October 1, 2001

The search for a genuine all-rounder continues

India today is in dire need of an all-rounder

India today is in dire need of an all-rounder. The search for one has been carried out frantically in the last few years. Unfortunately, not one cricketer has come anywhere close to fitting that bill and the tragedy of it all is that a few up and down versions in cricket have been compulsorily given the tag of all-rounders. The eighties saw World cricket dominated by all-rounders like Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Sir Richard Hadlee.


One of the reasons why India is struggling to find an allrounder is that there has been no genuine effort in encouraging potential candidates. Someone like Kumble could have been thrust with the extra responsibility in batting which may have made him a very capable all-rounder...
One similarity among all those greats was that they were bowling allrounders. It is rather intriguing that most of the successful all rounders were bowling all-rounders including the greatest of them all, Sir Gary Sobers. Kapil Dev, Botham and Imran Khan could have played as pure batsmen for their respective countries. It has to be remembered that there were several other very good all-rounders alongside these luminaries. Ravi Shastri was a very accomplished all-rounder until he decided to play more as an opener towards the latter part of his career. Once again, Shastri started off as a left arm spinner but he gradually clawed his way up the batting order.

In recent times, the term all-rounder has drawn differing explanations from different sources. I for one believe a genuine all-rounder is one who can fit into the side either as a bowler or as a batsman and be the leading performer. In the present scenario the Indians are sorely missing the presence of an all-rounder in both forms of the game. In fact they are struggling to find utility cricketers in the mould of Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Manoj Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma who played key roles in major triumphs for the country.

One of the reasons why India is struggling to find an all-rounder is that there has been no genuine effort in encouraging potential candidates. Someone like Kumble could have been thrust with the extra responsibility in batting which may have made him a very capable allrounder. Ajit Agarkar had the makings of an all-rounder but somehow he was too injury prone to become one apart from his batting letting him down. Robin Singh was another potential candidate but his forced exile for seven seasons meant that his pace had deteriorated too much to cause discomfort at the top level.

Being an all-rounder does give both the team and individual a distinct advantage. In the case of the team, an all-rounder provides the flexibility and that extra little room for manipulation. It also takes a lot on the individual to become a genuine all-rounder. Firstly, a genuine all rounder has to be twice as fit as the others. Secondly he has to have adaptability and the flexibility in thinking as well. Reetinder Sodhi is tipped to be the candidate who will fill up the vacant slot of an all-rounder. He has the fitness, but from what he has displayed so far in international cricket, he has a long way to go before anyone can seriously bank on him to take the world by storm.

Sodhi also falls in the category of a batting all-rounder and that coupled with the fact that pitches in India are rarely bowler friendly may well mean that Sodhi will take the easy out by concentrating more on his batting than bowling. It is no secret that he has to work a lot on his bowling to make an impact at the top level. It will be interesting to see if his much spoken about attitude helps him beat the odds stacked against him.