Cricket October 23, 2011

What makes a good allrounder?

From Alan and Philip Sutherland, Australia

From Alan and Philip Sutherland, Australia

The recent Test series between Sri Lanka and Australia has illustrated the important role of all-rounders in the game. Although Australia’s vice-captain Shane Watson failed with the bat, he took important wickets with his medium-pace. By contrast, Sri Lanka’s vice-captain, Angelo Mathews performed well with the bat, but was unfortunately unable to bowl due to injury. All-rounders (other than wicketkeepers) are expected to bowl.

So, who what are some of the indicators used to define an allrounder? A usual one is the figure of 1000 runs and 100 wickets. This, however, is a little vague as it includes a useful number No.8 (such as Shane Warne) whilst excluding the greatest leg-spinning batsman of all time, Aubrey Faulkner, who only represented South Africa 25 times in the early 20th century. Ideally, allrounders should take at least about one wicket per match. Australia’s Steve Waugh started his career bowling medium pace, but hardly bowled during the bulk of his career, thus not achieving this mark. Another Australian captain, Greg Chappell, finished with a similar record.

One who came very close was the great English batsman, Sir Walter Hammond. With 83 wickets in 85 matches and a glowing report on his wicket-taking ability from none other than his fellow knight, Sir Donald Bradman, Hammond should perhaps have bowled more often. Crucially, Hammond’s batting average is above his bowling average (over 20 runs above to be precise), which is another oft-used criterion for an allrounder status and one that his compatriot Andrew Flintoff couldn’t quite achieve for his entire career.

Sir Richard Hadlee is a prime example of one who could achieve such a feat. Although Hadlee was arguably not as good with the bat as Flintoff was to be later, New Zealand’s greatest player certainly never tired of taking wickets. Indeed, Hadlee took a tick over five wickets per Test.

The only allrounder to surpass this feat was South Africa’s Mike Procter, albeit in an official Test career of just seven matches. Few allrounders take more than three-and-a-half wickets per Test. Two who achieved this feat include Chris Cairns and Jack Gregory. Cairns’ father Lance was a fine swing bowler who often operated first change in the same New Zealand team as Hadlee. Lance swung the bat equally fiercely at No.8 or 9. However, his son, Chris, took his batting to a different level (averaging over 33) whilst remaining effective with the ball.

Like Chris Cairns, Jack Gregory’s abilities made him arguably the second-best non-keeping allrounder his country has ever produced. Long before the Waughs and the Chappells, the Gregory clan was synonymous with Australian cricket. Time, however, has seen Jack and his relations somewhat forgotten. After all, “Kangaroo Jack” Gregory played in the same team as the Chappell’s grandfather, Victor Richardson, who himself was something of an all-round sportsman and fielder if not a Test allrounder.

One whose fielding ability was never in question (nor his batting or bowling) was Sir Garfield Sobers. Many would rate Sobers as the greatest allrounder (indeed, the greatest cricketer) to ever play the game. With two-and-a-half-wickets per match and a batting average over twenty runs higher than his bowling average, it is easy to agree.

However, there is one other allrounder who deserves such lofty consideration – Imran Khan. Not only a great bowler and a fine batsman (achieving the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in just 30 matches), Imran’s captaincy record for Pakistan is also noteworthy. Needless to say, Sri Lanka have obviously earmarked Mathews as a future captain. Equally, they need him fit to bowl more, thus enabling greater flexibility in picking two specialist spinners. It is probably unlikely that Mathews will ever achieve the status of a great allrounder. Yet, for the sake of the team, he must aim for a Hammond-like one wicket per match.

Given the two criteria of a higher batting than bowling average combined with an emphasis on wickets per match, there have been many who rate a mention. A top thirty could be: Imran Khan, Garry Sobers, Aub Faulkner, Mike Procter, Shaun Pollock, Richard Hadlee, Keith Miller, Jacques Kallis, Jack Gregory, Ian Botham, Chris Cairns, Trevor Goddard, Alan Davidson, Tony Greig, Giff Vivian, Colin McCool, Allan Steel, Frank Foster, Kapil Dev, Monty Noble, Roy Kilner, Charles Kelleway, Brian McMillan, Bob Cowper, Frank Worrell, Shane Watson, Wally Hammond, Stanley Jackson, Ed Barlow and Warwick Armstrong.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on November 19, 2011, 23:45 GMT

    As regards Shakib Al Hasan, only test matches were used for analysis. Also, this piece was written before the WI tour of Bangladesh. Had it been written afterwards, Shakib would have definitely been in the middle of the group, having scored quite a few test runs and having taken quite a few test wickets. We expect he will move further up with time for he is still young. His absence in no way indicated a lack of respect by the authors for his play or for the country he represents. Nor do we dislike Kallis, we listed him at eight. Had he bowled more he would have been higher, for it is true that he has concentrated on his brilliant batting for much of his career. It is worth noting too, that there are four other South Africans in the top twelve, as well as the SA-raised Grieg just outside. McMillan and Barlow are also considered. South African all-rounders have definitely been a force in the game and Kallis is one of the best.

  • testli5504537 on November 4, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    IN my point of view the best all rounder is not kallis not watson it is SHAKIB AL HASAN. Only the player performing very well in both odi n test matches by both bat n ball. Unfortunately he born in bangladesh. Suppose assume he play for england then the writer will write he was the best

  • testli5504537 on October 31, 2011, 11:28 GMT

    Kallis definitely deserves more credit than he is given... He is definitely the greatest SA cricketer ever and should be among the top 5 all rounders in the history of cricket

  • testli5504537 on October 31, 2011, 7:29 GMT

    Imran was surely the greatest by a mile. Sifting the stats a little more, he operated for 2/3 of his career at a batting average of 48.5 and a bowling average of just below 19.5 @ over 4.25 wickets/match. And we are not even talking of his captaincy.

  • testli5504537 on October 31, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    it is amazing that none of you mentioned shakib al hasan. i guess being the world's top odi allrounder for 2 years and then reclaiming it again from shane watson last week doesn't count for anything. did i mention he has also been in the top 10 test allrounder for the last 3 years. guess that doesn't count either. but go ahead and put in allrounders' (a dozen or so) name who hasn't done anything special for their country.

  • testli5504537 on October 31, 2011, 3:54 GMT

    If a reat like Kapil dev is ignored in the writers original list, I believe he should go to sleep. many allroundeds have come and gone, but the best 4 in the century are kapil, Imran, Botham & hadlee. PERIOD.

  • testli5504537 on October 31, 2011, 0:56 GMT

    @Sifter - very good analysis, although I think that there are too many degrees of "allrounder" to cut off a player because his batting average is below his bowling ave. That being said I think what you've done is a good rule of thumb. I don't think anyone would say Hammond is a better allrounder than Botham though (he did play on too long). On IT Figures there was agood graphical analysis on allrounders, that showed whether they batting or bowling dominated or whether they were equal in both disciplines. == == == IMO - the old 1,000 runs 100 wickets or multiples thereof is redundant due to the quantity of matches played. I think that a career analysis doesn't do much, it should be based on how many times a player performed allround deeds in a series, (5 Test series - 300 runs & 15 wickets say)??

  • testli5504537 on October 30, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    i would rather go with Jacque Kallis.. he is so underrated...look at his batting avg and wicket count.. much better than imran...

  • testli5504537 on October 30, 2011, 20:40 GMT

    I would have liked to see the names of Vinoo Mankad and Dattu Phadkar in the list.Phadkar was considered a good swing bowler and if memory serves me right he score a century against Australia

  • testli5504537 on October 30, 2011, 20:13 GMT

    Figures do not ever tell the whole story but consider the following - at the end of his career Sobers was #1 in runs scored in a career #1 in the highest individual score in an inning #2 in centuries scored #3 in catches taken by non wicketkeepers #7 in wickets taken in a career When you take his contributions with bat,ball and catches in individual tests there is no doubt he's the premier achiever among all the grea.t cricketers worthy of consideration

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