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Cricket: The Top 10 All-Rounders of All Time

Jeff CheshireAnalyst IIJanuary 13, 2017

Cricket: The Top 10 All-Rounders of All Time

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    In the history of cricket there have been few that have been gifted enough to be considered weapons with both the ball and bat.

    Only a handful of players can claim to be amongst this exclusive group, while only a sprinkling of these will go down in the history books as being an all-time great.

    Even rarer still is a true all-rounder, someone who is equally adept with both the bat and ball and has the ability to make a team as either a bowler or a batter. 

    It is these players that go down as being truly great, truly memorable. This list tries to capture the 10 players who were or were closest to being the greatest true all-rounders in cricket's history.

    Please note that all statistics used relate to test matches unless otherwise specified, all of which are accurate at time of publication.

10. Andrew Flintoff

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    We begin our list with England's hero of the 2000's, Andrew Flintoff, or as he's better known, Freddy Flintoff.

    He is best known for his heroics in the 2005 Ashes series that saw England win the Ashes for the first time since the 1986/87 season, defeating an Australian team that entered as the best in the world.

    A fast bowler capable of bowling in excess of 140 Kilometres per hour, Flintoff took 226 wickets at an average of 32.78. 

    He was also a fast scoring batsman capable of some decent performances, averaging 31.07, including five centuries and 26 half-centuries. 

    But the statistics don't best show the contribution Flintoff made to his team. If unconvinced about his greatness, simply look at his influence in England's Ashes winning teams of 2005 and 2009.

    Also, he would contribute with both the bat and ball in these performances, securing his spot amongst the great all-rounders of all time.

9. Tony Greig

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    Younger readers will know Tony Greig as being the South African-born English commentator, who currently resides in Australia and is part of the Channel Nine commentary team. Indeed, his fame as a commentator has perhaps eclipsed that of his playing days.

    But to those who do remember, Grieg was a fine all-rounder who played 58 tests for England during the 1970s.

    He tended to be known more as a batting all-rounder, averaging 40.43 with the blade, scoring eight centuries and 20 half-centuries, a record that would see him make many sides purely as a batter.

    But he did have a few more strings to his bow, capable of bowling both medium pace and right arm off break, taking 141 wickets at 32.20. Few players can boast having this ability to bowl two styles at test-match level.

    His test career lasted only from 1972 until 1977, which sees him slide on this list. Had he played longer, he may well have appeared higher up.

    But that shouldn't take away from what he achieved, as finding a place on the list of the top ten all-rounders of all time is in itself a truly great achievement.

8. Kapil Dev

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    India's greatest all-rounder ever, and indeed India's greatest fast bowler, Kapil Dev is the first of the great 1980s all-rounders to appear on this list.

    He had a prolific test career spanning 16 years in which he earned a reputation as a consistent bowler and a hard hitting batsman.

    He became just the second bowler in the history of the game to take 400 wickets, surpassing Richard Hadlee's world record in his final test, to finish with 434 wickets at an average of 29.64.

    This average seems relatively high compared to some of the other great all-rounders, but it must be remembered that Dev played a lot of his cricket at home in India on wickets that are far more friendly to spinners and batsmen, tending to hinder rather than help seam bowlers.

    With the bat, he averaged 31.05 in a career which included eight centuries and 27 half-centuries.

    But it is a One Day innings that he is best remembered for. This being of course, his 175 not out against Zimbabwe at the 1983 World Cup, where after a terrible start, Dev came in and saved India from what would have been a huge upset.

    India would go on to win the tournament in a huge upset over the two-time defending champion West Indies, with Dev being the key figure in the tournament.

    If you still need further convincing of his greatness, consider this. When voting took place for India's cricketer of the century in 2002, it was Kapil Dev that won the award, ahead of greats such as Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar.

7. Shaun Pollock

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    Some of you may be surprised to see Shaun Pollock at No. 7. However, he has a fine record that simply can't be ignored when looking at the great all-rounders of all time.

    Widely acknowledged as one of the great South African cricketers of all time, Pollock was a bowling all-rounder who was, for a time, one of the most consistent bowlers in the world while also being capable of chipping in with the bat.

    He took 421 wickets at 23.11, but his best bowling attribute came in that he was consistent and very economical, generally hard to score runs off.

    As a batsman, he was capable of giving a solid performance but often struggled to push on to a big score; this is shown by only having two centuries to his name. However, he still averages 32.31, which isn't dissimilar to that of Kapil Dev or Andrew Flintoff.

    Pollock finished his career in 2008, and in time, he will no doubt be remembered as one of the finest all-rounders of the modern era.

6. Ian Botham

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    The great Englishman of the 1980's, Ian Botham was a key figure in the revival of cricket's sleeping lion.

    It is his Ashes heroics that he is best remembered for, as he was the difference between the two teams in the series that became known as 'Botham's Ashes' in 1981, where England would beat Australia 3-1.

    For his career, he averaged 33.54 with the bat, but showed on various occasions that he was capable of pushing on to build a big innings, scoring 14 centuries and 22 half-centuries.

    He tended to be a hard-hitter, shown by his high strike rate of 60.71.

    As a bowler, he took 383 wickets at 28.40, a statistic which doesn't fully reflect Botham at his best, as before injuries hampered his ability, he averaged closer to 21.

    But durability does have to be considered, meaning Botham falls to six on this list, although he is still undoubtedly one of the all-time greats of the game.

5. Richard Hadlee

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    New Zealand's greatest cricketer by quite a long stretch, Richard Hadlee was often the difference between New Zealand being a pushover or world beaters during his tenure at the top.

    It was as a bowler that he is best remembered, taking what was then a world record of 431 wickets at an average of 22.29. He began his career as a fast opening bowler, but as he matured, shortened his run-up and concentrated more on moving the ball, something at which he is arguably the greatest of all time.

    At times, it seemed he had the ball on a piece of string in his heyday, best shown in his 9/52 effort against Australia.

    He was a handy lower-order batsman who would come in and throw his bat at the ball, ending up with a reasonable average of 27.16 which included two centuries and 15 half-centuries.

    This showed that whilst undoubtedly a bowling all-rounder, he was a capable batsman who could provide crucial runs nearer to the end of an innings.

    Impressive statistics, but Graham Gooch puts Hadlee's ability in perspective the best by saying,"Richard Hadlee at one end, Ilford seconds at the other."

    And few other players can claim to have been so noticeably crucial in their team's outcome, justifying Hadlee's place amongst the great all-rounders of the game.

4. Keith Miller

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    The great Australian all-rounder of the post-war era, Keith Miller was test cricket's first true all-rounder.

    He was perhaps best remembered as a fast opening bowler, forming a partnership with Ray Lindwall, recognised as one of the great test-match opening bowling pairs.

    His wicket tally of 170 doesn't truly reflect his skill, as he would undoubtedly have taken many more had his career not been limited by the lack of play during World War II. His average of 22.97 is a better indicator of his achievements.

    As a batsman, he scored 2958 runs at 36.97, including seven centuries and 13 half-centuries. He is remembered as a classical batsman with an array of shots, but he also had the ability to take the game away from an opponent with a quick attacking innings.

    If you ask a variety of people whether they considered Miller a bowling all-rounder or a batting all-rounder, you will get various answers. And this is what really sums Miller up.

    He was equally effective with both bat and ball. Perhaps the answer to the question is that he was neither, he was a true all-rounder, and a pretty good one at that.

3. Imran Khan

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    A true champion and undoubtedly Pakistan's finest cricketer ever, Imran Khan finds himself at No. 3 in the list of all-time great all-rounders.

    It was as a bowler that he's best remembered, taking 362 test wickets at an average of 22.81. He was a genuine quick and opened the bowling for Pakistan for many years; he would rate as highly as any bowler from any era. 

    As his career progressed and he began to sustain more injuries, his batting became more prevalent, to the point where he was in the team solely as a batsman by the end of his career. This showed that he could indeed make the team as both a bowler and a batsman. 

    He finished his test career with an average 37.69, including 6 centuries and 18 half-centuries, becoming one of only eight players to achieve the 'all-rounders triple' of 300 wickets and 3000 runs.

    There have been few captains in the same class as Khan, and it was his foresight and strategy that helped his Pakistan teams achieve their full potential.

    This quality has stuck with him, as he went on to hold many high-profile positions in various political and social work organisations.

    He ended his career as a 39-year-old, after winning the 1992 World Cup with Pakistan. 

2. Jacques Kallis

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    Jacques Kallis is unquestionably the greatest all-rounder of the modern era and rates highly on the all-time list, too.

    As a batsman, there are few better than Kallis, averaging 57.02, including 41 centuries and 55 half-centuries.

    This average is the highest of any current player, higher than other present day superstars including Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid. 

    Unlike most all-rounders, Kallis is a technically proficient batsman. Whilst most all-rounders tend to score their runs in rather unorthodox style, Kallis brings a very classical approach, playing a range of controlled shots. Indeed, there are few harder wickets to take than that of Kallis.

    Also a fast-medium bowler, Kallis has taken 274 wickets at an average of 32.51. Whilst this may not rate quite as highly as his batting record, it is still impressive nonetheless, and he would be good enough to make many international sides as a bowler.

1. Garfield Sobers

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    As great as the rest of the players on this list were, few would dispute that Garfield Sobers is the greatest all-rounder of all time.

    Like Kallis, Miller and Khan, he was a true all-rounder, a threat with both bat and ball. But what really sets Sobers apart from the rest is the fact that he was essentially three players rolled into one, rather than the two most all-rounders can claim to be.

    He could bowl both fast-medium and spin, being effective with both. But it was as a spin bowler that Sobers was first picked for the West Indies team, often batting low in the order.  He would go on to take 235 wickets at an average of 34.03.

    However, as his career developed he continued to work on his batting, which improved to the extent that he is now remembered as one of the finest batsmen of all time.

    His average of 57.78 is the 10th-best on the all time list and compares with any batsman in the history of the game, with the exception of the great Sir Donald Bradman.

    He scored 26 centuries and 30 half-centuries. But his most famous feat remains the 365 not out he scored in 1958 against Pakistan.

    At the time, this was a world record, a record that would stand until it was broken by Brian Lara in 1994. It still ranks as the fifth highest score ever in test cricket.

    To go with this, he was an excellent fielder and captained the West Indies for many years.

    And it is for these reasons that Sir Garry Sobers rates as the greatest all-rounder of all time.

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