Most people tend to think Cricket is about batting and it is about bowling. Sure, to a certain extent, they are right. That is why you see a couple of kids with a bat and a ball in every street of India. One person throws the ball at another and the other one tries to hit it away as far as he can. Some even make rules such as – “If it hits the window of that vicious lady’s house, the batsman is out! And if it lands in the balcony of the attractive girl living across the street, it’s a six!” Yes, we’ve seen rules like this being applied in ‘Street Cricket’. Children say that this try-to-hit-the-ball-thrown-at-you game they play in every street of India is named Cricket. Like we said earlier, they’re right to a certain extent. After all, it is the same basic concept as Cricket. However, most people, when they say Cricket is batting and bowling are making a glaring error. If hitting away stuff thrown at you were Cricket, every husband trying to defend himself with a handbag against utensils thrown at him by the missus would said to be playing Cricket.
Cricket is much more complex and beautiful than that. In fact, when we talk about professional Cricket, it is as beautiful as any other sport. What makes it beautiful to play, beautiful to watch, and beautiful to understand are the innumerous intertwining elements it has to it. Fielding, for example, is a crucial part of the game, which people inadvertently overlook. Other elements would include throwing, reading of the game, handling pressure situations, adapting to different batting positions, changing your game to suit the different forms of Cricket etc. Let’s take some examples to prove the point we’re trying to make –
Team A is playing against Team B in a very crucial match. It is the last three balls and Team A needs to score 4 runs to win. A bowler is on strike and a well-established batsman at the other end. The bowler, having a cool head on his shoulder, does not try to hit the ball out of the ground; he rather just taps it down and makes a run for it.
The fielder at Point is the nearest fielder to where the ball lands. Now think about the multitude of possibilities that arise and how they essentially depend on the character of the player involved.
For example, if the bowler who is bowling this last over has a good reading of the game and remembers his training lessons, he would run to the bowler’s end to receive the throw from the fielder at point. Now if he doesn’t think of that and doesn’t come back after bowling that delivery, the chance of a run out is much lesser!
Now let’s consider the fielder at Point. If he doesn’t have a cool head, and he doesn’t have a good throw, he may just throw the ball away towards the wickets and he could end up giving 4 runs in over-throws! If, however, he is sensible and can handle the pressure, he will make sure he does not give away overthrows. If he is a good fielder, he will try to throw the ball as fast as he can and into the hands of the bowler standing there to receive it. And if the bowler hasn’t made his way back, the fielder at Point would himself run towards the bowler’s end. Also, wouldn’t the pace and the running of the batsmen be a consideration here? There are so many other possibilities we can contemplate!
I guess we have made our point of Cricket being more than just batting and bowling. Now, we’re extending this argument to the concept of ‘All-rounder’. We’re saying that an ‘All-rounder’ is not just a cricketer who can bat and who can bowl; rather, a player who is capable of excelling in a majority of the important aspects of the game. It’s a debatable argument but I think we have provided a solid enough premise to back our judgement call.
Let us now take you through who we think are the twenty best all-rounders the game has ever seen:
20 - ABDUL RAZZAQ (PAKISTAN)
Pakistan’s Abdul Razzaq is not the most popular name in world sport or the history books. He isn’t considered among the greats and that probably tells you what an underrated bloke he was. During his prime, he would consistently produce wonderfully efficient spells of bowling consistently chip away with important runs at vital times.
19 - ANDREW SYMONDS (AUSTRALIA)
Strong, fit, agile, pacey, dedicated and zealous – during his time, Andrew Symonds embodied what any sportsperson should be like. Whenever he came out to bat or bowl, an air of disquietude would take its place among the opposition players and fans alike.Look at those strike-rates and you will realize what a true entertainer Andrew Symonds was. He was a big part of the invincible Australian team and came to their rescue many a time – with his batting, bowling and even fielding. His commitment in the field was terrific and inspired everyone around him too. There have been a number of occasions when Andrew Symonds has, just by his fielding, built the kind of pressure on batsmen that made them give their wicket away. When I think about Symonds, just one word comes to mind – POWERHOUSE! We have to admit that Bhajji exhibited remarkable courage by picking a fight with this guy!
18 - AB DE VILLIERS (SOUTH AFRICA)
If you asked us to pick our favourite player from among the twenty we’ve named, we would probably have picked this guy. We love him, and so does the rest of the world! A player full of panache and charisma, AB De Villiers is one of those players whose love for the game can actually be seen when you watch them play. De Villiers is always smiling whenever on the pitch and full of vibrancy – like a 10 year old jumping around in the field!
Much of what De Villiers does on the pitch is unbelievable and stupefying – his 31 ball hundred for example, which is the fastest century anyone has ever made. He has always been consistent with his performances, but when on the high peak of his form, there is nothing you can’t expect this guy to do! He has excellent technique but at the same time, he is inventing new shots all the time. He can rotate the strike better than anyone and can hold the innings this way if the situation demands, but when he really gets going, he can absolutely obliterate any bowling attack in the world! Unreal talent backed by unimaginable courage – that is what AB De Villers’ batting is all about.
Even though he isn’t a bowler, De Villiers is an incredible all-round player. One of the best fielders around, he can even keep the wickets. He is a true leader on the pitch and a very intelligent captain. Besides, the way he can change his game to suit the situation is something very few players can boast of possessing.
17 – PAUL COLLINGWOOD (ENGLAND)
Paul Collingwood was never the most gifted player to play the game. But he had some strengths, and he very well knew how to use them. He was a committed player and always did the right things. Rarely would you see Collingwood try a flashy shot and give his wicket away when it wasn’t needed. He had an excellent reading of the game and that is probably what made his weird, seemingly easy-to-play balling very useful in certain conditions. He knew what the situation demanded of him and he knew how to deliver it.
Paul Collingwood has throughout his career produced breathtakingly amazing moments in the field. His reflexes were unreal and his devotion as a player contributed to his fielding too. Paul Collingwood is a fine man you would never see getting into unnecessary brawls with opposition players. He played with a smile on his face and was a joy to witness.
16 - CHRIS GAYLE (WEST INDIES)
Chris Gayle redefines the word “swagger’. Chris Gayle is the kind of player who attracts crowds to come and watch the match. A true entertainer, Gayle enjoys his game and makes the fans enjoy it as well.
Gayle usually opens the innings for his teams. He would see his way out of the first few overs, judging the conditions, settling in, but there comes a point where he goes insane and erupts like a volcano! After that, it just rains fours and massive sixes. He completely slaughters the bowling attack and there is no one who can stop him when he gets going.
Gayle can also be a useful bowler whose accuracy is commendable. He can bowl constantly with the same line and length, and does not concede a lot of runs. Apart from the technical aspects of the game, Gayle is absolutely adorable. His celebrations and dances upon bagging wickets are enjoyed by everyone across the globe.
15 - YUVRAJ SINGH (INDIA)
At his prime, India’s Yuvraj Singh was capable of producing performances in which he was the best batsman, the best bowler and the best fielder out of the 22 who played that match. You cannot say this about a lot of players.
Yuvraj Singh was one of the most athletic players of the Indian side at a time, and was a deadly fielder at Point and in the covers. He has produced some memorable moments in those positions - saving boundaries, taking bewildering catches and assisting in numerous run-outs.
Yuvraj Singh was the first batsman to hit six sixes in an over – an over that you just cannot forget. Yuvi was an expert at hitting the ball out of the ground. He has produced match-winning knocks throughout his career, especially while chasing targets. The aggressive ‘Sher-e-Punjab’ was named ‘Man of the Tournament’ for the World Cup 2011. He was a very effective part time bowler and has produced some marvellous spells in his career. He could take crucial wickets and was a very economical bowler.
14 – SHAHID AFRIDI (PAKISTAN)
Another batsman-cum-spinner, Shahid Afridi never really realized his potential completely and did not match up to the high standards he had set for himself. He was inconsistent throughout his career but on his day, he was prodigious match-winner who could carry the entire team on his shoulders. He was an explosive batsman capable of smashing every ball out of the ground. His 37-ball hundred created a world record of the fastest century – a record that took 18 years to finally be beaten. He was a very canny bowler who knew how to use the situation to his advantage and throughout his career, he has produced bowling spells that could take your breath away. An eccentric personality, Afridi did not know when he needed to curb his instincts, which is probably why he was as inconsistent as he was.
13 – ANDREW FLINTOFF (ENGLAND)
Andrew Flintoff was exactly the kind of guy a coach would want in the dressing room and around the heart of the action on the pitch. He had a tremendous appetite for the game, and knew how to inspire those around him. He was a fast bowler and a pretty decent batsman, not to mention an absolute gem of a fielder.
Flintoff could bowl in excess of 140 kmph, and has produced some incredible spellbinding spells, particularly in test matches. He was also a very handy batsman, who could win you matches just with his bat. Even though he was inconsistent on occasions and therefore didn’t reach the great heights the world thought he was destined for. His attitude towards the game was enough to earn him a spot on this list.
12 – LANCE KLUSENER (SOUTH AFRICA)
If you study Lance Klusener’s career from a bowling point of view and look at how he changed and adapted his styles and pace of bowling through his career, you would be both stunned and impressed. Klusener first started out as a bowler only, and a ferocious one at that. Early in his career, he used to bowl at marvellous speeds of 150 kmph and above. His dangerous bouncers and fierce yorkers had the ability to scare any batsman in the world. However, after encountering an injury, his pace dropped. He adapted brilliantly to the situation and developed other skills in his bowling that made him a threatening bowler even with the lesser pace. Towards the end of his career, he was almost being used as a spinner as he focussed on off-cutters and variations in his bowling.
Even though he started out as a bowler, the world soon found out that he was more than capable with the bat. He knew how to adapt to different situations, and he very well knew where the boundary line was. He knew how to clear that boundary line – whether it was going through the grass or taking aerial routes.
It was probably his 3 year stint in the army that made him so fit and aggressive – attributes that led to his success as an all-rounder. These attributes also made him a thundering presence in the outfield.
11 - VIVIAN RICHARDS (WEST INDIES)
Viv Richards is regarded as one of the most destructive batsmen of all time. Even before he faced his first ball, he had the ability to scare his opponents out of their minds by a kind of admirable arrogance he had. The outgoing batsman would go into the pavilion, take his pads off, and even then you would not see Viv Richards coming out. He would make you wait while anxiety filled the minds of all the players in the fielding side, and West Indian fans would be excited by fantastic expectations of what was going to come. And then he would come marching on, having already created pandemonium in the fielding side. If his muscular, ‘bulldozer-like’ figure wasn’t enough to intimidate the bowler, he would look him straight in the eye as he would tap the wicket.
What came after that was worse, if were a bowler and terrific, if were a neutral spectator. Viv Richards could completely annihilate bowling attacks with his power and wide range of shots. He was also a useful bowler as you can see from his career statistics –
10 – SHAUN POLLOCK (SOUTH AFRICA)
Shaun Pollock is one of the finest seamers to ever play for South Africa. Add to that his ability to chip in with important runs at crucial times and you have a bowling all-rounder who was indispensable to his team. He was never really known for his pace, but he could bowl the perfect line and length all day. Needless to say, his accuracy provided him with a lot of wickets.
Pollock could always surprise you with the bat. He was very adept at rotating the strike and at times it was very hard to get him out. He even knew how to find the boundaries when he needed to.
9 - SANATH JAYASURYA (SRI LANKA)
Whenever Jayasurya swung his bat and hit a ball, it stayed hit. If you’ve watched him play, I’m certain that you vividly remember the ease with which he could dispatch any ball outside the ground, especially on the leg side. A left-handed opening batsman, Sanath Jayasuriya was the kind of a player who could take the game away from you in just 10 overs. Once he got going, no bowler seemed capable of stopping him.
Apart from his explosive batting, Jayasuriya was quite handy with the ball. He could come in to ball during the middle overs or toward the deep end of the innings and could get through his overs very quickly. In the process, he would slow down the run rate of the opposition without them realizing it completely. He was extremely good with his variations in bowling and also bagged some important wickets.
8 – KEITH MILLER (AUSTRALIA)
Australia’s Keith Miller was one of the first players who actually developed the concept of all-rounder. Be it an aggressive spell of bowling, or picturesque strokes with the bat, Miller was an extremely talented player who could do it all.
7 – RICHARD HADLEE
Even today, you cannot talk about swing bowling without mentioning Richard Hadlee. Arguably the most gifted swing bowler in the history of the game, Hadlee knew how to make the ball move exactly how he commanded it. He ended his career with a remarkable 431 wickets. He could also hit the ball well and clean. His two centuries and fifteen half centuries are enough proof that his batting was no fluke.
6 – SIR IAN BOTHAM
Sir Ian Botham is considered to be one of the greatest players to have ever played for England. He is a legend in England and deservedly so, having provided a lot of memorable moments for the history books. Sir Ian Botham was an excellent batsman with a terrific technique, and also knew how to frighten any batsman. He was as classy and active off the pitch as he was on it.
5 - IMRAN KHAN (PAKISTAN)
You cannot make a list of the greatest bowlers ever to play the game, or the greatest all-rounders without mentioning Imran Khan. Arguably the greatest player to have ever played for Pakistan, Imran Khan is an absolute legend whose stories you will keep hearing from the cricketers of his time.
He was a brilliant swing bowler, a talented batsman with a surprisingly wide array of shots, and an excellent captain who led Pakistan to World Cup glory.
4 – SHANE WATSON (AUSTRALIA)
Shane Watson can open the batting as well as the bowling for his team. That’s enough to tell you how proficient he is with both bat and ball. Shane Watson is a complete all-rounder, probably one of the best in the game right now. He’s a powerful batsman with a good technique and has the ability to hit the ball with unreal force. On his day, he can butcher the bowlers with his fours that reach the boundary like a bullet and massive sixes that travel miles.
Watson is a very consistent bowler as well. The strong, broad-shouldered Aussie can surprise you with the bounce and pace he can produce sometimes. He’s as aggressive with the ball in his hand as he is with the bat and that makes him a very useful bowler, especially in certain conditions. He’s terrific on the field too – fast and agile.
Considering the injury problems he had early in his career, it is incredible to see how far he has come.
3 - KAPIL DEV (INDIA)
In India, World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev’s name is synonymous with the term all-rounder. Kapil Dev is without question the greatest all-rounder to have ever played for India. He was more of a bowling all-rounder and became only the second player to have reached the 400 wicket mark. But this does not mean he didn’t know how to bat. Kapil Dev had mastered the art of the pull shot and the hook shot and could win his team matches with his batting alone. His 175 not out against Zimbabve gives us all there is to know about his batting prowess.
2 – SIR GARFIELD SOBERS
Many people would argue that Sir Garfield Sobers is the greatest all-rounder of all time. Well, he isn’t far from that in our list too. It was a close call, and only after a lot of research did we make our decision.
The records to the name of Sir Garfield Sobers are enough to impress anyone - 234 wickets, a batting average of 58 and a highest score of 365. Even though he could bowl both spin and medium fast, it was his spin bowling that was so accurate and clever that it was almost too much to handle for even the best batsmen of that time. Apart from this, he was also an excellent fielder.
It is often said, by those who actually watched Sir Garry Sobers play, that it was his batting style that made him so admirable. He had a terrific technique, and along with that, he also hit his shots with overbearing power. He was ‘Rahul Dravid meets MS Dhoni’.
1 – JACQUES KALLIS (SOUTH AFRICA)
South African all-rounder Jaques Kallis takes the number one spot in our list. Kallis is arguable the most underrated player in the history of the sport. Often an unsung hero, Kallis had a simple, but a technically sound game. He was more than decent with both bat and ball, a fact very well depicted by his emphatic statistics.
Kallis’ sound technique with the bat and his conventional stroke play made him a delight to watch every time he came in to bat. He had the invaluable ability to be able to change gears while batting with so much ease that it was bewildering. Whenever he came out of the pavilion to bat, you just knew he was going to provide stability to the innings. But he could really push on and give the bowlers a bashing if that is what the situation demanded.
Kallis mainly bowled medium fast. But the change in pace he showed sometimes would mystify both spectators and the batsman alike. If he got any assistance from the wicket, Kallis knew how to throw intimidating bouncers and build pressure on the batsman. His bowling has been the difference between triumph and loss for his team many times.
Kallis’ reading of the game, his devotion in and out of the field, his ability to excel in any form of the game and his leadership skills make him the best all-rounder of all time.
Let’s look at Kallis’ impressive statistics –
SOURCE OF ALL STATISTICS – ESPNCRICINFO.COM