The thing about exceptional allrounders is that you find them by accident.
If you go out looking for allrounders thinking you must have one in your team, you will inevitably pick an ordinary allrounder, and such players add what I call illusory value to the team.
All the great allrounders of the game were either bowlers or batsmen to begin with. They commanded a place in the team because of their one primary skill. The second skill developed over a period of time, essentially due to the confidence they derived from the success of their first skill, which helped make the second skill formidable, and as a result you were looking at a great allrounder.
These players weren't allrounders from the start, they developed into allrounders as they went along.
Jacques Kallis was always a batsman first; his team would still play him even if he didn't bowl a single over.
Such allrounders are never dropped from the side because their second skill starts diminishing; it's their primary skill that the team really wants. India will not drop R Ashwin even if he gets ten zeroes on the trot. Ashwin was picked to play for India in Tests as a bowler, and so was Jayant Yadav; their batting has been an unexpected bonus.
India didn't go looking for allrounders. They looked for specialists and happened to find these two allrounders. (Well, that's what they are in home conditions at least.)
England's problem seems to be that they go looking for allrounders to fit into their team, and end up picking players who can do both jobs reasonably well. Big mistake!
"Reasonably well" is just not good enough in Tests, and such players get exposed regularly in this format. For Tests, one must set off looking only for top-class batsmen and exceptional bowlers, and if one of these batsmen or bowlers goes on to add another string to his bow, that's great: you have your accidental allrounder.
"Young kids look at the kind of players England select to play for the national side and start honing their skills accordingly. You end up with young players not specialised in one skill"
Let's remind ourselves that all great Test sides that ruled world cricket were mostly packed with specialists. They had pure batsmen who got them runs - they rarely let the team down, and if on the odd occasion the majority of them did, their pure bowlers got them wickets early enough to bring the side back in the match.
Pure bowlers and pure batsmen are very good at their respective jobs because that is the only skill they have focused on their entire lives as cricketers.
England seem infatuated with cricketers who can bat and bowl to a decent standard. Word spreads. Young kids look at the kind of players England select to play for the national side and start honing their skills accordingly. Then you have a 15-year-old cricketer with aspirations to play for England dividing his practice and training time towards becoming a batsman and a bowler. You end up with young players not specialised in one skill, like the great allrounders did when they were growing up. This is a dangerous trend.
I saw Amit Mishra bat a lot in the nets during the series against England. No amount of batting is going to save Mishra's Test career unless he becomes a better bowler.
When young English cricketers come out of this kind of system, where all-round talent is rewarded, they will be something like Moeen Ali.
Moeen got two hundreds in the series, which is admirable, but as an offspinner he failed. So all those runs he scored to help England put up good scores were of no use, because Moeen Ali the bowler allowed the opposition to score even more runs.
In the last Test, Liam Dawson and Adil Rashid, England's two other spinners, both got fifties in the first innings, and their batting was praised by English supporters and the media, who seemed pleased with their bowlers' performance with the bat. England got 477 in Chennai only because their tail wagged.
But India went on to get 759, a lead of 282, because Dawson and Rashid were just not good enough bowlers to stop the rampaging Indian batsmen.
When the pressure was really on, in the second innings, Moeen played an atrocious shot to get out on 44, and Dawson and Rashid got 0 and 2 respectively. Despite the two hundreds in the series, that Moeen averages only 35 in Tests as a batsman also tells us something. This is what I mean by such dual-skills players adding illusory value to the team.
Ben Stokes seems to have the potential to be a great allrounder, the kind that helps make a champion side, but at present he averages 34 with the bat and has a strike rate of 60 as a bowler, which shows he is not exceptional in either discipline yet. But he looks a fantastic cricketer with a great attitude, so there is hope.
The scoreline in the series would have looked a lot better for England if their bowlers had got fewer runs and more wickets.
Does anyone remember how well Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar batted in India in 2012? Who cares! They were bowlers and they did their main job beautifully and that is why England won that series 2-1.
That was a great win, remembered by Indians especially as the one time an overseas team turned the tables on India with spin. England's pure batsmen, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, got the runs and their pure bowlers, Swann, Panesar and James Anderson, got the wickets. It's a pretty reliable formula to win Tests.
I am told Moeen is the best offspinner England have, and that the same can be said of Rashid as a legspinner. This is a concern, because from what I saw in the series, they don't seem to be ready yet to be England's lead spinners. You wonder if these players' batting had something to do with their rise as bowlers through the ranks. Rashid has ten first-class hundreds.
However harsh it might seem on someone who looks a very earnest cricketer, England must drop Moeen from the team for their next Test - more as a symbolic move, to send a strong message through the system that England are looking for specialists now; specialists who make a champion Test team.