The greatest all-rounders since 1970

Date: January 28, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Quality all-rounders are the type of player every selector and captain wishes they had.

In Australia’s case, ever since Andy Flintoff impacted so heavily on the 2005 Ashes series, the search and experimentation has been seemingly never ending.

The likes of Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds and Steve Smith were all seen at some point as being the talisman they were looking for.

But, across the board, who are the top-10 Test all-rounders since 1970 and who indeed is the number one?

Before we start the countdown let’s have a look at some who have failed to make the cut.

Wasim Akram was a man who really failed to do enough with the bat. In 104 Tests he averaged a mere 22.6 in concert with his 414 wickets at 23.6.

Former West Indian captain Carl Hooper averaged 36.5 with bat and compiled 13 centuries but his 114 wickets came at 49.4.

Early on Steve Waugh was a genuine all-rounder but given at the end of a 168-Test career he had captured only 92 wickets and very seldom bowled for the back half of his time in the baggy green he has been left out.

Perhaps the unluckiest is former Indian skipper Ravi Shastri.  In 80 Tests he amassed 3830 runs at 35.8 with 11 centuries, the highest of which was 206 against Australia at the SCG in Shane Warne’s maiden Test in 1990-91. He also claimed 151 wickets at 41.0 with two five-wicket hauls but that high average has seen him miss the cut.

So let’s start in reverse order en route to the best all-rounder since 1970.

10. DANIEL VETTORI (NZL) – 112 Tests, 4516 runs at 30.1 with six centuries & 23 half-centuries, HS 140, 360 wickets at 34.4 with 20 5WI & 3 10WM, BBI 7/87, BBM 12/149

Vettori is the only true spinner in the top-10. His batting was extremely moderate early on – he debuted at the age of 18 and batted at number 11. After 48 Tests his average was just 18.1. In his next match he made an unbeaten 137 against Pakistan, his maiden Test century. From that point on his batting continued on an upward curve as he averaged 36.7 from there on. He has scored more runs at number eight in the order than any other batsman in history.

Aside from his six centuries he also has four scores in the 90s. Three of his centuries have come against Pakistan where he averages 43.8. With the ball, he his second only to Sir Richard Hadlee (431) for the most wickets for the Black Caps. With the ball, he is not a big spinner and thus relies on flight and a deceptive change of pace. His career-best 7/87 came against Australia in Auckland in 1999-2000.

9. CHRIS CAIRNS (NZL) – 62 Tests, 3320 runs at 32.8 with five centuries & 22 half-centuries, HS 158, 218 wickets at 29.4 with 13 5WI & 1 10WM, BBI 7/27, BBM 10/100

Cairns had the reputation of being a big hitter, clubbing 68 sixes at better than one a match but across his career his strike rate was just 57. Four of his five centuries came at home, with his best being 158 against South Africa at Auckland in 2003-04. He averaged 37.2 at home and 29.7 away. With the ball he made the most of his broad shoulders, bowling what is nowadays termed a ‘heavy ball’. Against the might of the Australian teams during his career his 39 wickets came at 42.0. Conversely, he took 30 wickets against the West Indies at an incredible 9.9.

8. ANDREW FLINTOFF (ENG) – 79 Tests, 3845 runs at 31.8 with five centuries & 26 half-centuries, HS 167, 226 wickets at 32.8 with 3 5WI

Flintoff was somewhat of an enigma. When he was on-song he could be an absolute match-winner, as witnessed by his 2005 Ashes performance when he led the England bowling attack, capturing 24 wickets at 27.3. But allied to that he averaged over 50 with the ball in seven of his 25 series. He could be genuinely quick and hit the pitch hard, extracting steepling bounce. He struggled with injury in the second half of his career. With the bat, he was like most all-rounders, a lusty hitter who often took the aerial route. He struggled against Sri Lanka, averaging 19.3 from 14 innings.

7. TONY GREIG (ENG) – 58 Tests, 3599 runs at 40.4 with eight centuries & 20 half-centuries, HS 148, 141 wickets at 32.2, 6 5WI & 2 10WM, BBI 8/86, BBM 13/156

The late Tony Greig was a cricketer of abundant enthusiasm and a true fighting quality. He was just shy of his 26th birthday when he made his Test debut and his career only lasted five years, cut short in the main by World Series Cricket. He was one of the early exponents of the horizontal bat at above bail height in the stance. He compiled centuries against varying attacks, from the likes of Roberts and Holding to Bedi and Chandrasekhar.

His highest score of 148 was made on a dusty Mumbai track in 1972-73 while his most memorable ton was his 110 at the Gabba against Lillee and Thomson. He thrived with the bat away from home, Averaging 46.9 against 34.6 at home. With the ball he was a whirl of arm and legs, using his height (198cm) to deliver either medium pace or off-spin depending on the conditions. His best bowling in both an innings and a match were against West Indies in Port-of-Spain in 1973-74.

6. SHAUN POLLOCK (RSA) – 108 Tests, 3781 runs at 32.3 with two centuries and 16 half-centuries, HS 111, 421 wickets at 23.1, 16 5WI, 1 10WM, BBI 7/87, BBM 10/147

Born into a famous South African cricketing family, Pollock was always destined to be a star. A technically correct lower order batsman it is fair to say that he underperformed slightly in that aspect of his game but given his workload with the ball (all-time highest wicket-taker for his country) he can be excused. His centuries came against Sri Lanka and West Indies while he averaged 42.3 in 12 Tests against Pakistan.

Like Greig, he was better on the road – 36.4 versus 29.1. He averaged 35.8 from his nine Tests in Australia. With ball in hand he was reminiscent of McGrath and Hadlee with a metronomic line from stump to stump. He was genuinely quick early on but soon pulled back his pace. His innings career-best came in Adelaide in 1997-98.

5. SIR RICHARD HADLEE (NZL) – 86 Tests, 3124 runs at 27.2 with two centuries & 15 half-centuries, HS 151no, 431 wickets at 22.3, 36 5WI & 9 10WM, BBI 9/52, BBM 15/123

Without Hadlee the New Zealand side of his era would have been a shadow of itself. As a bowler he carried the Black Caps’ attack almost singlehandedly for over 15 years, retiring with a then world record number of wickets. From a genuine fast bowler, over time he reined his pace and became a master of swing. His patient stump-to-stump line often proved too much for opposing batsmen.

At the Gabba in 1985/86 he turned in one of the most devastating displays in his history with hauls of nine and six wickets. In 23 Tests against Australia he took his 130 wickets at 20.6, while taking 51 wickets at 22.0 against the mighty West Indies. He was a swashbuckler with the bat, with his best coming against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1986-87. He averaged 32.4 against the Windies and over 50 in both Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

4. KAPIL DEV (IND) – 131 Tests, 5248 runs at 31.1, eight centuries & 27 half-centuries, HS 163, 434 wickets at 29.6, 23 5WI, 2 10WM, BBI 9/83, BBM 11/146

Without doubt Kapil is the finest pace bowler to have come out of India. Whilst never express, he bowled medium-fast with a lethal out-swinger, often on flat and dusty pitches at home. Given that conditions were seldom in his favour he averaged less than four wickets per Test. His nine in an innings came in Ahmedabad against West Indies in 1983-84.

He was also devastating with the ball against the Windies with his 89 wickets coming at 24.9. Strangely, given his style of bowling he struggled in England where he played 13 Tests for 43 wickets at 39.2. He was a hard-hitting batsman who loved to wind-up and hit the ball high and long. His top-score came in Kanpur against Sri Lanka in 1986-87.

3. SIR IAN BOTHAM (ENG) – 102 Tests, 5200 runs at 33.5 with 14 centuries & 22 half-centuries, HS 208, 383 wickets at 28.4, 27 5WI & 4 10WM, BBI 8/34, BBM 13/106

The 1981 Ashes series will always remembered as Botham’s high watermark with his powerful hitting to the fore. After a slow start to the series he resigned the captaincy and then went on to demolish the Australians. His unbeaten 149 at Headingley became cricketing folklore as he enabled England to win after following-on. He followed up with 118 at Old Trafford as well capturing 28 wickets in the final four Tests.

He loved the challenge of playing Australia, which he did 35 times for 148 wickets at 27.6, including nine five-wicket hauls. He destroyed Pakistan at Lord’s in 1978 with 8/34. Botham was all-shoulder in his bowling action and able to generate considerable pace allied to away swing. Against the West Indies his 61 wickets cost 35.2. He never coped too well with the bat against the Windies with an average of 21.4 from 38 innings.

He was superb in India, scoring 554 runs in seven Tests at 61.6. Against India in Mumbai in 1979-80 he became the first player to score a century and take ten wickets in the one match – 114, 6/58 & 7/48. He also snapped up 120 catches. Botham’s match-winning ability tailed off as his career went on but in his pomp he was a player all opponents feared.

2. IMRAN KHAN (PAK) – 88 Tests, 3807 runs at 37.7 with six centuries & 18 half-centuries, HS 136, 362 wickets at 22.8, 23 5WI & 6 10WM, BBI 8/58, BBM 14/116

Imran was the epitome of the glamour sportsman – tall, good-looking and ultra-attacking. He was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s team for two decades, including a 48-Test reign as skipper. He was a devastating fast bowler who bowled from wide of the crease with lethal inswing and cut off the pitch. Against the powerful West Indian outfit at the time he captured 80 wickets in 18 Tests at a mere 21.2, while against arch-rival India his 94 scalps cost 24.0. He averaged 19.2 at home and 25.8 away.

He was dashing with the bat – his highest innings coming against Australia at Adelaide in 1989-90. Whilst his bowling was highly effective against West Indies his runs came at 27.7. At home in Pakistan he averaged 45.3 against a touring average of 33.8. Against India in Faisalabad in 1982/83, he became the second and last player, to score a century and claim ten wickets in the one Test – 117, 6/98 & 5/82.

Where some players struggle in the latter half of their career, Imran did the opposite. In his last 50 Tests he averaged 50 with the bat and 19 with the ball.

1. JACQUES KALLIS (RSA) – 160 Tests, 13,048 runs at 56.7 with 44 centuries & 57 half-centuries, HS 224, 285 wickets at 32.4, 5 5WI, BBI 6/54, BBM 9/92

Whilst he lacks the flare of many of those listed above, cricket’s Mr Indestructible has compiled a most incredible set of numbers – in fact on raw figures he compares exceptionally favourably with the man regarded as the greatest all-rounder of all-time – Sir Garfield Sobers. Kallis’ run career aggregate is fourth all-time behind Tendulkar, Ponting and Dravid while only Tendulkar (51) has posted more centuries.

Kallis possesses a classical technique, and in many ways, compiles his runs in the old-fashioned way, hence his strike rate of 46. Yet, in spite of that, his 97 Career sixes is second only to Adam Gilchrist (100). He has been incredibly successful on the sub-continent, averaging 83.1 in Pakistan and 58.2 in India. His overall average in 29 Tests against Australia is 48.2.

With the ball he can be deceptively quick with a powerful upper body compensating for a limited run-up. Even today he can still hit 140km/h. He averages in the mid-30s against both Australia and England. He has also claimed 193 catches to sit at number four all-time.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 27 January 2013