Best allrounders in Test cricket history

Allrounders are good enough to be selected solely for their batting OR bowling alone.
Allrounders are good enough to be selected solely for their batting OR bowling alone.

Picking the best of anything from all eras of cricket is no easy task, as there would always be some element of subjectivity in selections.

However, using pre-defined criteria would help to reduce (but not completely eliminate) bias in selections.

In cricket, all-rounders are players who not only bowl and bat, but can also gain selection as a specialist batsman or specialist bowler.

In modern cricket, one hears the term “batting allrounder,” or “bowling allrounder” but those terms corrupt the idea of an allrounder – a cricketer who can merit selection solely on one discipline or the other.

Some followers also consider allrounders to be batsmen or bowlers who field well or wicketkeeper/batsmen. That is also not the traditional definition of allrounder. Some fielders like Jonty Rhodes were well above-average, but to include those may dilute the definition of an all-round cricketer.

Criteria

Test statistics play a huge part in determining the best allrounders in the game. In this selection, there are 12 cricketers, so some decent cricketers are bound to be omitted. Players like Wasim Akram, Richie Benaud, Chaminda Vaas, Tony Greig and Ray Lindwall miss out because of the criteria used. The criteria are as follows:

Minimum qualification: 2000 Test runs and 200 Test wickets

A Test bowling average not more than five points higher than Test batting average

Maximum bowling average: 35.00

Minimum batting average: 25.00

Top 10 allrounders based on criteria

(click column header to sort results)
Ranking   
Name  
Runs   
Batting average  
Wickets  
Bowling Average  
Difference  
Jacques Kallis
11947 
57.43
270
32.01
25.42
Garfield Sobers
8032 
57.78
235
34.03
23.75
3
Imran Khan
3807
37.69
362
22.81
14.88
4
Kapildev Nikhanj
5248
31.05
434
29.64
1.41
5
Ian T. Botham
5200
33.54
383
28.40
5.14
6
Richard Hadlee
3124
27.16
431
22.29
4.87
7
Shaun Pollock
3781
32.31
421
23.11
9.20
8
Andrew Flintoff
3845
31.77
226
32.78
- 1.01
9
Daniel Vettori
4167
30.19
345
33.98
- 3.79
10
Chris Cairns
3320
33.53
218
29.40
4.13
* denotes active players. Statistics for these players may change.

Method of selection

Ranking allrounders is a bit of a headache because it's not just about comparing batting statistics, but bowling statistics have to be factored in for a composite view. For example, Jacques Kallis scored a fair bit of runs and took 270 wickets, but how do you compare him to Richard Hadlee. Hadlee had to face better bowling in the 1980s and was a far better bowler than Kallis.

To arrive at a fair gauge, I ranked the players according to number of runs, number of wickets, the difference between averages and batting and bowling averages. These rankings gave a better indication of where to place the allrounders in the list. Just out of interest, I showed the comparative rankings of the individual players in the table below.

Comparative rankings of all rounders according to Test statistics

Player 
No. of runs
No. of Wickets
Difference in avg.
Bat avg. 
Bowl avg. 
Jacques Kallis
1
7
1
Garry Sobers 
2
8
2
10 
Imran Khan
7
5
3
3
2
Kapil Dev
3
1
8
8
6
Ian Botham
4
4
5
4
4
Richard Hadlee
10
2
6
10
1
Shaun Pollock
8
3
4
6
3
Andy Flintoff
6
9
9
7
8
Daniel Vettori
5
6
10
9
9
Chris Cairns
9
10
7
5
5

At the end of it, statistics must still be interpreted, since the picture clearly paints an up-and-down picture of who the best all-rounder should be. Using statistics is supposed to make selections easier, but using many different factors can actually complicate it.

If I used the average of the positions in the table above, the order would be as follows: Jacques Kallis, Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Garry Sobers, Shaun Pollock, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns, Andy Flintoff, and Daniel Vettori.

Some may be surprised that Andy Flintoff is not higher up on this list. However, Flintoff performed well in the latter stages of his career. He was a very ordinary cricket when he began; anyone who watched cricket then would remember the portly fast medium bowler who struggled to bowl.

In addition, the supposed greatness of Flintoff is an illusion created by the media - particularly the English media. That's the same media that thinks the England football team should win every World Cup. Besides, so much is made of the Ashes, and to use fine Ashes performance to elevate players would show a clear bias towards English and Australian cricketers. Imagine if other allrounders got a chance to play the Ashes. Was injury-prone Flintoff better than Kapil Dev or even Shaun Pollock? He was not even in the same league.

Statistics would always be somewhat subjective, since one has select which criteria are used and which aren't. For instance, I could have used bowling strike rates instead of bowling averages and the results would have been different. However, all of these allrounders were quite a handful in their playing days and were tremendous assets to their teams and the game of cricket.

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Comments 2 comments

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 5 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Although I am English cricket escapes me :) You have shared it well though


SpiffyD profile image

SpiffyD 5 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Fancy that. England has so many sports and teams to follow that cricket is just knee-high in that realm anyway. Thanks for reading Ethel.

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