It is not generally known that Sir Garry Sobers has played cricket for Yorkshire. He did, in 1964, and he loved it. It is even less well-known that Garry would have liked nothing better than to play regularly for Yorkshire and that when first Lancashire, then Notts was trying to lure him from his club professional post in Staffordshire.
He delayed signing as long as possible in the hope that Yorkshire would break with their long tradition of ‘home-grown’ players and invite him to join them. During the summer of 1964, I had been talking to Gary about one thing and another, and I suggested that he play for Bermuda against us while we were on tour. He grinned and said ‘I’m not playing against you buggers out there on the matting wickets. But I’ll play for you.’
He did — and Sir Garry Sobers enjoyed it. I’m not sure that the ghost of Lord Hawke would enjoy it quite so much but it was not only a privilege to watch a great player like Garfield St Aubyn Sobers in action; it was a sheer delight to take part in a game of cricket which involved him. To dig up a tired old cliché, he was truly one of the great gentlemen of cricket.
We have been friends for many years and I have only known him to be really upset once — by the delaying tactics of Colin Cowdrey in the West Indies on the 1967-68 tour. The irony of this did not escape me. At the time I was in the West Indies as a newspaper- observer because, as you will remember, I had been sacked from the England captaincy for allegedly using delaying tactics in a game between Yorkshire and Warwickshire!
We started the tour in New York, moved on to Toronto and Vancouver, then down to Los Angeles where we played on the ground named after that epitome of the English gentleman on the silver screen, Sir C. Aubrey Smith. Then it was back to New York and finally to Bermuda, where Gary joined us. It wasn’t a pushover because the opposition all wanted to do well against us.
They had some useful players and the umpire looked their way once or twice so it was a good contest. But before the cricket started we had a rest day which most of us spent at the Breakers Beach Club. I was a bit weary. It had been a hard season; I had done most of the organizing of the tour myself and throughout I was determined that the team would uphold the good name and dignity of Yorkshire cricket, both on and off the field.