Sir Garfield Sobers rates Twenty20 cricket as pure entertainment, is a fan of Virender Sehwag's batting and rates Sunil Gavaskar as the best batsman of his time.

The former West Indies captain spoke at the announcement of a felicitation function by Universal Sports & Arts Foundation for India's 1971 squad captained by Ajit Wadekar.

Bapu Nadkarni and Chandu Borde will also be felicitated on Thursday, apart from Sobers.

Wadekar, expressing his views on India in Test cricket, rated the current squad as a balanced one. Referring to the 1971 tour by his team to the West Indies, the ex-India skipper pointed out that runs scored by Dilip Sardesai (212 in first innings) in the first Test (Kingston) as the turning point.

Psychological victory

“We enforced the follow-on. It was a psychological victory for us. The team went on getting better from there (India won the second Test at Trinidad by seven wickets).”

The West Indies legend, arguably the best natural all-round talent the game has seen, was asked about the effect of T20 on cricket.

“T20 is good entertainment. It is a game you need. People go to watch it. You have to be careful how far you let it go,” said Sobers.

He credited T20 to helping enhance cricket skills. “T20 helps a lot in improving fielding, running between wickets and also teaches defensive batsmen how to go for shots.”

Sobers could not recall Sehwag's name, but relished the memory of watching the destructive Indian opener at the crease.

“His batting is delightful for us. The way he goes about his work at the crease is impressive,” said the West Indies cricket icon.

Gavaskar remains the best. “He made runs away from home, against us facing a fast bowling quartet used to bowling out sides in three days. He made runs in England, made runs in Australia.”

No comparisons

Asked to express his opinion on other cricket greats like Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, who have all impacted the game in different ways, Sobers said: “You can't make comparisons between the past and present. Conditions were different then. We played on uncovered wickets, six bouncers an over was okay, beamers were not no-balls, bowlers decided field placements and not rules like now.”

Sobers pointed out more challenges for batsmen then. “Teams sometimes bowled 72 overs in a day to slow down the scoring and batsmen did not wear protective gear like chest pads, arms guards. The backfoot rule was in force and bowlers sent down fast balls closer to the wicket than now.

Looking back at the Indian success on the 1971 tour of the West Indies, he mentioned team work by a young side as the main reason.

He said: “I was impressed by the way India played as a team. India came with a young squad and all players contributed to the team cause.

“Usually when you have outstanding individuals, the team does not always benefit. Sunny Gavaskar got runs against fast bowlers. I remember centuries by him in both innings (fifth Test at Trinidad).

“Bishan Bedi got wickets and spinners (E. Prasanna and S. Venkatraghavan) gave an excellent performance in the series. Gundappa Viswanath and Salim Durrani did well.”

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