someone has to take the catches. If you score a hundred, someone has to be there with you. You haven’t done it individually. Some contributions may be small, but they are still tangible. You have to look at it from a team point of view. When you start looking at it as an individual, then you have no team.”
A major point about why Kallis is not at the level of Sobers was made by Rodney Hogg, former Australian fast bowler, “Sobers has to be rated on top… Kallis is a flat-track bully, who dishes it out to the minnows like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but goes missing against the Australians. Sobers played more than half of his Tests against England and Australia, whereas Kallis has picked up around 1,000 runs and 40 wickets against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. They shouldn’t count.”
Six years ago, on July 2016, when Sir Garry celebrated his 80th Birthday, several of his colleagues sent their comments and best wishes. Everton Weeks, who knew Sir Garry as a 12-year-old said, “We never had to teach him anything. He taught himself.” Ian Chappel, former Australian captain, told the story of Sir Garry and Geoff Boycott, “They were playing in England and Geoff Boycott came to him one day and said, ‘Garry, you seem to get me out lbw a lot. I don’t understand it.’ Garry was quite good psychologically as well.
He said to Boycott, ‘Unlike a lot of people, Geoffrey, I don’t think your technique is that good.’ That would have cut Boycott to the quick because he prided himself on his technique. ‘Your front foot is too far across. You can’t get your bat around your pad and my inswinger gets you lbw. That’s what is happening.’ They go out on the field the next day. Boycott is batting. Sobers runs up, bowls the first ball, angles it across, Boycott edges, gets caught at slip. As he is walking off, Sobey says to him, ‘Geoffrey, you didn’t ask me about the other one’.”
The story that I like best is also from Chappel, “Mosman, the club in Sydney, was looking for a coach and the president had dinner with him and said, ‘Garry, we would love to have you as a coach, but you haven’t got the qualifications.’ Garry said to him: ‘What did you think I got my knighthood for?’”
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that there is a third “Eclipse” in Barbados. It is such a strong rum that it might not have been the moon or even Sir Garry in Eclipse but the CMC and its staff.