Nottinghamshire’s cricketers received a very pleasant surprise at a ‘Welcome Meeting’ staged to greet the six first-class county sides that are currently enjoying the facilities in Barbados.
Fashionably late and totally unexpected, Sir Garfield Sobers arrived at the function in Limegrove at Holetown, near to the players’ accommodation.
A warm and spontaneous round of applause broke out as Sir Garfield, now 75, explained that his good friend Franklyn Stephenson – whose cricket academy Notts are using on this trip – had telephoned to see if he would be able to come and meet the county’s current players.
Sobers, considered to be the greatest all-rounder of them all, with 8,035 runs and 235 wickets in Test cricket, played for Nottinghamshire between 1968 and 1974.
Seen as one of the unfashionable clubs at the time, Sobers did much to change the image of his new county and recalled fondly some of the characters he shared a dressing room with. “We had some good cricketers there at that time. Mike Harris really should have played for England in 1971 when he scored nine centuries in the season and so should Barry Stead.”
Stead, a whole-hearted Yorkshireman who died in 1980, took 98 first-class wickets in 1972. “He gave everything that year, yet England continued to overlook him. We had good players like Basher Hassan and Mike Smedley – and then Derek Randall got into the team. I said after just one season that he would play Test cricket – and he did.”
Sir Garfield wished his old county side the very best of fortunes in the forthcoming knock-out competition, the Banks Barbados T20 Cup, as well as in the new domestic campaign back home. He then spent time chatting to director of cricket Mick Newell, captain Chris Read and his side.
Newell admitted that the visit had turned a good evening into a memorable one. “It was terrific of him to come and see the players and spend time with them,” said Newell. “He has been happy to have his photograph taken with them all and chat to them about their careers.”
England Twenty20 international Alex Hales admitted that Sir Garfield’s visit had meant a lot to the team. “It’s great to meet someone like that,” he said. “We all know what a fantastic cricketer he was and for him to come and wish us well has been a big thing for the lads.”