Allrounders June 28, 2010

Four of a rare breed

West Indies didn't produce many top allrounders for a team that had plenty of undeniably great specialists. Still, the choice is not a difficult one

Who is an allrounder? The traditional definition says: a cricketer who can bat and bowl with equal, or almost equal, skill. He is the supporting batsman who usually bats behind the specialists, at No. 6, most times ahead of the wicketkeeper; and he is also the support for the specialist bowlers. Sometimes there are allrounders who as batsmen are as good or better than the specialists, or at least one or two of them, and sometimes there are allrounders who as bowlers are as good or better than one or two, and sometimes all, the specialists.

Over the years West Indies have been blessed with many outstanding and exciting batsmen, especially so those who bat in the middle of the order, and they have not been short of fast bowlers of quality - exceptional quality at that. Not so, however, with allrounders, and certainly not quality allrounders. The last real West Indian Test allrounder - the cricketer who can bat almost or as well as he can bowl, and who can bowl almost or as well as he can bat and with a high level of skill - to make his debut was Collie Smith, over 50 years ago.

The contenders

Learie Constantine
Constantine was a household name in the West Indies because of his skills on the cricket field. A stocky right-hander, he was exciting with the bat, with the ball as a fast bowler of electric pace, and also in the field, where he was quick and brilliant. As a batsman he hit the ball hard, with lovely drives on both sides of the wicket and mostly strokes to the leg side. His figures overall failed to match the excitement of his cricket and his value to the West Indies, though he capped his career brilliantly: in his last Test, against England at The Oval in 1939, he hit 79 in an hour and took five wickets for 75 runs in England's first innings.

Garry Sobers
Sobers was simply the original Mr Cricket. Starting as a slow left-arm orthodox spin bowler and developing into a left-arm swing bowler and a slow left-arm back-of-the-hand spin bowler, he became not only a great batsman but arguably the best batsman of his time and one of the best of all time. He was also a brilliant fielder anywhere but more so at short leg. Sobers stood tall and elegant at the crease, his drives, particularly off the back foot, and his hooks were strokes of beauty. In 1968, in a Test match at Sabina Park, after West Indies were forced to follow on, he scored a breathtaking 113 not out, and with Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith in the team, went out and bowled the first over: before it was over, England were 0 for 2 with Geoff Boycott gone, bowled for zero, and Colin Cowdrey gone, leg-before-wicket for zero.

Gerry Gomez
Gomez was a competent batsman and bowler and a brilliant fielder. He scored a century, 101, against India in Delhi in the 1948-49 series. His best series was against Australia in 1951-52, where he scored 324 runs at an average of 36 and took 18 wickets at 14.22. In the fifth and final Test match of that series he took 7 for 55 and 3 for 58 for a match haul of 10 for 113. In 29 Test matches Gomez scored 1243 runs with one century at an average of 30.31. He also took 58 wickets at an average of 27.41 and held 18 catches.

Collie Smith
Smith died too early, at age 26, when he, Sobers and Rohan Kanhai were the three most exciting prospects in West Indies cricket. As a batsman Smith was aggressive, played some delightful strokes, and feared no one, not even the fastest bowlers. He was a tight offspinner and a brilliant fielder. He scored 104 against Australia in his first Test match. In 26 Tests, Smith scored 1331 runs with four centuries at an average of 31.69. He also took 48 wickets at an average of 33.85 and held nine catches.

We'll be publishing an all-time West Indies XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your allrounder click here

Former sports editor of the Jamaica Gleaner and the Daily News, Tony Becca has covered West Indies cricket for 30 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • paul on July 1, 2010, 22:35 GMT

    I don't doubt for one moment that Sir Garry was a GREAT all rounder. Symbolically he will also be regarded as the greatest cricketer ever due in part to his record breaking achievements but also for the sporting man that he was I mean who else would or will in todays test arena with its conservative and negative captains make a generous declaration to chase just over 250 runs in 40/50 overs as he did against England. However and while it is very difficult to compare players across the eras - there are too many variables - the fact of the matter is Jacques Kallis STATISTICALLY (his slightly lower test batting average excepted) is the superior all rounder and he could play for another four or five years putting his stats way beyond what Sobers ever achieved. Granted GS didn't play as much test cricket, had more bowling ability (variations) but overall JKs figures will stand the test of ALL TIME modern greatness.

  • Sean on July 1, 2010, 19:38 GMT

    Sobers hands down will be there in the team......he is a gamechanger...both with bat and ball......a true all-rounder.

  • santhosh on July 1, 2010, 0:53 GMT

    where is rawl lewis? he is the greatest ever.

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2010, 20:57 GMT

    This selection which we are having is the WI ALL-TIME XI, The question is (1) Do we have to get 3 middle order batsman only.... (2) Next we will have to get three fast bowler, spin bowler also a wicket keeper (yeah right!)


  • Jabari on June 30, 2010, 19:53 GMT

    if gayle can be included in the running for best opener then bravo can be included for best all rounder......they both shouldn't though. no disrespect to constantine, gomez or smith but sir sobers was the greatest cricketer of all time

  • Jabari on June 30, 2010, 12:52 GMT

    if gayle can be included in the running for best opener then bravo can be included for best all rounder......they both shouldn't though. no disrespect to constantine, gomez or smith but sir sobers was the greatest cricketer of all time

  • Faraz on June 30, 2010, 12:03 GMT

    The only no-brainer in the whole selection vigil. This has tobe the most simplest and easiest of any teams. Sobers is an almost sure in a World X1 let alone in an all rounder's category. He is head and shoulders above others!

  • sudarsan on June 30, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    i started 2 know cricket when alexanders windies visited india in the 50s, they had young sobers,butcher,kanhai etc...that was the series sobers became ny hero, iused to add the name of sobers everywhere,as if it was a lucky charm, i read all is books,even today he is my hero of cricket, irespective of richards,tendulkars and laras......those days test series were once in ayear,he played for 10yrs,scored 8000 runs,200 wkts and 100 catches,played on uncovered wickets,no helmets. he was good with any game he played,newer swore even when young lille tested him,his bat does the talking.....he is def crickets all time great and shud walk into any side.

  • IFTIKHAR on June 29, 2010, 15:10 GMT

    It has to be Sobers!Come to think of it if i had to choose an all-rounder in an all- time World XI it will be Gary; no doubt about that!I had the luck to see him in action in 1970 when i was still at school.The way he went after John Snow and the other English fast bowlers i have never seen a batsmen attacking them ever since.Remember Gary never ever used the helmets,just upturned his shirt collars and butchered the fastest of fast bowlers and on uncovered pitches too!Gary is always no.1 in my book.As to his bowling he was a under-rated class fast bowler good enough to open the bowlingin Tests and his spin bowling was just as good.A remarkable player.Our very own Mohammad Ali of cricket!The greatest!

  • Dummy4 on June 29, 2010, 13:45 GMT

    Americans would call this choice, a "no-brainer." Sir Garry who hails from my native Barbados was simply the best cricketer who ever played the game. There was nothing on the cricket field that he couldn't do and he did everything with grace, style and elegance. This man was simply a genius as a cricketer, blessed by GOD to play the game naturally.

    My favorite memory of Sir Garry playing live was when he caressed four 4s in one over bowled by the big red headed Welshman, the left-arm pacer Jeff Jones during the third Test against England at Kensington Oval in 1968. I will never forget it for as a schoolboy then, felt blessed to be be present for such an awesome display of top- shelf batsmanship. He went on to make 68 in that innings.

    The legendary Sir Garry was not only the greatest cricketer ever to grace the playing fields but was an avid and talented all-round sportsman. He kept goal for B'dos in football, played basket-ball for a local club and still plays a mean golf game.

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