England v West Indies, 2nd npower Test, Durham May 13, 2009

Richards and Sobers defend primacy of Test cricket

Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richards have defended the primacy of Test cricket in the wake of the withering critique launched by Chris Gayle. Richards said Gayle's comments regarding the death of Test cricket were tantamount to a "total betrayal of the game that raised him" and hoped they were not reflective of the West Indian captain's true feelings.

In an interview with The Guardian on Wednesday, Gayle suggested he would not be saddened if Test cricket were to perish at the hands of the Twenty20 format. The West Indian skipper softened his stance slightly in a pre-Test press conference at Chester-le-Street, suggesting his comments were made in reference to his own Test career, which he said was nearing an end.

Richards, though, was not convinced Gayle's statements were truly indicative of his feelings towards Test cricket "based on what he has said before." Still, the former West Indian captain was critical of his latter-day counterpart's statements on the eve of the second Test against England.

"I think individuals should be a little careful with some of the things they say," Richards told Cricinfo. "I believe Chris still loves Test match cricket, and maybe he wouldn't have made these comments if he had been thinking clearly. I honestly feel that this is not what he genuinely believes, and if it is, it is a total betrayal of the game that raised him.

"Everyone has their opinion and Chris has expressed his. I believe that Test cricket is the pinnacle. He must remember that he made the West Indies team not because he was a good Twenty20 player, but because of his ability as a Test cricketer. He seems to have forgotten that the one-day games came out of Test cricket, and it was Test cricket which brought him to the world's attention."

Sobers, perhaps the greatest allrounder the game has known, said he could not relate to the cash-versus-country considerations faced by many of cricket's modern elite, but hoped Test cricket would remain the game's most revered format in the years to come.

"As far as I am concerned, Test cricket is number one," Sobers told Cricinfo. "I have not been in this position. If I was in that situation, I would try to combine both forms of the game of cricket. And if I could not do that, then I would feel that Test cricket would remain the top priority. It would not be an easy decision to make. But I was never in a position like Chris Gayle where I had to choose between something like the IPL and international cricket. I suppose he will make the decision he feels is best for him."

Richards, meanwhile, reiterated the concerns of Clive Lloyd, the former West Indian captain and current chairman of the ICC's cricket committee, regarding Gayle's decision to extend his stint in the IPL and arrive in England just two days before the Lord's Test.

"Chris coming over two days before the Test was obviously his choice, but I was a little bit worried by it," he said. "You need more preparation time than that. That is a long flight and you need time to acclimatise and prepare. It's pretty tough to go all that way and expect to be OK to play straight away."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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