Mike Gatting and Ashley Giles November 7, 2006

What makes a great allrounder?

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Ashley Giles: Everyone should strive to be an allrounder © Getty Images

What do you think it takes to be the greatest allrounder?
AG I think it takes a great work ethic because you are covering more bases. You need to be putting in more hours of practice daily than anyone else. There's obviously more mental strain as well because you are highly involved in batting and bowling and generally if you're an allrounder, someone like Flintoff, you're a good fielder too. It's a big strain because there's a lot of pressure on you. You may be a master of all arts but that just puts more pressure on you because you need to be doing both things very well at the same time.

MG I would look at it the other way. I would say that, although there is a certain amount of pressure to perform with both bat and ball, people don't often do both together. As a batter I've only got one chance to do something whereas they've got two. They're not likely to get dropped either. Yes, you do have to work a lot harder but I think people are a lot less expectant of you. But you do have to be very mentally tough, and you have to be very strong body-wise as well, because you are doing lots. Beefy and Freddie spring to mind.

Should a great allrounder be limited to being a batsmen or a bowler, or should it include wicketkeepers and fielders, such as Adam Gilchrist and Jonty Rhodes?
AG Yes, definitely, I think Gilchrist should be included. The modern game is all about having more than one string to your bow, as Duncan Fletcher would say. That's been the way international cricket has moved on in the last ten years. Someone like Glichrist, who is one of the best batsmen in the world, is also keeping wicket for you. Alec Stewart was one of the ones who pioneered that front.

It takes a while to change people's thought patterns because the old way of thinking was: "Well, these are your batsmen and these are your bowlers and you have your wicketkeeper and you keep it simple." But we have won a lot of Test matches by scoring runs down the order. It's like this whole debate over Read and Jones. You have to be able to do more than just your discipline. I think, 20 years down the line, you could have five allrounders in a team. Utility players. I'm not saying that they're bits and pieces players. That is how the modern game's going. If you're a wicketkeeper you want to be Adam Gilchrist or Alan Knott - the best batsmen in the world as well.

MG I'm afraid I don't agree with that! I agree the modern game has changed but I honestly think there is still room for specialists for the simple reason that not everyone is capable of doing everything. Not everyone has the capability to be an allrounder. Look at Phil Tufnell, for example, however hard you try to make him bat or field he still wouldn't be very good. Look at Monty Panesar, Geoffrey Boycott - you'd never ever call him an allrounder because he worked so hard on his batting he never wanted to bowl in the nets. I still think there is room for guys who are not necessarily allrounders. It takes a special talent to be an allrounder - a genuine allrounder.

Ash is right, it is important that bowlers learn to hold an end up, particularly if there is a batter in. But I wouldn't suggest that all the kids are going to try to become allrounders. To become a specialist at something you have to spend an awful lot of time at it. It's only the gifted few who don't have to practise hard and actually do become great allrounders. I mean, look at Ian Botham. He didn't do a great deal of practice at anything. He was as gifted as anyone. Look at Garry Sobers. I'm not sure how much practice he did.

AG The point I was trying to make was that you're not trying to be genuine allrounders but everyone needs to become more rounded cricketers. Everyone needs to take an aspect of every part of the game. You look at Monty. He is fully aware that, as well as he bowls, he needs to work his arse off at his batting and fielding.

MG But it shouldn't be to the detriment of his bowling. What brought them to the team in the first place? They mustn't spend any less time doing what they were brought in to do.

AG With the introduction of central contracts the English team has moved on, the players are better looked after, they are paid better, they have more time to work on their games and on their fitness. And the rewards are there. If you're not prepared to put the hours in then someone else will. You look at someone like Matthew Hoggard, he spends hours in the nets batting. It doesn't mean he's going to become a world-class batter but he's certainly better than he was.



Mike Gatting: 'Beefy was the best I've seen' © Getty Images

Who is the best allrounder you have played against and seen play? And what made them so special?
MG Who was the best of the lot? They all say Garry Sobers but unfortunately, I didn't see enough of him. I can only say what I saw, and Beefy [Botham] was as good as I've seen. Freddie [Flintoff] has come very, very close. There is just the question of how fit he can stay before he takes on the mantle.

Imran Khan was another of the true great allrounders. Richard Hadlee was slightly different. Khan was a much better batsman but when helmets came in, Hadlee made himself into a better batter. Someone like Chris Cairns was a decent allrounder. He never quite made the most of his abilities and I'm not sure why. It's a bit strange because he hit the ball really well and bowled really well too. I just think his attitude, perhaps in the initial stage, was not as good as it might have been.

To be a great allrounder you need to have great discipline, although I can't quite understand how Beefy did so well! Sobers too, he used to enjoy a beer, or a rum, after a game. So times have changed. But they played hard and they worked hard. Kapil Dev was another great allrounder. A very destructive batsman. In that same mould with Imran and Beefy.

AG I saw most of the top allrounders when I was growing up. Botham was my childhood hero because he was awesome, and then there was Imran, Kapil and Hadlee. You haven't actually got as many in world cricket right now. Australia, the best side in the world over the last 15 years, has lacked one thing - a world-class batting/bowling allrounder, although Gilchrist has been awesome in his role.

For me, I've been lucky enough to play with Freddie who is awesome as well. You can only rate these guys against the best sides in the world and they have performed against them. For me to split the two generations is quite difficult. Botham's record was exceptional. He got 380-odd Test wickets and 5000 Test runs so Freddie has got a way to go and he might not get there with the strain on the guys these days. Maybe Beefy's jaunts away from the game helped him out and helped him to relax? I don't know, but he was an exceptional athlete as well. But I don't think we're going to see guys these days, particularly allrounders like Freddie, play as long as Botham did.

Who should we be watching out for?
AG Well, if Freddie plays he'll dominate for the next few years. There's a constant search for the next great allrounder, as there was for the past 20 years before Freddie. There's no-one really at Warwickshire in that bracket. Freddie is a shooting star in that respect.

MG England's actually lucky to have got two over a space of 25 years. I mean, who's going to be the next New Zealand allrounder? Cairns hasn't quite lived up to Hadlee. Who's the next Pakistan allrounder? You've got Abdul Razzaq, who's nowhere near the same class as Imran. There is nobody really. Clive Rice would have been a great allrounder for South Africa. I suppose the nearest you've got now is Jacques Kallis, although Shaun Pollock's good as well.

AG In fact, it was a bit unfair not to mention Jacques before in our discussion about the greatest.

MG Yes, I forgot him myself. You think about Jacques as a hugely talented batsman but you forget that he bowls. He doesn't like bowling very much and that's why you forget he is an allrounder of great ability. If he wanted to bowl more you might have to put him in there but he's a bit reluctant. His batting is enormous. I suppose he's the mirror image of Richard Hadlee who was a wonderful bowler but his batting was not so good.

AG I'd be surprised if we don't see a great allrounder come out of the subcontinent soon, particularly with the amount of spin bowlers that they are producing. The kids there are all growing up wanting to be Muralitharan.

MG Well, you've got Dhoni and Akmal. Both keepers who bat, and bat pretty well - one-day hundreds and the like. That's where your allrounders are going to be. Because as things change, people are looking for wicketkeeper-batsmen. That's bloody hard work, but I think it is an area that is more likely to yield allrounders than spinners/batsmen or seamers/batsmen. You have to be a special person for that. A really special person to have the strength to be a batter and fast bowler.



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Who was the best you played against and why?
MG Imran didn't get as many runs as he should have done. Kapil probably didn't either. But I'd say Imran was a better bowler. I didn't play against Garry Sobers. Obviously I played against Beefy when he was at Somerset. I played with Jacques Kallis so I know what he can do with bat and ball - bloody hell! But I'd still have to say Beefy. I never played much with Freddie, in fact, I never actually batted against him.

AG I'm fortunate that I haven't had to play against Freddie too much since he came into his pomp. So it would have to be Cairns or Kallis, who dominated for their teams and were exceptional.

Who will win the Ashes?
MG I think it's going to be a drawn series. If we get our bowlers fit then we might nick it. We need all our bowlers fit.

AG 2-2. I don't think there will be many draws. Not with the way the two sides play. You might get a bit of rain somewhere. You only have to look at the series last year. Everything happened at 1000mph. That way, we would even get a few days off as well!

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