COLOMBO: West Indies great Garfield Sobers thinks the increasing player preference for lucrative Twenty20 leagues over conventional formats of the game has contributed to the decline of Caribbean cricket.
He said Wednesday that players need to strike a balance between money and national duty.
Sobers is visiting Sri Lanka to watch the second test between Sri Lanka and West Indies starting Thursday.
The series is being played for the Sobers-Tissera trophy, named in honor of the West Indies allrounder and Michael Tissera, a national captain in Sri Lanka's pre-test era.
He said that West Indies selectors now struggle to pick their best team due to the unavailability of players on T20 contacts.
A cricket world leader in the 1970s and 80s, West Indies is now No. 8 in the Test rankings.
“At present we have lost a lot of it because I suppose we got too lazy,” Sobers said.
“Apart from that, I think the Twenty20 is taking a toll. It seems to be more so on West Indies cricket than any other nation because we seem to be finding it more difficult to put good teams together.”
“England had limited those players from going to play in the IPL (Indian Premier League). If you look at the West Indies, a lot of players are there.”
Sobers, 79, played for the West Indies from 1954 to 1974. Considered the best ever allrounder to date, he played in 93 Test matches and scored 8,032 runs at an average of more than 57. Bowling left-arm seam and spin, he picked up 235 wickets.
Sobers said his unwavering commitment was always to the national team.
“My whole obligation was to the West Indies cricket. I have never made a run for me...records meant nothing, the team was always important,” he said, with emotion in his voice.
Sobers' 365 not out scored against Pakistan in 1958 stood for 36 years as the highest individual test score in an innings, until it was broken by fellow West Indian Brian Lara.
“I don't think we have that kind of a person today. And until we can get people who are willing to play for the West Indies in the right way, I think we are going to be struggling for a long time,” he warned.
“Other countries are going to come and surpass us.”