When Sobers ruled the roost

December 28, 2015
Errol Miller
1962: The Clarendon College cricket team gained their first hold in July on the Headley Cup trophy played for by country secondary schools. Sitting from left are: Henry Walters, Winston Taylor, Arcott Neita (Captain), Alworth Bennett and Erroll Miller. Standing from left are: Earl Foster, Richard Constable, Dunstan Anderson, Lorack Brown, Colin Wolfe, Norris Brooks, Fiztroy Gayle, Earl Richards and Anthony Pickersgill.

As Australia piles on the runs against the West Indies in the Test series 'down under', there are many cricket lovers in the Caribbean who remember when it was the regional side which piled up massive scores against all who came.

Prior to the start of the Australia series, an emotional Sir Garfield Sobers broke down as he bemoaned the state of the Caribbean game.

"It was such a pleasure and joy to be able to do what I did. I don't think we have that kind of person today. I don't think we have that kind of person in West Indies any more who is quite prepared to play and to give everything to their country," the West Indies cricket legend said in October.

Sobers became part of West Indies folklore when he smashed a then world record 365 not out against Pakistan during the third Test at Sabina Park on March 1, 1958.

FLOW Foundation chairman Errol K Miller remembers, as an 11-year-old boy sitting inside Sabina Park, the day Sobers made history.

It was a Saturday, but Miller was there as part of a group organised by his Clarendon College school sports master.

"The way I was about cricket those days, I was not going to miss the opportunity to see the likes of (Everton) Weekes, (Clyde) Walcott, and (Conrad) Hunte," he said.

"It was serendipity that the day we went was the day it happened."

Miller sat in the eastern stand, which, in those days, had mesh wires to contain the crowd.

"When play opened, Hunte was ahead of Sobers. When Hunte got run out, you know how Jamaicans are, some said Sobers got him out because he was ahead and Sobers wanted to break the record," he recalled.

"I remember Weekes played a sweet cameo for 39, while Sobers was going merrily on his way. Walcott came and, in typical fashion, just bludgeoned the bowlers for 88."

The atmosphere was electric. The stands were jam-packed with cricket-loving Jamaicans from all walks of life.

Some came with mountains of food as they prepared for a full day's sport.

Pakistani bowlers

"(I) was just taking in all the sights and sounds and all the people; the noise and cheering. The frequent sound of "dollar", as Jamaicans used to use that expression when a four was hit."

He added that though the Pakistani bowlers were being smashed to all parts of the park, the team continued to field with passion.

"One of the Pakistanis bowled 85 overs," he said.

That bowler was Fazal Mahmood, who took two for 247 off 85.2 overs as the Windies piled up 790 for three declared in their second innings.

"The economy rate was less than three. The fielding was top-class for the entire day, even though they were hunting leather for the entire day. That really impressed me, even though I was a little boy," said Miller.

He admits that at the time, he had no clue of the Test batting record and it was while sitting among the crowd that he started to grasp that something important was about to happen.

"I just went because I wanted to see international cricket, but, as I settled down and heard people starting to talk, you got the significance of what was happening," he said.

There was pandemonium when Sobers smashed the record run.

"When Sobers broke the record, a host of people descended on the field," said Miller.

He recalled talk of abandoning play.

"As a matter of fact, not only were they thinking of abandoning play for the day, but of abandoning the whole match.

"Fortunately, for him, it was not abandoned. The most emotional response of what was going around was that he probably would not have got the record," he said.

Miller, who was part of Clarendon College's 1962 and 1964 Headley Cup-winning team, said seeing Sobers'display helped fuel the fire of his love for cricket.

"I think that day sort of galvanised for me the passion I had for cricket at an early age."

While cricket, the most important sport in the Caribbean for decades, has, for many, since lost its shine, Miller has not forgotten the impact of the moment.

"I was there when it happened. I actually saw it. I didn't have to read it in the newspapers. Of all the cricket fans in the world, only a certain amount could be in Sabina Park, and I was one of them."

He added that seeing the "spineless surrender" of the current team was often heart-rending.

"I used to almost cry sometimes for West Indies when they lost. I was so passionate about it. Now, I just go online and see the score."

But he will never forget his place as part of history.

"I was there, and nobody can take that away from me," said Miller.

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