World Cricket Podcast May 15, 2012

The Sobers-Kallis debate resolved for the final time ever

Stats that prove who the world's best allrounder is. Also readers' questions answered
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Andy Zaltzman goes where no man has gone before to get stats that prove who the world's best allrounder is, while also finding time to answer other readers' questions.

Download the podcast here (mp3, 14.3MB, right-click to save).

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For those of you unable to stream or download the audio of the World Cricket Podcast, here is a link to a transcript of this month's show. However, it is supposed to be listened to, not read. So I would prefer that you listened to it. Or played it on your sound system during a party, to make your guests think there is a strange man wittering on about cricket in the corner. Or, at least, read it with either my voice or Richie Benaud's voice in your head. Thanks. AZ.

Hello Cricket fans, and welcome to the May 2012 edition of Andy Zaltzman's World Cricket Podcast.

I am Andy Zaltzman, and although I have few credentials as a cricketer, I can claim that I would have been WG Grace's nephew, if my dad had been born 100 years before he was and had hit it off with one of WG's four sisters. Although if that had happened, I would probably have been born in around 1860, and by now I would be a very cranky old man complaining that all my friends had died 80 years ago or more and that Twenty20 isn't real cricket, and going on about how WG's beard was obviously a fake and he hid a mouse in it that had psychic powers that could tell what ball a bowler was going to bowl at him and convey the information through coded squeaks.

In fact, if you look at old photos, you can see that, at drinks breaks, when other players were brought a glass of lime cordial or methylated spirits, depending on whether they were amateurs or professionals, WG would be brought some small cubes of cheddar, which he would ferret away in his fake beard for little Mookie The Magic Mouse to nibble upon in between overs.

I digress. On this month's podcast: I will exclusively reveal the result of the 1972 Ashes - it was 2-2. I will reveal who was responsible for the gruesome murder of England legend Wilfred Rhodes. It was old age. He was 95. Case closed. And I will tell you all about my own first game of cricket as a player for over two years, last Sunday. Cancelled. Waterlogged pitch.

****

Well, I appear to have covered everything I wanted to cover in this podcast. That's me done. Just time for a quick Question and Answer session, with the questions you submitted to my @ZaltzCricket twitter feed.

A couple of IPL-related questions first. The IPL is cricket's golden goose, and it's been honking about its business quite perkily of late, with a series of dramatic finishes, not to mention Danny Morrison's continued expansion of human understanding of what can come out of a person's mouth when you stick a microphone in front of it.

@diggoblick asks: "Was Shaun Tait's recent at-the-death bowling the worst such example in professional cricket?"

Well, I assume you're referring to Tait's bowling in the Rajasthan Royals' spectacular defeat to the Chennai Quite Super Kings in Jaipur last week, rather than their convincing win over the Pune Worriers on Sunday, in which Tait bowled the 17th and 19th overs at a combined cost of eight runs for one wicket, albeit with the game already more in the bag than a kleptomaniac glutton's tub of ice cream on the way out of the frozen food aisle in a supermarket. Whatever you think of Tait, to call 1 for 8 off two the worst example of death bowling in professional cricket would seem a little harsh on the lad.

However, his spell of 0 for 12 off one ball against Chennai was, certainly, less good. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that, when the other team needs 12 to win off two overs, being smashed for six then bowling a no-ball followed by flinging a wide to the boundary is, at best, tactically questionable.

In fact, being a rocket scientist would be of no help in that matter. You would probably have no interest in cricket, being focused quite rightly on the more pressing matter of how to fire dogs into space, or whatever it is they put in rockets these days. (Incidentally, did you know that when the Soviet Union fired Laika to cosmohound into space in 1957, they fired another rocket just beforehand with a stick in it?) (You learn something every day.)

However, in Tait's defence, the damage had been done by Pankaj Singh and Shane Watson conceding 35 in the previous two overs, enabling Chennai to turn a near-perfect demonstration of how not to chase 126 to win a T20 match - combine scoring bafflingly slowly with hitting the ball in the air straight to fielders and a sub-infantile run-out, and bingo, you suddenly need 12 an over off four overs ‒ into a near-perfect demonstration of how to score those 12 an over off four overs. And the best way to do that is by scoring 22 an over off 2.1 overs. Bingo. Sure, Tait supplied the final coup de incompetent grace, but Pankaj and Watson's death bowling provided the CPR to jot CSK back to life.

And it's nice to just see Tait bowl. Like several of his fast bowling contemporaries, he hasn't played enough cricket. And anyone that can wang it down at 150kph is worth watching. Particularly when he might go for 12 off one ball.

@glyncunningham asks: "'He bats like no-one else. Chris Gayle is cricketing porn.' Discuss."

Well, I imagine he makes the IPL's accountants quite excited, if that's what you mean. He is a majestic sight in full flow, a man who can hit a cricket ball as if trying to recreate the Big Bang. It's just a shame that full flow won't be seen in the Tests in England. Filling that flow would of course be much more difficult against the swinging ball on soggy pitches in May against one of the finest seam attacks England has ever fielded, but still. Cricket's calendar is a mess. The Tests are without Gayle, the IPL is without Pietersen, and both contests are poorer for it.

Please sort it out, whoever's running cricket. It would help if the IPL didn't keep expanding like Inzamam's tummy, but something has to be done. That golden goose might get stroppy, and might peck all the other geese to death. And then you're just left with one cocky, obstreperous golden goose laying shiny but inedible eggs.

Moving on…

@nintendo_jones asks: "Do you think the rise of R&B music in the Caribbean is directly responsible for the fall of West Indian cricket?"

Well, no. I think it has nothing to do with it. I admit I am a bit out of the loop on contemporary R&B, and it is always worth blaming music for something. A recent British government minister blamed hip hop music for gun crime. Which, in a way, was a bit like a 19th century politician blaming JMW Turner for stormy seas. There you go, not many cricket podcasts with a JMW Turner joke. You're welcome.

But let's hope the impending Test series between England and the once-great West Indies is competitive. West Indies have been roundly hammered on their last three tours here, and recent form suggests they are going to struggle again, particularly if Chanderpaul and Bravo keep having to rebuild at 25 for 3.

Recently, the West Indies top three have been not so much vulnerable as ceremonial, a vestige of cricket tradition where you feel obliged to have three batsmen coming in before your No. 4.

There have been shoots of recovery, but there have been more false dawns in West Indian cricket than there have been through the window of an insomniac who lives next to a lighthouse. They have now got half a decent side, if not yet a half-decent side, if that makes sense. But if their top order can somehow lay a couple of reasonable platforms, they might be able to build a station from which a train of success might chug. Although, my prediction is 3-0 to England, unless it rains.

@Yandisa asks: "When was the last time that England didn't have a South-African-born player in their starting 11?"

The answer, for Tests, is April 2004 in Antigua, and for ODIs, November 2003 in Dhaka, respectively the last Test and ODI before the South African-born but obviously English Andrew Strauss made his debuts in each format. Since then, one or more of Strauss, Pietersen (a bit less obviously English), Prior (who moved to England aged 11, and has an English daddy), and Trott (not the most English of Englishmen, but not the least either) have been in the side.

But remember: what happened last time England took the field with no South Africans in the team? Brian Lara smashed 400 and West Indies racked up 750 for 5. Since then, no batsman has scored a quadruple-century against England, and no team has scored 750 against them. Point proved. Admittedly, neither of those things had happened before, but point proved. Merely having South African-born players in England's team, even if none of them are bowlers, clearly inhibits opposition batsmen and stops them scoring all the quadruple-hundreds they used to score so regularly. That's good enough for me. Plus the fact that the ECB have recently tightened the qualification rules. That helps too.

But, overall, I don't know what all the fuss is about. Other teams have far more South African-born players in than England do. South Africa, for example. Besides, if it wasn't for the English arriving in South Africa in the first place, they wouldn't even play cricket. They would only play the sports the Dutch settlers took with them in the 17th century ‒ traditional Dutch pastimes such as Tulip Waggling, Windmill Whizzing, Clogball, portrait painting, and canal snouting. Technically, we should be allowed to pick any South African we want. Can we start with AB de Villiers, please?

The second half of England's summer, though, should be much closer. Which brings me neatly to this question:

@momobaig: "Alec Stewart claims Kallis is in same class as Sobers as an all-rounder. Therefore my question is: what recreational drugs is Alec Stewart on?"

Ohhhh, I tell you what this question needs. Captain Stat, the indefatigable Numerical Cricketing Superhero.

But he's pulled a hamstring, so you're going to have to put up with me instead.

Their Test career stats are eerily similar. Sobers scored just over 8000 runs at an average of 57.78; Kallis' currently has over 12000 at 56.78 (although if you take out matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, where Kallis has cashed in big, his average drops to 54.2) (that is still a useful average) (and even if you do that, he's still averaged 60+ against everyone else combined over more than a decade since 2001) (hasn't he done well?) (the answer to that question is, yes he has done well).

As bowlers, again they are well matched. Sobers took 235 wickets at 34, Kallis has scalped 276 at 32. However, Sobers' averaged 2.5 wickets per match compared to Kallis' 1.8, and taking out Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the South African's bowling average shuffles up to 35.

Still not much between them. How about in the field? Sobers averaged 1.17 catches per Test; Kallis' figure is… wait for it… 1.19.

In ODIs, Kallis has unquestionably has the edge. Sobers' 0 runs at an average of 0 in one ODI and one career wicket, compare unfavourably with Kallis' 11500 runs at 45 and 270 wickets at 31, but I think we can probably excuse Sobers for that, and assume that, if his parents had waited another 40 or so years before having their little baby Garfield, as Kallis' parents waited before bestowing baby Jacques upon the world, then Sobers would probably have averaged rather better than 0 in ODIs, and would as we speak have been on the gun-toting grandmother of all IPL contracts. And probably be unavailable for the forthcoming Test series in England.

So far, so close. We're going to need more evidence. Let's look at the peaks of these two great cricketers' careers. Both came into Test cricket young, Sobers as a 17-year-old spinner, and both took time to come into their own. Sobers hit his straps in the Pakistan early in 1958. And those straps stayed hit. Up to that point, the Barbados Beethoven had averaged 30 in 15 Tests. Over the next 13 years, until the end of the series against India early in 1971, Sobers played 67 Tests, and averaged 66. He was, comfortably, the greatest batsman in the world - five runs an innings ahead of his nearest challengers, Graeme Pollock and Ken Barrington, and almost 12 ahead of the fourth best of that timespan, the young early-peaking Australian whippersnapper Doug Walters.

Kallis exploded into life in the New Year's Test of 1999, before which he had also averaged just 30, in 22 Tests. The Cape Town Colossus scored 110, his third Test 100, and 88 not out against West Indies. In the 13 and a bit years since then, he has averaged 61, also top of international list for that time period, just ahead of Andy Flower and surprise package Darryl Cullinan (neither of whom played anywhere near as many Tests in that period), and six runs an innings ahead of his fellow modern legends Tendulkar, Ponting, Sangakkara, Lara and Inzamam.

So I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that both men have proved themselves to be handy operators at the top level of cricket. Both have been statistically pre-eminent in their eras. But Sobers has been more pre-eminent. Only six players averaged over 50 in that 1958-1971 period of Sobers' pomp (out of the 171 who played 10 or more Tests), compared with 22 in the Kallis 1999-now era (out of 339 players) - so, pro rata, twice as many Kallis contemporaries as Sobers simultaneites (is that a word?) (it is now) have averaged over 50. Sobers was more extraordinary, in an era less dominated by the bat.

Also, stats fans, whilst Sobers was averaging 66, the rest of the West Indies top six averaged 41; and the rest of the world's top six batsmen 37. Whilst Kallis has averaged 61, the rest of South Africa's top six has averaged 43, and the rest of the world's top six 38. So allowing for the slight vagaries of nightwatchmen piddling around with my stats, as a top-six batsman at his peak, Sobers was 61% better than his team mates and 79% better than all of his global contemporaries combined. Kallis has been 42% better than his team mates and 58% better than his collective contemporaries. Making Sobers around 40% more pre-eminent amongst his peers than Kallis has been amongst his. And making the last 90 minutes that I've spent working that out, amongst the most pointless of my life. And that, friends, is an extremely hotly contested title.

And all this before we have weighed into the equation the fact that Sobers was unfeasibly cool ‒ one of the most stylish sportsmen of all time, and a cricketer who made you get down on your knees and give thanks to any available god who happened to be listening for the invention of cricket. All of which, with respect to one of the greatest exponents of the game and arguably the finest all-round technician the game has ever seen, Kallis struggles to match.

So, in answer to your question, @MomoBaig, Alec Stewart is, as you would expect of Alec Stewart, on no form of recreational drug whatsoever. Kallis is in the same class as Sobers as an allrounder. The highest class. But Sobers is slightly higher up that class. A class in which there have not many pupils throughout cricket history.

A few more quick questions…

@magicdarts: "Which is uglier? The hell of war, or Graeme Smith playing an on drive?"

Close call. On balance, I probably go for the hell of war, but I've never actually seen it first-hand. Whereas I have seen Graeme Smith's on-drive first-hand, and required several weeks of counselling before I was prepared to accept there was still the possibility of beauty in the universe.

@post2sharath: "What do you think would happen to state of "Test Cricket" in next 15 years?"

I don't know. I don't want to think about it right now. I'm feeling a little delicate and emotional. Don't take my one true love away. In cricketing terms. In case my wife is listening. I'll address this question in more detail in a blog in a couple of weeks.

@osamaakram: "Doesn't Socialism appeal to you because of its promise of reduced labour hours? All the time for #heavenlytestcricket… aahhhh."

I think that is what was on Karl Marx's mind when he scribbled out Das Kapital in his 1860s London home - "how can I develop a system of economics that maximises my chances of nipping down to The Oval for a couple of hours?" I guess it also depends what kind of Socialism. The Stalin kind wouldn't have left many hours for Test cricket, once you'd taken out all the time you had to spend trudging around a Siberian prison camp, and dying. And personally, I'd back myself to make time for "heavenly Test cricket" whatever the prevailing economic model of government. As I think the last 30 years of my life would testify.

@alec_everlone: "Is bodyline acceptable in back-garden cricket with my two-year-old niece?"

Yes. A win's a win. Toughen the girl up. She'll thank you for it later in life. Although bodyline for a two-year-old basically works out as leg stump half-volleys, so I wouldn't recommend it from the point of view of your own bowling.

****

Thanks for all your questions, and I am deeply and eternally sorry if I did not have time to answer your one. But life is a cruel mistress, and we must rebound from such heartaches stronger and more determined. Chins up.

That's it for this edition of the World Cricket Podcast. Enjoy the closing stages of the IPL. To be honest, it's not my bag, but it is a bit more my bag than it was a few weeks ago. I don't mind it in itself, although it lacks much of what I truly love about cricket. It's just I don't want it to ruin everything. Which I think is a legitimate concern.

And enjoy the England-West Indies series. Although I fear the people who will enjoy it most are those who enjoy the sight of maroon helmets looking mournfully backwards towards an exultant slip cordon.

Bye bye. Thanks be to cricket. Amen.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ehsan on August 2, 2012, 5:01 GMT

    Ji Nahin! You are sadly mistaken Sir. Richards has hooekd bowlers like Jeff Thomson in front of his nose. I remember the 1986-87 series vs Pakistan. A 34 year old 'helmetless' Richards hooekd a then lethally quick Akram twice for sixes of consecutive balls.Speaking of 'Gilly' he has had his stumps uprooted twice in a test by Shoaib Akhtar again bowling at his top speed. Shane Bond disturbed his timber with pointed yorkers in the 2001 world series. Come to 2007 , even RP singh and Sreesanth have bowled him through the gates bowling at speeds above 145kmph. When you talk of comparison take the allround merit of a batsman before comparing him.Richards was a marauding butcher of fast bowling attacks. His one day average of 47 in the eighties , when cricket was much slower is testimony to the fact.Probably the guy who comes across as closer to Richards is Tendulkar in his prime. However even he was not as great a destroyer of fast bowlers as Richards was. Though Sachin played Wasim Akram really well throughout his career, another blot against Gilly's name , remember the 1999 world cup and the 2000 australia series . Gilchrist was bowled through the gates by Akram coming around the wicket.Richards can not be compared with any bastman I have seen after 1980.Although obviously there can be a debate on the merits and demerits of various bastmen in different conditions.

  • Noha on July 31, 2012, 20:48 GMT

    Ji Nahin! You are sadly mistaken Sir. Richards has hokeod bowlers like Jeff Thomson in front of his nose. I remember the 1986-87 series vs Pakistan. A 34 year old 'helmetless' Richards hokeod a then lethally quick Akram twice for sixes of consecutive balls.Speaking of 'Gilly' he has had his stumps uprooted twice in a test by Shoaib Akhtar again bowling at his top speed. Shane Bond disturbed his timber with pointed yorkers in the 2001 world series. Come to 2007 , even RP singh and Sreesanth have bowled him through the gates bowling at speeds above 145kmph. When you talk of comparison take the allround merit of a batsman before comparing him.Richards was a marauding butcher of fast bowling attacks. His one day average of 47 in the eighties , when cricket was much slower is testimony to the fact.Probably the guy who comes across as closer to Richards is Tendulkar in his prime. However even he was not as great a destroyer of fast bowlers as Richards was. Though Sachin played Wasim Akram really well throughout his career, another blot against Gilly's name , remember the 1999 world cup and the 2000 australia series . Gilchrist was bowled through the gates by Akram coming around the wicket.Richards can not be compared with any bastman I have seen after 1980.Although obviously there can be a debate on the merits and demerits of various bastmen in different conditions.

  • Blackie on July 11, 2012, 21:43 GMT

    Great article. And side splitingly funny too. i think its clear that Sobers was the better batsman and Kallis the better bowler.

  • Tyrel painczyk on June 1, 2012, 6:37 GMT

    Well written piece on Sobers vs Kallis however here is some food for thought,

    Dis Sobers have to deal with Flippers, Doosra's, Reverse swing, improved fielding and state of the art video analysis of players through his career.

    There were no bowlers who came close to the likes of Shayne Warne, Muri, Brett Lee, Akram and the likes!!

  • DJM on May 26, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    Podcast hit usual high spots. Sobers a Porsche 911, Kallis a Mercedes Diesel sedan. Nuff said.

  • B V Alphonse on May 16, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    Please do not compare any one with the great Gary Sobers.Sobers never played for statistics. Remember his 254 at Melbourne or his performance in the Rest of the World vs England in 1970. Most of the time he batted at No 6 for West Indies on uncovered pitches without protective gear!

    Remember what his contemporaries had to say about Sobers especially Hanif Mohammed of Pakistan - 'He was made by God to play cricket' . Yes, the pleasure Sobers gave to the spectators whether batting,bowling or fielding or even his majestic walk on the cricket field is incomparable. So let us leave him alone.

  • Zeeshan Mehdi on May 16, 2012, 0:45 GMT

    SORRY MR. USMAN.....I dont agree you that Shahid afridi is the best allrounder after sobers...No doubt, Sobers is the greatest allrounder of all time..But if anybody comes after him..then it will be only and only Jacques Kallis. For your kind information Sobers played 93 Test and scored 8032 runs with an batiing average of 57.78 and took 235 wickets. Where as Jacques Kallis played 151 test and scored 12,367 runs with a batting average of 57.02 and took 274 wickets. In test cricket kallis batting was almost equalivant of sobers but sober's bowling in test cricket was better than kallis..And if you talk about ODI, then sobers played only 1 ODI and scored no runs and took 1 wicket only..But on the other hand Jacques kallis played 319 ODI and scored 11,481 runs with a batting average of 45.55 and took 267 wickets as well which tells a lot about this great cricket....and shahid afridi is far behind from kallis,you can go thru afridi's record as well. For me he is just a blind hitter....

  • Highflyer_GP on May 16, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    If Sobers is praised for his batting average in a bowling era, then the converse must hold true. That would make Kallis' bowling average in a batting era better than Sobers', and therefore we must conclude that Sobers' was a below par bowler for his time. This is also evident by his poor strike rate.

    And let's not forget that most of the people here praising Sobers have never seen him play. You can't go with archival footage alone, so we're in no position to say whether Sobers' was more of a game changer than Kallis. Also, Kallis has the most Man of the Match awards in test history, which you don't get by not having an effect on a match.

    The best we can conclude is that Sobers was the best all rounder of his era, and Kallis the best of his.

  • Douglas Newsam on May 15, 2012, 23:58 GMT

    Good article, neatly summing up the two players capabilities, probably as well as can be done as they are from two different eras. I smile when I see one of the posters remark that Kallis is a fast bowler". What does he think Sir Garry was? Only a spinner? He bowled everything, fast, medium/swing, orthodox left arm and unorthodox left arm. You name it he could do it. I recognise and admire Jacques as the greatest all rounder in modern day cricket but Sir Garry remains the greatest all rounder there has ever been.

  • John Duchaussee on May 15, 2012, 22:53 GMT

    The real difference between Sobers and Kallis is this. Kallis will bat for an entire day and at the end of the day well........you can't really remember a shot he played. If, however, Sobers batted for an entire day, I guarantee you will surely remember a couple of shots he played.

  • Ehsan on August 2, 2012, 5:01 GMT

    Ji Nahin! You are sadly mistaken Sir. Richards has hooekd bowlers like Jeff Thomson in front of his nose. I remember the 1986-87 series vs Pakistan. A 34 year old 'helmetless' Richards hooekd a then lethally quick Akram twice for sixes of consecutive balls.Speaking of 'Gilly' he has had his stumps uprooted twice in a test by Shoaib Akhtar again bowling at his top speed. Shane Bond disturbed his timber with pointed yorkers in the 2001 world series. Come to 2007 , even RP singh and Sreesanth have bowled him through the gates bowling at speeds above 145kmph. When you talk of comparison take the allround merit of a batsman before comparing him.Richards was a marauding butcher of fast bowling attacks. His one day average of 47 in the eighties , when cricket was much slower is testimony to the fact.Probably the guy who comes across as closer to Richards is Tendulkar in his prime. However even he was not as great a destroyer of fast bowlers as Richards was. Though Sachin played Wasim Akram really well throughout his career, another blot against Gilly's name , remember the 1999 world cup and the 2000 australia series . Gilchrist was bowled through the gates by Akram coming around the wicket.Richards can not be compared with any bastman I have seen after 1980.Although obviously there can be a debate on the merits and demerits of various bastmen in different conditions.

  • Noha on July 31, 2012, 20:48 GMT

    Ji Nahin! You are sadly mistaken Sir. Richards has hokeod bowlers like Jeff Thomson in front of his nose. I remember the 1986-87 series vs Pakistan. A 34 year old 'helmetless' Richards hokeod a then lethally quick Akram twice for sixes of consecutive balls.Speaking of 'Gilly' he has had his stumps uprooted twice in a test by Shoaib Akhtar again bowling at his top speed. Shane Bond disturbed his timber with pointed yorkers in the 2001 world series. Come to 2007 , even RP singh and Sreesanth have bowled him through the gates bowling at speeds above 145kmph. When you talk of comparison take the allround merit of a batsman before comparing him.Richards was a marauding butcher of fast bowling attacks. His one day average of 47 in the eighties , when cricket was much slower is testimony to the fact.Probably the guy who comes across as closer to Richards is Tendulkar in his prime. However even he was not as great a destroyer of fast bowlers as Richards was. Though Sachin played Wasim Akram really well throughout his career, another blot against Gilly's name , remember the 1999 world cup and the 2000 australia series . Gilchrist was bowled through the gates by Akram coming around the wicket.Richards can not be compared with any bastman I have seen after 1980.Although obviously there can be a debate on the merits and demerits of various bastmen in different conditions.

  • Blackie on July 11, 2012, 21:43 GMT

    Great article. And side splitingly funny too. i think its clear that Sobers was the better batsman and Kallis the better bowler.

  • Tyrel painczyk on June 1, 2012, 6:37 GMT

    Well written piece on Sobers vs Kallis however here is some food for thought,

    Dis Sobers have to deal with Flippers, Doosra's, Reverse swing, improved fielding and state of the art video analysis of players through his career.

    There were no bowlers who came close to the likes of Shayne Warne, Muri, Brett Lee, Akram and the likes!!

  • DJM on May 26, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    Podcast hit usual high spots. Sobers a Porsche 911, Kallis a Mercedes Diesel sedan. Nuff said.

  • B V Alphonse on May 16, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    Please do not compare any one with the great Gary Sobers.Sobers never played for statistics. Remember his 254 at Melbourne or his performance in the Rest of the World vs England in 1970. Most of the time he batted at No 6 for West Indies on uncovered pitches without protective gear!

    Remember what his contemporaries had to say about Sobers especially Hanif Mohammed of Pakistan - 'He was made by God to play cricket' . Yes, the pleasure Sobers gave to the spectators whether batting,bowling or fielding or even his majestic walk on the cricket field is incomparable. So let us leave him alone.

  • Zeeshan Mehdi on May 16, 2012, 0:45 GMT

    SORRY MR. USMAN.....I dont agree you that Shahid afridi is the best allrounder after sobers...No doubt, Sobers is the greatest allrounder of all time..But if anybody comes after him..then it will be only and only Jacques Kallis. For your kind information Sobers played 93 Test and scored 8032 runs with an batiing average of 57.78 and took 235 wickets. Where as Jacques Kallis played 151 test and scored 12,367 runs with a batting average of 57.02 and took 274 wickets. In test cricket kallis batting was almost equalivant of sobers but sober's bowling in test cricket was better than kallis..And if you talk about ODI, then sobers played only 1 ODI and scored no runs and took 1 wicket only..But on the other hand Jacques kallis played 319 ODI and scored 11,481 runs with a batting average of 45.55 and took 267 wickets as well which tells a lot about this great cricket....and shahid afridi is far behind from kallis,you can go thru afridi's record as well. For me he is just a blind hitter....

  • Highflyer_GP on May 16, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    If Sobers is praised for his batting average in a bowling era, then the converse must hold true. That would make Kallis' bowling average in a batting era better than Sobers', and therefore we must conclude that Sobers' was a below par bowler for his time. This is also evident by his poor strike rate.

    And let's not forget that most of the people here praising Sobers have never seen him play. You can't go with archival footage alone, so we're in no position to say whether Sobers' was more of a game changer than Kallis. Also, Kallis has the most Man of the Match awards in test history, which you don't get by not having an effect on a match.

    The best we can conclude is that Sobers was the best all rounder of his era, and Kallis the best of his.

  • Douglas Newsam on May 15, 2012, 23:58 GMT

    Good article, neatly summing up the two players capabilities, probably as well as can be done as they are from two different eras. I smile when I see one of the posters remark that Kallis is a fast bowler". What does he think Sir Garry was? Only a spinner? He bowled everything, fast, medium/swing, orthodox left arm and unorthodox left arm. You name it he could do it. I recognise and admire Jacques as the greatest all rounder in modern day cricket but Sir Garry remains the greatest all rounder there has ever been.

  • John Duchaussee on May 15, 2012, 22:53 GMT

    The real difference between Sobers and Kallis is this. Kallis will bat for an entire day and at the end of the day well........you can't really remember a shot he played. If, however, Sobers batted for an entire day, I guarantee you will surely remember a couple of shots he played.

  • Cricket fan on May 15, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    Please do not compare Sobers with any one. Same school different class. Kallis in the eight grade. Sobers in the twelve.

  • Lord Emsworth on May 15, 2012, 19:36 GMT

    Sobers...Ah! you mean the great Gary Sobers! Kallis ? Er..Kallis who?

  • Osama on May 15, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    what an absolutely, astonishingly wonderful piece. and oh, the way you handled my question, makes me see things in a different way. One can always make time for what one loves, agreed.

    once again, great podcast.

  • Ravi on May 15, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    I think one All rounder who comes close to Sir Gary Sobers in terms of X-Factor would have to be Imran Khan. In terms of performance Kallis is very much a great cricketer though

  • ali bajans on May 15, 2012, 18:12 GMT

    Does Captaincy count as an all rounder's ability ?

    Because Sober's eminence as a tactician and captain may just put him a nudge over, the sheer power of Kallis's Stats ..

  • David Rutherford on May 15, 2012, 16:51 GMT

    Southpaw I agree with you but Richards and lillee have pretty handy stats number of scarred batsmen and number of therapist appointments for bowlers are stats too

  • david on May 15, 2012, 16:01 GMT

    Lighthouse joke superb. Turner joke funny (not much less so for being a tad inaccurate- Connecting hip hop and gun crime is more like connecting high winds and high seas: ie largely fair.) Prediction: England 4-0 unless it rains, if not more.

  • DVS on May 15, 2012, 14:45 GMT

    Sobers, is the idol of idols and probably the greatest cricketer to have played. He was such a versatile cricketer, i believe it is impossible to compare anyone with him. Simply, he was a one man army and team by himself, and a great gentleman of the game. To use Dravid's words: We have God and then it can only be Sobers

  • MG on May 15, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    i honestly dont connect with the terrible sense of humour in this article. although i'd like to thank you for pointing out some otherwise-overlooked facts.

  • Devon L Wilson on May 15, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    Andy: Nice Job.. You should get a hair cut like Kallis..LOL Then you will be his Look alike. Kallis is nothing like Sir GARY! LOL 100 being drunk...lol

  • Yasin Ashraf on May 15, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    we cannot compare any player with other, every 1 is better from others is some fields.

  • DEXTER on May 15, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    Excellent article. I wanted to ask, is there any coach in the last ten years with a worst record than Otis Gibson. I suggest you do a ten worst coaches in the modern era.

  • DEXTER on May 15, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    Excellent article. I wanted to ask, is there any coach in the last ten years with a worst record than Otis Gibson. I suggest you do a ten worst coaches in the modern era.

  • Kallis Vs Sobers on May 15, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    Dear Andy,

    I do not understand why cricket analysts across the world make a point to highlight the runs scored against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe!

    For that matter, Sir Sobers scored heavily against India, Pakistan and New Zealand, which were minnows in the cricketing world in 1950-60's. They were no better than current Bangladesh and 90's Zimbabwe in terms of cricket playing capabilities. So, when you draw a comparison, please do make it a point to highlight this (As you did in case of Kallis).

    You might also argue that the facilities and protection are far better when compared, but at the same time the pressure to perform, media, competition for the place in team and regular assessments by cricketing analysts are a great challenge for any player in current cricketing world.

    I do not wish to take to put Kallis higher over Sir Sobers, but I also do not prefer to put Kallis below Sir Sobers in terms of all-round cricketing capabilities. Each were legends of their times.

    -Naveen

  • pakspin on May 15, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    Good discussion. I think you made a mistake by ignoring Imran Khan. He is a serious contender for the best all-rounder of all time. He was a much better bowler than Sobers, and kallis, and averaged 50 batting in test in his last five years. While Kallis and Sobers have better batting stats, Imran Khan out classes them in bowling. And any observant cricket fan knows that it's harder to be a bowling all-rounder than a batting all-rounder. I am not saying Imran Khan is the clear winner, but the fact that he is not even mentioned-despite being a serious contender-is objectionable to say the least sir.

  • Francis Tuohy on May 15, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    So the idea of your "logic" is that Kallis is lesser than Sobers because his contemporaries are more successful than Sobers'. That's like say Klischko is better than Alli because no one measure up to Klitschko in his era compared to Ali's contemporaries (Smokin Joe, George Foreman etc) Theri tat measure up perfectly, and in Kallis' favour he is also a fast swing bowler who in his day could crank it up to 145kph+ far more impressive in my opinion than the mixed bag left armers Sobers bowled (that would hardly work in today pitches). Anyone who thinks that a Kallis cover drive isn't brilliant to watch is full of it! They measure up to each other and there is no doubt they share the crown. Stop letting the fog of years gone by and nostalgia weigh the comparison in Sobers favour.

  • Karthik on May 15, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    A couple of other points: 1. Sir Garry was the holder of the recored for most test runs for a long time (8032) until Boycott went past him. 2. He also held the record for the highest test score (365 no) until Lara overtook him 3. Several double for Sobers centuries (and a triple). 4. No stats on batting strike rate but very likely Sobers would be well ahead on that count. 5. Versatility in bowling - Sir Garry bowled both pace and spin.

    Kallis is solid and a great. However, I can't think of him as a game changer.

  • DM on May 15, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    Bravo Andy. Sobers was better than Kallis. However, I wonder if your correspondent who asked about bodyline has discovered a better batsman than Bradman - he may well have spent two days in the field chasing leather courtesy of the 2 year old girl!

  • Salman on May 15, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    Andy, you are very funny man! Keep up the good work. Chin up, teeth out!

  • Aurabinda Misra on May 15, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    There's a lot of talk about Sobers and Kallis being the greatest all-rounders ever, but, in my opinion, both were essentially great batsmen who could bowl. Neither has been a game changer with the ball. However, Ian Botham was a game changer with either bat or ball, and he did it in test cricket so many times, that too against top-quality opposition.

  • Nampally on May 15, 2012, 13:04 GMT

    Gary Sobers was the greatest Cricketer of all times & I was fortunate to see this man in action. The stats. do not show the true greatness or how the runs are scored. Sobers played in an era when the pitches were not covered nor was he covered like Kallis - with helmet, thigh & elbow + chest guards. So these factors must be added to the stats. as well. Sobers was a poetry in motion & unique. His batting or bowling was always mercurial as was his majestic walk. Kallis does not match him on these.

  • joe mann on May 15, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    Gary Sobers has to be the greatest all rounder to ever have played the game. Bradman put his name down first on the list of his all time XI. In my opinion, the greatest batsman the game has seen. He was supreme - class with authority. Nobody even comes close. Kallis is also a great all rounder but Gary was the greatest.

  • Flash on May 15, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    To counter your arguments... Sobers played with some all time greats.

    Kallis played for many seasons with the burden of a below par batting lineup.

    Compare Kallis now to Kallis 5 years ago. His strike rate has climbed And he has maintained his phenomenal average

    In my opinion, considering the pressure Kallis had every time he came to the crease, I would definitely rate him as the number 1 of all time.

    As for their bowling... both could hold their place in the side as a bowler.

  • Arvind on May 15, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Here is some more bare statistics on Sobers and Kallis http://rightarmoverfast.blogspot.de/2009/06/why-gary-sobers-is-better-than-jacque.html

  • Emmett on May 15, 2012, 12:12 GMT

    Great analysis, but I was a little less convinced by your points about Sobers' batting achievements being seen as a bit stronger than Kallis' relative to their respective contemporaries. By the exact same logic, Kallis' bowling stats should be considered stronger than Sobers' due to being during this "era dominated more by the bat". Seems to be a bit of the ol' Agassi-Sampras going on: we're biased to seeing Sobers' achievements more positively cos he just looked so brilliant doing it. Doesn't make Kallis' 'beligerent beauty' any less awesome. Generally though, smashing article, keep up the good work

  • carlton davis on May 15, 2012, 12:09 GMT

    Kallis is an excellent allround cricketer. There can be no question about that. But Sobers, is to my mind the greatest allrounder of all time.Somene once wrote that he pleased the aesthete and the statistician. And so he did. He made you want to watch the game whther batting of which he was one of the greatest of all time, his bowling in three styles and his magnificent fielding. I once saw him in a match between Barbados and Trinidad in 1967 when inter-island matches were of a much higher standard than many which pass as 'Test' Matches these days and it was some of the fastest swing bowling I ever saw sending back the opener, Brian Davis(A Test cricketer) and the No. 3 Alvin Corneal in quick time. Later, he virtually picked the ball off the bat of Inshan Ali, the spinner to dismiss him in one of the best catches close to the wicket I have seen. His performances in the tough Australian Sheffield Shield in the 1960s ( a farr, far higher standard than many current Test Matches were for

  • CricDepot on May 15, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    Funny Stuff. Spot on when you mentioned the ugliness of Smith's on-drive. I always used to read your articles in bits & pieces, going forward I will read them all :)

  • Muhammad Usman on May 15, 2012, 11:38 GMT

    I think after sober there is only one man who can be called best all-rounder that is Afridi I don't think kallis is up to that mark he is an excellent batsman but not an excellent all-rounder so in my views this analysis is total waste

  • Rory on May 15, 2012, 11:06 GMT

    If Kallis was English he would be knighted and almost certainly be declared the best cricketer ever.

    In "13 years" averaging 6 runs more than Tendulkar, Ponting and Lara.. Surely 3 of the greatest Batsmen ever. We are living in an era of some great Batsmen. Sobers simply had insufficient competition.

    Plus, he is way up there on the cool factor. His new hair says hello :)

  • Henrik on May 15, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    Nice comparison. Would have been great to see how Sobers and Kallis compare to their contempories with respect to their bowling stats, however, before concluding anything about who was sticking out more as an all-rounder. Somehow seems to be fairer that way ...

  • avish on May 15, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    you should be fired .....kallis has played much more cricket .he is a fast bowler which means he is much fitter.sobers never really faced a goog bowling attack

  • McDuck on May 15, 2012, 10:55 GMT

    Interesting analysis of Kallis vs Sobers' stats. The 2 are undoubtedly comparable for tests - and I don't believe in taking out Bangladesh and Zimbabwe numbers, no matter how much those 2 may suck. The interesting finding is that these 2 are very close as far as runs and wickets go. If Sir Gary was considered the world's greatest all-rounder, why should Kallis be considered far behind?

    I think the fact that there was a wider contrast b/w Sobers and his contemporaries than there is b/w Kallis and his is what feeds into the perception that Sobers was the superior one. Otherwise, if Sobers had been operating at the same time as Hutton, Bradman, Hammond, Ames, Headley, et al, how many would look @ him as being that much superior to his contemporaries, and thereby, other greats?

  • SouthPaw on May 15, 2012, 9:48 GMT

    Andy, surely you can't use statistics to determine class! Cricketers like Holding, Viv Richards, Ranjitsingh-ji, Lillee, Benaud, etc., don't have any kind of stats to speak of, but they are all great cricketers, aren't they!

  • Eddie Jones on May 15, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    I would like to know since test batting and bowling rankings began which batsmen and bowlers have occupied no 1 ranking for the longest time as a perentage of their career and calendar weeks

  • Eddie Jones on May 15, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    I would like to know since test batting and bowling rankings began which batsmen and bowlers have occupied no 1 ranking for the longest time as a perentage of their career and calendar weeks

  • Barend on May 15, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    If Sobers scored the runs he did in an environment that was tougher to score runs in as the stats suggest, then surely Kallis's wickets in an era when batting is easier should be regarded higher??!

  • Gerry_the_Merry on May 15, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    Top class analysis. A true comparison is always a peer comparison. It shows how different the result can be if one strips out differentiations. Also, no Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Sobers' time, but there were other weak teams like India and Pak. Sobers did not do too well in terms of averages in a few OZ tours. Kallis faced a marauding Australian team throughout his career, and did decently against them. Sobers was also the captain, but not considered as the most cerebral or inspirational. But in terms of absolute peak, his 1966 England tour will never ever be surpassed. He even swept the toss all 5 times...

  • dean on May 15, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    Sobers played in a era when the Windies was the greatest team on the planet. Kallis on the other hand has to play against bowlers like Murali, Warne (plus the rest of the great Aussie attack), Kumble, Akram. He also has the bowl against batmen like Tendulkar,Serwag, Laksman,Dravid, Lara, Waugh brothers, Hayden, Gilly. Plus Kallis also played another 350 plus ODI and that also takes alot out of your body. Also remember that Kallis played in a post-apartheid era with no international cricket seen on SA soil for 20 years. And he still managed averages equal to that of Sobers. Kallis you have nothing more to prove - you are the greatest!

  • Sir Francis on May 15, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    Andy, like all tragics, I was keenly aware of how close Kallis and Sobers' records were after Kallis had reached the same total of Tests as Sobers (I didn't factor in Zimbabwe & Bangladesh though)

    However, you forgot to pro-rata Zimbabwe & Bangladesh into Kallis' stats when compared to contemporaries. Kallis would have had more and it probably would have had an effect.

    And the mention of Flower deserves a column. Opened, kept, captained and played under the shadow of Mugabe yet still averaged north of 50. I reckon his name is woerth mentioning in the same breath as any keeper whose name you care to mention.

    As an australian, I'd take Gilchrist even though he wasn't the best keeper I've seen but I wouldn't be disappointed if Flower was in my team.

    Another fine essay

    regards Sir Francis

    Bugler Cricket Tragic RLS Captain Coach of the 1982 Slovenian Test tour to Croatia (citation needed)

  • Xolile on May 15, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    Your analysis is flawed as it focusses on batting for a selective period. If you analyse bowling in a similar way and combine the two diciplines, Kallis comes out on top, albeit by a smallish margin. Also, cricket is now a proper professional sport. In the 1950s only a few international players were true professionals. Despite what all the old-timers claim (guys like Benaud, Mallet and Boycott), the standards are now much higher than it was in the 50s and 60s. Kallis is therefore better than Sobers. Not by much. But better.

  • Adithya on May 15, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    Well written ,andy. Keep it up. :)

  • Mohsin Khan on May 15, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    I know of this gentleman who maintained a batting average of 50 and a bowling average of 20 for over 10 years. He was also a better captain than both Kallis and Sobers.

  • Talha Irfan on May 15, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    Hahahaha...It was awesome. Especially these lines I am quoting below:

    "Merely having South African-born players ....... clearly inhibits opposition batsmen and stops them scoring all the quadruple-hundreds they used to score so regularly."

    "But, overall, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Other teams have far more South African-born players in than England do. South Africa, for example"

    "required several weeks of counselling before I was prepared to accept there was still the possibility of beauty in the universe"

    Awesome. I like his genius humour.

  • Ranjith on May 15, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    As always amazingly funny ..the sobers - Kallis bit really rocked ...

  • Samrat on May 15, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    Terrific article,really well written.Sobers parents having him after 40years had me in splits" And probably be unavailable for the forthcoming Test series in England" was the higlight of the article.Waiting for the next such article Andy.Keep up the good work.

  • Prabhakar on May 15, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    Good analysis. There is actually no need for a debate as to who is better among Sobers and Kallis. Sobers is way ahead in terms of being a 'game changer', especially with the bat, something that a Kallis can never claim to be. Moreover, just go through some old videos of Sobers - just look at the way he moves- my God !!! He was a supreme athlete a great all round fieldsman, ahead in this count too of Kallis who is more of a slipper. Plus add to it the fact that he was also handling the added burden of captaincy for a long time in his career. Kallis is no doubt great. But Sobers is the greatest. Period.

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  • Prabhakar on May 15, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    Good analysis. There is actually no need for a debate as to who is better among Sobers and Kallis. Sobers is way ahead in terms of being a 'game changer', especially with the bat, something that a Kallis can never claim to be. Moreover, just go through some old videos of Sobers - just look at the way he moves- my God !!! He was a supreme athlete a great all round fieldsman, ahead in this count too of Kallis who is more of a slipper. Plus add to it the fact that he was also handling the added burden of captaincy for a long time in his career. Kallis is no doubt great. But Sobers is the greatest. Period.

  • Samrat on May 15, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    Terrific article,really well written.Sobers parents having him after 40years had me in splits" And probably be unavailable for the forthcoming Test series in England" was the higlight of the article.Waiting for the next such article Andy.Keep up the good work.

  • Ranjith on May 15, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    As always amazingly funny ..the sobers - Kallis bit really rocked ...

  • Talha Irfan on May 15, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    Hahahaha...It was awesome. Especially these lines I am quoting below:

    "Merely having South African-born players ....... clearly inhibits opposition batsmen and stops them scoring all the quadruple-hundreds they used to score so regularly."

    "But, overall, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Other teams have far more South African-born players in than England do. South Africa, for example"

    "required several weeks of counselling before I was prepared to accept there was still the possibility of beauty in the universe"

    Awesome. I like his genius humour.

  • Mohsin Khan on May 15, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    I know of this gentleman who maintained a batting average of 50 and a bowling average of 20 for over 10 years. He was also a better captain than both Kallis and Sobers.

  • Adithya on May 15, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    Well written ,andy. Keep it up. :)

  • Xolile on May 15, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    Your analysis is flawed as it focusses on batting for a selective period. If you analyse bowling in a similar way and combine the two diciplines, Kallis comes out on top, albeit by a smallish margin. Also, cricket is now a proper professional sport. In the 1950s only a few international players were true professionals. Despite what all the old-timers claim (guys like Benaud, Mallet and Boycott), the standards are now much higher than it was in the 50s and 60s. Kallis is therefore better than Sobers. Not by much. But better.

  • Sir Francis on May 15, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    Andy, like all tragics, I was keenly aware of how close Kallis and Sobers' records were after Kallis had reached the same total of Tests as Sobers (I didn't factor in Zimbabwe & Bangladesh though)

    However, you forgot to pro-rata Zimbabwe & Bangladesh into Kallis' stats when compared to contemporaries. Kallis would have had more and it probably would have had an effect.

    And the mention of Flower deserves a column. Opened, kept, captained and played under the shadow of Mugabe yet still averaged north of 50. I reckon his name is woerth mentioning in the same breath as any keeper whose name you care to mention.

    As an australian, I'd take Gilchrist even though he wasn't the best keeper I've seen but I wouldn't be disappointed if Flower was in my team.

    Another fine essay

    regards Sir Francis

    Bugler Cricket Tragic RLS Captain Coach of the 1982 Slovenian Test tour to Croatia (citation needed)

  • dean on May 15, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    Sobers played in a era when the Windies was the greatest team on the planet. Kallis on the other hand has to play against bowlers like Murali, Warne (plus the rest of the great Aussie attack), Kumble, Akram. He also has the bowl against batmen like Tendulkar,Serwag, Laksman,Dravid, Lara, Waugh brothers, Hayden, Gilly. Plus Kallis also played another 350 plus ODI and that also takes alot out of your body. Also remember that Kallis played in a post-apartheid era with no international cricket seen on SA soil for 20 years. And he still managed averages equal to that of Sobers. Kallis you have nothing more to prove - you are the greatest!

  • Gerry_the_Merry on May 15, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    Top class analysis. A true comparison is always a peer comparison. It shows how different the result can be if one strips out differentiations. Also, no Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Sobers' time, but there were other weak teams like India and Pak. Sobers did not do too well in terms of averages in a few OZ tours. Kallis faced a marauding Australian team throughout his career, and did decently against them. Sobers was also the captain, but not considered as the most cerebral or inspirational. But in terms of absolute peak, his 1966 England tour will never ever be surpassed. He even swept the toss all 5 times...