10 International All-Rounders with Most to Prove in 2016

Alex Telfer@@troyspeerFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2016

10 International All-Rounders with Most to Prove in 2016

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    All-rounders are highly sought-after commodities in cricket, especially in the Twenty20 world, where a player who can chip in with both bat and ball adds crucial balance and variety to a side.

    That said, there's a real lack of outstanding all-rounders in the game currently.

    Where's the next Ian Botham coming from? Who will be the next Imran Khan? Will there be another Jacques Kallis? What about Garfield Sobers etc, etc.

    England's Ben Stokes appears to have all the raw ingredients required to perhaps join the list of great all-rounders once he's hung up his pads.

    But, of course, having played only 23 Tests and aged just 24 years old, the Durham man has plenty of work ahead of him, starting with the T20 World Cup.

    With that in mind, here, ranked in loose ascending order in terms of what's at stake, are 10 all-rounders with plenty to prove over the remainder of the calendar year.

10. Shahid Afridi

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    Challenge: Prove he has an international future.

    Despite being captain of Pakistan's T20 side going into the World Cup, Shahid Afridi has found himself under pressure from the media, including the legendary Javed Miandad on Pakistani TV channel Aaj (h/t India Today's Akshay Ramesh).

    And, at the ripe old age of 36 years old, it remains to be seen how many years the man known as Boom Boom has left at the top.

    On the other hand, as many other ageing stars have shown, the 20-over format isn't overly demanding physically.

    Additionally, Afridi's statistics don't lie; 2,966 runs at a strike rate of over 154 and 226 wickets with an economy rate of 6.64 anyone?

9. James Faulkner

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    Challenge: Win a second Australian Test cap.

    Since making a fairly successful Test debut against England in 2013, James Faulkner has yet to don the famous Baggy Green cap for a second appearance in cricket's most demanding format.

    The Tasmanian remains a fixture in both of his country's limited overs teams, where his mix of left-arm pace, brutal late-order hitting and combative approach makes him a crucial component.

    But these skills don't seem to be enough to warrant a spot in the Test team.

    With a conveyor belt of injuries impacting the Aussies seam-bowling stocks, some decent displays in South Africa and at the T20 World Cup could bring the 25-year-old back into contention.

8. Chris Morris

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    Challenge: Answer the question as to whether he's an international class all-rounder or a white-ball specialist.

    As England's bowlers will testify, Chris Morris is capable of hitting a long ball and winning games with his lower-order hitting.

    But as England's batsmen will also testify, his fast medium bowling, while useful at first-class level (152 wickets at 25.44), appears to be lacking penetration at the top level.

    This set of skills can earn a player a hefty Indian Premier League contract, as evidenced by the South African's big-money move to the Delhi Daredevils.

    It remains to be seen whether it will generate Morris a significant international career.

7. Angelo Mathews

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    Challenge: Help to build Sri Lanka's next generation of stars.

    Sri Lanka are enduring a torrid time at the moment, winning just a single ODI on their lengthy tour of New Zealand before being eliminated from the Asia Cup with one group game still to play.

    And while his own form hasn't been solely to blame, Angelo Mathews has struggled to hit the heights of a few years ago.

    The thing is, although it seems like he's been around forever, the Colombo-born star is just 28 years old and has plenty of time left at the top.

    Does Mathews, the current Test and ODI skipper, possess the willpower to turn his charges into formidable opponents once more?

6. Moeen Ali

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    Challenge: Improve his batting numbers and prove he's a top-level spinner.

    Having Moeen Ali, a genuine out-and-out batsman, coming in down the order is a real luxury for England and provides incredible depth to their lineup.

    But this is only the case because of a lack of credible alternatives in the spin department.

    And if Adil Rashid manages to kick on from his winter exploits, where he finished as the second highest wicket taker in the Big Bash League, then Ali's days could be numbered.

    Unless, of course, he produces bucket loads of runs and wickets himself over the next few months to remain essential to his country's long-term plans.

5. Shakib Al Hasan

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    Challenge: Re-establish himself on the international scene.

    It can be tough playing for Bangladesh given their lack of high-profile matches outside of the major international tournaments.

    Just ask Shakib Al Hasan, who has posted impressive numbers across all formats with both bat and ball—over 8,000 runs and more than 400 wickets—but gets very little recognition.

    Aside from Bangladesh's lack of limelight, another factor that works against Shakib is the six-month ban his own board issued in 2014 for a severe attitude problem.

    With the T20 World Cup imminent, this hugely talented cricketer has the ideal stage to put his name back up in lights.

4. Corey Anderson

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    Challenge: Prove that innings wasn't a fluke.

    Blasting onto the international scene courtesy of a sensational 47-ball 131 in an ODI against the West Indies, Corey Anderson was marked as a potential cricketing superstar.

    However, his record-breaking innings was recorded over two years ago now.

    Since then, the 25-year-old has had plenty of ups and downs with injuries, and his bowling can look innocuous when the radar is off.

    Now back to full fitness and with the T20 World Cup and IPL on the horizon, can Anderson get back on the upward trajectory?

3. Hardik Pandya

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    Challenge: Take his T20 form into the longer formats of international cricket.

    India's search for a seam-bowling all-rounder has been an ongoing project for some years, but in Hardik Pandya, they have finally found an impressive candidate for the role.

    After emerging during the 2015 IPL, where he produced several emphatic displays for the Mumbai Indians, the 22-year-old made his India debut against Australia in January.

    And while he hasn't had many opportunities to bat for a long period yet, several explosive late-order cameos have dovetailed nicely with some smart bowling performances.

    The next step is obviously to score some major runs, and what better stage to do this than at the T20 World Cup?

2. Mitchell Marsh

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    Challenge: Become undroppable for Australia.

    Right now, Mitchell Marsh is a useful all-rounder who makes the odd contribution, mostly with the ball, but primarily helps to balance the Australian side.

    The 24-year-old now needs to step up to the next level and become a genuine match-winner across all formats.

    And a good way to start is by scoring a glut of Test runs. 

    While his team-mates have been scoring centuries for fun over the last few months, Marsh has contributed just 109 runs in seven Tests this summer and averages a sub-par 23 in his international career.

1. Ben Stokes

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    Challenge: Establish himself as the best all-rounder in the world.

    Ben Stokes is arguably the purest all-rounder in the world right now and fits the classic stereotype of bowling fast and batting aggressively to a tee.

    And it's fair to say that the 24-year-old has come a long way since being sent home from an England tour for disciplinary reasons in 2013.

    An array of blistering innings in all formats, a knack of picking up important wickets and some unbelievable acts in the field make the Durham man a force on three fronts.

    The next step for Stokes is to tighten up his bowling, but given his natural talent, his name could one day be named in the same breath as Botham, Richard Hadlee, Khan, Kapil Dev, Kallis etc.