Of a phenomenon called Sobers

Few epitomises the essence of West Indian cricket like Davis, who despite all the raw deals meted out to him — by fate and the West Indies selectors — still shares a laugh, and treats life jovially.

Remind him about the days when he played for the great West Indies side during 1968 to ’74, Davies bursts into a big laughter. “Touring with the West Indies team was a psychological experience. There were men totally illiterate, men who had masters degree, and this fella had five O-Levels but never made a decision in his life,” Davis says with a twinkle in his eyes.

As someone who played alongside legendary names like Gary Sobers, Conrad Hunte and Rohan Kanhai, Davis is a treasure trove of stories, and no one touched his heart like Sobers.

The 67-year-old Davis utters the name like a sacred hymn. “The problem with Gary was that he was too modest. He didn’t know how special he was. He expected us to bat like him and catch like him. He thought all of us were like him. He would come in and say, 'I will get a 150, Kanhai you give me a 100, Charlie you give me a 75'. No self-doubt.”
“Gary could catch a blur you know. He used to be close at leg-slip, at the back pocket of the batsmen. Once a batsman flicked hard off Lance, and Sobers just plucked his hand out and took it so easily. He is not normal. He is definitely not normal.”

There’s no dearth of stories when it comes to Sobers, and the narrating ability of Davis makes it all the more interesting. So, time for another Sobers story.

“In the 1969 tour of Australia, in a game at Perth against Western Australia, somebody hit Butch (Basil Butcher) in the chest with a short ball. It stirred Gary into action. He went from 29 to 132 in 30 minutes! A team-mate had never seen batting like this and asks me, ‘He bats like this all the time?’ He is Gary Sobers, you know. What he can do, we can’t even think of doing.”

Amidst another round of loud of laughter, Davis moves on to the story about Griffith, the fearsome fast bowler. “It was terrifying. I had scored a hundred in my first game in Guyana.

“So, before the Trinidad game, Griffith snarled, ‘Send him here. Let’s smash the wonder boy here!’ As I was batting, I remember thinking, ‘Who sent me here?! I should have played ping-pong! I would go back and across. I would keep out the yorker. I would nudge the balls to fine-leg. I made 50-odd. Griffith kept getting angry and he kept hitting me. It was fun.”

Davis, who scored four centuries and four half-centuries in his 15 Tests, also speaks highly of master off-spinner EAS Prasanna. “Once I was batting against Prasanna, and he was a very smart bowler. I went down the track and banged.

He flighted it up again and I went bang. The third time he tossed it up and I went down the track again. But…but where is the ball? It’s not there! It was the floater, the drifter he bowled. I just drive the bat straight and connected with it. Pras asked me, ‘How did you pick it?’ I said: ‘I couldn’t see the ball. So, I just made a guess.”

Suddenly, somebody reminded Davis that his Test average is 54.20. “I don’t know whether it would have remained the same if I played more than 15 Tests.” No bitterness, just that infectious, boyish laughter.

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