After cricketers went under the hammer for the first time in February 2008, a cricket aficionado wondered how much someone like Sir Garfield Sobers, arguably the greatest ever cricketer, would have fetched, had he been auctioned.
Those who felt the legendary Caribbean all-rounder must be ruing being born in an era when cricket was a passion rather than a profession were in for a shock on Wednesday.
Calling Twenty20 ‘good entertainment’, Sobers questioned the basis of the practice of paying appearance money to players. “Twenty20 is good entertainment. It is good that people will go and watch it but you have to be very careful as to how far you let it go,” said Sobers.
“If played in the right spirit, like the Stanford T20, where the players were playing to win and there was a purse to win. Nobody was given lots of money to just play.”
“It seemed to work a lot better because, if you didn’t win you didn’t get anything,” said Sobers, who was in Mumbai to felicitate Ajit Wadekar’s warriors for their series win in the West Indies in 1971, said. “Today it is different. There are obviously reasons that players are given huge sums of money to play Twenty20. Some of them deserve it; you can’t say they all do.
“I look at it as pure entertainment. I don’t think that it will breed Test players. It certainly might help in terms of fielding, running between the wickets, even playing shots. There are some players who were very defensive and had to come to Twenty20 to learn how to hit the ball.”
With the debate over the greatest ever batsman having reached its peak after Sachin Tendulkar’s 200 in an ODI last week, Sobers reiterated Sunil Gavaskar was his pick.
“Of course it is very difficult to compare players across different eras. For me, Sunil Gavaskar is the greatest batsman because he scored heavily in an era of uncovered pitches and the backfoot no-ball rule,” explained Sobers. “He came good against the most fierce bowling attacks and he scored heavily against the West Indies in West Indies, against England in England and against Australia in Australia.”
“Besides, since he was an opener, he was facing the heat of the pace bowlers every time he walked out to bat. I do not want to belittle the achievements of Tendulkar, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. Tendulkar has been the best batsman of his era without doubt. He has achieved everything that a batsman is expected to.”
Sobers will felicitate the 1971 touring party, including widows of five deceased members, in a function to be held at Nehru Centre on Thursday.
The event, conceived and scripted by Dwaraknath Sanzgiri, is expected to be attended by the giants of yesteryears and today’s, including Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Z. Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Bapu Nadkarni and Chandu Borde.