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Television killing cricketers, says Sir Gary

June 08, 2007 15:10 IST

Television, more than any other factor, has contributed to the declining interest in cricket, believes Sir Garfield Sobers.

While his words were in context of West Indies cricket, it is as applicable anywhere around the cricketing world.

"Baseball, we know nothing about baseball," the legendary all-rounder tells Brian Viner of The Independent, London. "Soccer, yes. Over the last 15 years lots of soccer players have come to play in England. If someone said to me that soccer is the reason for West Indian cricket falling so low I might think about it. But the real problem, ladies and gentlemen, and it is a problem for sport around the world, is television."

Sir Gary believes the idiot box has bred a generation of youngsters who need to be spoon-fed everything, a generation that has lost its get-up-and-go.

"When they got home from school they would not go outside and play, they would sit in front of a video," Sir Gary tells The Independent. "That's your real culprit. Kids do not organize games of cricket by themselves, playing outside morning, noon and night. Today, if it is not organized, nobody leaves home. They wait for you to pick them up, take them to the ground, give them the best cricket attire. The natural flow of the game has gone."

In a wide-ranging interview, the legend is at his best when he disses contemporary cricket, especially its batsmen pampered by rules, designer wickets, shortened boundaries and improved equipment.

Typically, the man who held the record for most runs in a Test innings believes today's conditions would have suited the greats of yesteryear right down to the ground.

"I would not enjoy playing in England now; it's like everywhere else. And they don't have wet wickets any more. Or a back-foot rule. Now they have a front-foot rule. You can only bowl so many bouncers an over, only have two men behind square. The bowlers are the ones who've suffered," the West Indies great says.

"I don't like making comparisons between players of different eras, but if Bradman played today he'd be far better. Today, people are bowling from 22 yards. In those days they bowled from 20 yards with four leg slips, six bouncers an over, beamers were not called no-balls, on wet wickets. And when you lost time you didn't make it up. Now they make it up, so batsmen have more chance of making runs."

The cricketing legend is at his best, though, when it comes to personal anecdotes. Savor this one, from Viner's piece:

He also told some beguiling stories, in particular one about his last Test match at Lord's, in 1973. Sobers was 31 not out at the end of the first day's play. Clive Lloyd then asked him if he fancied going for a curry at the home of some Guyanese friends. He went, had a good time, and then progressed to the Q Club, a London nightclub owned by Jamaicans, where he met a pretty girl he'd already encountered in Birmingham, and danced with her until 4.30am. She then gave him the slip, so he went with another West Indian friend to Clarendon Court near Lord's, for "a reminisce".

"We drank until about 9 o'clock, then I got a cold shower, walked up to Lord's, got my pads on and walked out as the umpires called play. I took guard, but all I could see as Bob Willis ran up was arms and legs. The first five balls I missed, and I could hear Rohan Kanhai and everyone else up in the pavilion laughing.

"Anyhow, the sixth ball hit the bat, and I got to about 70, but then my stomach started giving me problems. I got my hundred, then walked over to [umpire] Charlie Elliott. I said, 'Charlie, I have to go'. He said, 'Go, what for? I haven't seen you get any injury.' I said, 'Charlie, I've held this in for 50 minutes, I can't hold it any longer. Put down whatever you like. I gone...'"

He retired on 150 not out, and in the pavilion settled his stomach with glasses of port and brandy.

They just don't make them like this anymore.