- Gavaskar said all he meant to do was give an honest opinion when the question was asked of him.
- Warne, since making his debut in 1992, played 145 Tests for Australia, picking up 708 wickets.
- Another spin legend, Muralitharan (800) finished with more wickets than Warne (708).
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar on Monday expressed regret for refusing to call the late Shane Warne the greatest of all time while discussing his legacy, saying it was not the right time for the comparisons he made.
"In hindsight, that question should not have been asked and I should not have answered as it was not the right time for any comparison or evaluation," Gavaskar posted on Instagram reacting to criticism of his statement.
"Warne was one of the greatest players to ever grace the game. Rodney Marsh was also one of the best wicketkeepers. May their souls rest in peace," he added.
Gavaskar said all he meant to do was give an honest opinion when the question was asked of him.
"On TV, I was asked by an anchor whether Warne was the greatest spinner and I gave my honest opinion," he said.
Gavaskar had earlier said that while Warne sent down "magic deliveries" and mastered a difficult craft during his career, he wasn't the greatest spinner of all time as his performance in India was "pretty ordinary", a view that was criticised as ill-timed in some sections of the media Down Under.
Warne, since making his debut in 1992, played 145 Tests for Australia, picking up 708 wickets with his leg-spin. In his 194 ODI appearances, he snared 293 scalps.
But when Gavaskar was asked if the Australian was the greatest spinner he has seen, the former India captain said he rated India's spinners and former Sri Lanka bowler Muttiah Muralitharan higher than Warne.
"No, I wouldn't say that no. For me, the Indian spinners and Muttiah Muralitharan were certainly better than Shane Warne," Gavaskar said on 'India Today'.
"Because look at Shane Warne's record against India. It was pretty ordinary. In India, he got five wickets only once in Nagpur, and that too because Zaheer Khan swung wildly against him to give him a fifer.
Warne, 52, died of a heart attack on Friday in Koh Samui, Thailand, sending shockwaves around the cricketing world.
"Because he did not have much success against Indian players who were very good players of spin, I don't think I would call him the greatest," Gavaskar said.
"Muttiah Muralitharan with a greater success he had against India, I would rank him over Warne in my book," he added.
Another spin legend, Muralitharan (800) finished with more wickets than Warne (708).
Gavaskar's criticism of Warne's record in India led to some sharp reactions Down Under, forcing the bating maestro come out with an explanation.
Gavaskar's ill-timed comments on Warne was ridiculed by the Australian media. "Honestly... It's not the time: Indian legend slammed for 'shameful' Warne claim," read the headline of 'Fox News'.
"Gavaskar's call was more head-scratching as it came after he admitted Warne's leg-spin was the toughest art to master as a bowler," said a news.com-au in its report.
The report also carried a tweet of British journalist Jack Mendal, who said, "Honestly, Sunny, it's not the time ... could have just sidestepped it. The body isn't even cold yet."
The 72-year-old Gavaskar was also lavish in his praise for Warne and acknowledged that he perfected a difficult craft and worked up magic on the field.
"He mastered a craft which is so difficult to master, which is wrist spin. To pick 700-plus wickets like he did in Test cricket plus hundreds more in one-day cricket just tells you how good a bowler he was," Gavaskar said.
"Finger spin is a lot easier, you have a lot more control over what you want to bowl, but leg-spin or wrist spin is very, very tough.
"For him to have bowled the way he did, the way he seemed to create magic, the way he seemed to be able to deliver magic deliveries at will was the reason why he was revered all over the world," he added.
(Reported by PTI)