MUMBAI: The cricket world may be going ga ga over Sachin Tendulkar but West Indian legend Gary Sobers rates Sunil Gavaskar as the greatest batsman he has ever seen, simply because of his stupendous success against the fearsome Caribbean pacers of the 1970s.
"It's my approach, my view that Sunny Gavaskar is the greatest batsman I have come across. He has opened the innings against genuine fast bowlers like Michael Holding, (Andy) Robers, (Colin) Croft and (Joel) Garner. He has made more runs away from India - in the West Indies, Australia and England," Sobers told a media conference on Wednesday.
Gavaskar had a fairytale 1971 debut in the Caribbeans where he amassed 774 runs at 154.80 in the series, which made him the subject of a Calypso song.
"This is not to belittle players like Vivian (Richards) Brian (Lara) or Sachin (Tendulkar). When you talk of Sachin he has done all that was expected of him," said the 73-year-old Barbadian who is widely considered as the greatest ever all rounder the game has seen.
Sobers, who is in Mumbai as the chief guest at a function to honour the epoch-making 1971 team under Ajit Wadekar as the feat enters its 40th year, felt it was wrong to compare players of different eras who have played under conditions that vastly differed.
"People try to compare between the players of the past and the present, but the conditions under which the (Donald) Bradmans and the (Dennis) Comptons played were different," said Sobers.
The left-handed great said there were no restrictions on the number of bouncers per over, beamers were not outlawed and bowlers delivered from two yards closer by dragging their feet as the back-foot no-ball rule was in operation.
"The field was set by the players and not by rules. Also around 72 overs were bowled during a day because of which the batsmen did not have as many opportunities as they have today to score runs. There were no helmets and arm guards and the wickets were uncovered," explained the former West Indies captain.
The West Indian legend, who was the opposing captain when India created history by winning a Test rubber for the first time in 1971 in the Caribbean, also lavished praise on India's swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag.
"Your opener (Sehwag), I will go to watch him play. He's captured the imagination of the world," said Sobers in praise of the Delhi dasher.
Sobers, who made 8,032 runs with 26 hundreds at a shade under 58 per innings and grabbed 235 wickets in 93 Tests, urged the cricket authorities to exercise caution while promoting the immensely popular Twenty20 form of the game.
"Twenty20 game is good entertainment and people will go for it but you have to be careful how far you let it go. It does not breed Test cricketers," said the cricketing great in the presence of Wadekar who shared the dais.
Sobers was also concerned about the easy money on offer in cricket and felt some of the cricketers just didn't deserve it.
"There's a lot of lump-sum given to the players. Some of them deserve it but others don't. I don't know the reason and I don't want to comment on it," he said.
Sobers also supported the changes in the rules of the game that he felt has sped up the game and produced more results in Tests as compared to dreary draws during his time.