The greatest all-rounder since 1970 (part I)

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    The second coming of England's messiah - albeit in coloured clothing. AAP Images

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    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 (New Zealand) – 112 Tests, 4516 runs at 30.1 with six centuries and 23 half-centuries, highest score 140. 360 wickets at 34.4 with 20 5-wicket innings and 3 10-wicket matches, best bowling in an innings 7/87, best bowling in a match 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 and after 48 Tests his average was just 18.1.

    However, 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, averaging 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. 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 and 22 half-centuries, HS 158, 218 wickets at 29.4 with 13 5WI and 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 (England) – 79 Tests, 3845 runs at 31.8 with five centuries and 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 with 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 and 20 half-centuries, HS 148, 141 wickets at 32.2, 6 5WI and 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 Andy Roberts and Michael Holding to Bishan Bedi and B.S. 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 Dennis Lillee and Jeff 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 (South Africa) – 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.

    Tune in tomorrow for the top five.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (82)

    • Roar Guru

      January 26th 2013 @ 5:15am
      peeeko said | January 26th 2013 @ 5:15am | ! Report

      i am glad you ranked Flintoff no higher than 8. really even his 2005 ashes series of 24 wickets at 27 is good without being brilliant.
      i also think that Vettori just gets in, he wouldn’t have taken that many wickets or got a run at most other countries. a bowliong average of 34 is not really world class

      • January 26th 2013 @ 5:50am
        Frank O'Keeffe said | January 26th 2013 @ 5:50am | ! Report

        What? Averaging almost five wickets per Test at 27 AND making crucial runs isn’t brilliant?

        He wasn’t England’s best bowler in that series – that was Simon Jones. But Flintoff’s stats are freakish! To make the runs he did and take almost five wickets per Test – that’s incredible. Honestly, at his peak in that series, he compares to the best ever allrounders. Unfortunately he didn’t sustain that greatness!

        And his impact was greater than those stats too.

        This over said it all –

        Flintoff isn’t as great as Kahn, Hadlee, Botham, Dev, Kallis, etc, in terms of being a great allrounder, but in the 2005 Ashes he was as effective as any of those players.

        I’d say Imran was the best allrounded since 1970, but Kallis is getting up there. Great as Kallis is, I think his stats overestimate his impact. That’s not to say he hasn’t had a huge impact, or that he might just be SA’s best ever cricketer.

        My list of the best allrounders ever:

        1. Gary Sobers
        2. Imran Kahn
        3. Ian Botham (impact over stats)
        4. Jaquas Kallis
        5. Keith Miller
        6. Richard Hadlee (more of a bowler than allrounder)
        7. Kapil Dev
        8. Mike Procter
        9. Alan Davidson
        10. Richie Benaud

        Handy though he could be with the bat, Wasim isn’t quite an allrounder for me!

        • January 26th 2013 @ 5:54am
          Frank O'Keeffe said | January 26th 2013 @ 5:54am | ! Report

          Sorry but I love that Flintoff over so much.

          Watching it you almost feel as though Ponting wished Flintoff never bowled that no ball.

          5 of those 7 deliveries were great. He got two wickets. And the crowd was just reacting to everything he was doing.

          Simply put, that was the greatest cricket series of all time!

          • January 26th 2013 @ 6:00am
            Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 6:00am | ! Report

            Good clip and analysis Frank O’Keefe. That’s like a bull ring, an ancient Roman Gladiator Colosseum, such a roar.
            Not nessecarily the highest standard cricket ever played over a series but right up there, but for sheer energy and hype, and adrenilan pumping feeling alive energy, that;s the best test series I have watched. Some of those Australia VS West Indies test series in the 70’s and 80’s were amazing,and a few VS England too.

            Lillee bowling Richards on the last ball of the day “can you believe that”, that was a roar. And Border and Thompson almost winning the test vs England too, and of course Headingley 1981, and also the West Indies 1 run win in Adelaide when there world title under threat, get in and win by the skin of there fingernails. Ambrose/Bishop/Walsh that day bowled seriously world class defending such a small total in Adelaide. And Warne’s 7 wicket at the G in 2nd innings. Love how he bowled Ritchie RIchardson. That 1992/3 series in OZ, was end to end stuff, so many good memories , Lara’s double Hundred, languor’s gritty 50, Curtley having a spell of 7 for 1.
            And the ODI series with them and Pakistan was 1st class, plus when Deano got Curtley fired up without he sweat bands.

            And STH Africa at the SCG 1993/4 FDevilliers and Alan Donald were magnificent, I enjoyed that whole 1993/4 series vs South Africa a lot.

            Eden Gardens 2001 2nd test still was so special, Laxman,Dravid, and Harbajhan SIngh, were amazing and Eden Garden’s is as awesome and intimidating an atmosphere you can get when full and India are doing well.

          • Roar Rookie

            January 26th 2013 @ 9:49am
            josh said | January 26th 2013 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            That over summed up Flintoff. Wasn’t the greatest all rounder but produced talismanic spells. Even in 2009 with the Ponting run out. Flintoff in the side seemed to have the ability to do what was needed at the right time.

            He is a case of the the sum of parts are greater than the whole.

        • Roar Guru

          January 26th 2013 @ 6:25am
          peeeko said | January 26th 2013 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          in that series warnie took 40 wickets (8 per match) at 19 and averaged 27 with the bat. its was defintely a top series for Flintoff but i think it is somewhat over rated by a lot of people

          • January 26th 2013 @ 6:50am
            Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

            Warnie was the man for that series. Even more than Freddy, .Warnie was phenomenal,takeing 40 wickets, in a high pressure series, and he made vital runs at crucial times, and was basically half captaining and coaching the side. A 1 man team just about. England even in there peak still couldn’t handle Warney.
            Warney really carried that aussy team in that series, much the same way Kapil Dev had to carry India bowling wise, and also chip in with the bat. Warney’s 2005 series is the greatest all round series contribution i can think off, in a big series, thanks peeko for reminding everyone.

        • January 26th 2013 @ 11:48am
          Jake said | January 26th 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          You do realise that the article is the best all rounders since 1970? Whilst Richie and Davidson were good, they probably shouldn’t be in this thread.

        • January 26th 2013 @ 11:58am
          Jake said | January 26th 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          Frank, you mention Imran the best all rounder since 1970, I disagree. It is without doubt Sobers and possibly even Kallis before Imran.

          Top 5 of; Sobers, Kallis, Imran, Botham and then I guess it’s a toss up between Dev and Hadlee for the final spot.

          • January 26th 2013 @ 1:50pm
            Jamiej said | January 26th 2013 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

            When did Sobers’ career finish? 1972 I think. Cutting it fine to fit him in!

            Ignoring Sobers, I would say that as pure all rounders, toss up between early career Botham and Kallis. Kallis doesn’t take bags of wickets but is incredible with consistency and longetivity. Botham pre about 1983 was amazing, but fell away. For mine, Dev, Hadlee and Imran didn’t bat quite as well as IB but were all better bowlers.

            • January 26th 2013 @ 4:54pm
              Jake said | January 26th 2013 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

              It wasn’t ’72, it was actually mid way through ’74. He was still able to get in over 4 full years in.

              The article is “the best all rounder since 1970”, it doesn’t mention any requirements on games etc.

              • January 26th 2013 @ 5:48pm
                Jason said | January 26th 2013 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

                Glenn excluded Sobers from the best batsman since 1970 threads.

              • Columnist

                January 26th 2013 @ 5:58pm
                Glenn Mitchell said | January 26th 2013 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

                Jake, given he debuted in 1954 I did not include him. I applied the same approach to the likes of Lawry, Simpson & Cowdrey etc in the batting articles as more than 75% of their careers took place prior to 1970. In Sobers case 82% of his Tests were before 1970.

    • January 26th 2013 @ 5:49am
      Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 5:49am | ! Report

      Chris Cairns needs, to be higher, some of his stats are misleading .

      After 1998 Cairns averaged 43.2 with bat and 25.9 with ball in Tests. Cairns I rate Higher than Flintoff, and Shaun Pollock.
      Intersitingly it’s not where I rate Pollock the better bowler issues, .

      I rate Cairns the better bowler, and a little bit better batsmen but not by much. But Cairns had the ability , Ian botham like ability, to tear apart any team, anytime.
      And he gave Shane Warne some real stick, smashing him all over the place sometimes, no easy feat. Both are better all rounders than Flintoff.

      Chris Cairns in 2000 in NZ VS Australia series, had an awsome series. NZ bowling attack was injury riddled most of the series. no Geoff Allott who form memory was the leading wicket taker in the last 6 months in world cricket, Vettori missed the 1 st test test too from y, SImon Doull was out too for some tests, and DIon Nash, so injuries all over the place.

      Carins batting was awesome that series
      -3 test 6innings 0 341 109 56.83 63.85 1 2

      -All vs Shane Warne , Mgrath in there prime, and NZ having inury problems

      So Cairns can play good baling and make runs.

      But Cairns for mine I put higher than both Flintoff and Pollock.

      • January 26th 2013 @ 6:21am
        Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 6:21am | ! Report

        Chris Cairns highlights vs Australia 2000. getting a hundred in NZ.

    • Roar Pro

      January 26th 2013 @ 7:58am
      aggregated drupe said | January 26th 2013 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      top 10 no order are:
      Khan, Pollock, Dev, Kallis, Sobers, Hadlee, Botham, Miller, Benaud, Cairns

      • January 26th 2013 @ 8:18am
        Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        2 underrated all rounders
        I always had a soft spot too for Abdul Razzaq, and Jacob Oram. When on fire Abdul Razzaq has one of the best eyes in cricket, boy could he bat when he got going, and was a good baler too, was much faster when younger,. He was much better batsmen than Wasim Akram, . And Jacob Oram was a big strong lad like Chris Cairns, and could bat and bowl just as well, was a big hitter and took wickets too, was about as good a bowler as Shane Watson, both these 2 were very handy cricketers, and underrated, but both had a lot of natural talent no question.
        Oram has scored 4 centuries in 33 tests, Chris Cairns scored 5 centuries in 62 tests. Both were big hitters, and both had injury problems. But both could bat. And Jacob Oram is a very good fielder a big lad, a strong arm and good in the covers too.

        And Jacob Oram has some impressive batting stats vs good teams to in some tough locations and significantly away form home to he can make runs, and a very good strike rate for test cricket, so the man can bat. And he could bowl too, let down like Cairns with a lot of injuries.

        Runs Mins BF 4s 6s SR Pos Dismissal Inns Opposition Ground Start Date
        133 285 169 18 2 78.69 6 caught 2 v South Africa Centurion 15 Apr 2006
        126* 258 178 12 3 70.78 7 not out 1 v Australia Brisbane 18 Nov 2004
        119* 301 216 19 0 55.09 7 not out 2 v South Africa Hamilton 10 Mar 2004
        117 189 166 17 1 70.48 6 bowled 2 v Bangladesh Dunedin 4 Jan 2008
        101 132 121 15 2 83.47 7 bowled 3 v England Lord’s 15 May 2008
        97 197 158 12 1 61.39 8 caught 1 v Pakistan Wellington 26 Dec 2003
        90 201 134 9 3 67.16 8 bowled 2 v South Africa Auckland 18 Mar 2004
        74 218 179 15 0 41.34 6 caught 1 v Sri Lanka Kandy 3 May 2003
        67 125 82 10 0 81.70 6 caught 1 v England Lord’s 20 May 2004
        56 175 148 5 0 37.83 7 caught 4 v Sri Lanka Colombo (SSC) 26 Aug 2009
        50* 73 39 6 2 128.20 7 not out 3 v England Nottingham 5 Jun 2008

        Tom Moody was handy but probably his bowling wasn’t good enough, but he is defiantly up there batting wise , Tom Moody would defiantly be a better batter than say Richard Hadlee, or Shaun Pollock or Flintoff to i would think. And he could bowl but more an ODI bowler than a test one.

        Albe Morkel defiantly would have the batting ability but hasn’t been able to reach his potential with the ball so far, but a very talented all rounder.

        Keiren Pollard is another man too look out for. He is as good a hitter as they come, and is a very useful bowler too. If he develops a bit more he could end up as one of the greta all rounders.

        Dwayne Bravo is a another talented all rounder. 3 hundreds so far, and 2 5 wicket hauls. And stuart Broad I still think has the potential to develop into an all rounder. He has made some big scores too.

        • Roar Guru

          January 26th 2013 @ 8:23am
          biltongbek said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

          Johnno, Albie Morkel is nothing more than a good club cricketer, he has disappointed almost every time he played for SA.

          • January 26th 2013 @ 8:29am
            Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

            the talent is there though he has made a few 50’s but has disappointed no doubt. He is one of the biggest hitters in the game. Interestingly Chris Gayle is border line all rounder level now. He has taken 72 test wickets including 2 fiver’s.

            Greg Matthews needs to be looked at to as one of the better all rounders,. A batting average of over 41 only fractionally higher than Mark Waugh 3 test centuries too, 61 test wicket’s and 2 fiver’s too.

            • January 26th 2013 @ 8:44am
              James said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:44am | ! Report

              Joking right? Matthews? You mean the one with the bowling average of 48?

            • Columnist

              January 26th 2013 @ 10:42am
              Glenn Mitchell said | January 26th 2013 @ 10:42am | ! Report

              Johnno, you surely cannot be serious about Greg Matthews. His wickets came at just under 50. And if you take out his ten wickets (his two fivers) in the Chennai Tied Test, in his other 32 Tests he averaged 53 per wicket.

              • January 26th 2013 @ 10:56am
                Johnno said | January 26th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

                Glen your right about Greg Matthews, I jumped the gun there. I got caught up in the hype that was Mo. Matthews was a handy batsmen, i rate a better batsmen than say Dan Vettori, . He had good states for NSW Mo with his off-spinners, but test cricket is a different standard. So Mo’s bowling is not good enough, but if Mo could bowl as well as the off-spinner Vettori then Mo would be taken seriously as a top class all rounder.

        • January 26th 2013 @ 11:57am
          Brian said | January 26th 2013 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          One downside of the ipl is that i don’t think we will ever know how good all rounders Dwayne bravo or Pollard might have been.

      • January 26th 2013 @ 11:50am
        Jake said | January 26th 2013 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        Top ten since 1970??????

    • January 26th 2013 @ 8:44am
      Arthur fonzarelli. said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      No prizes for guessing who the top 5 will be but the order will be debatable .

      I am glad you have refrained from including keepers – this “wicketkeepers are all rounders ” theory is nonsense .

    • Roar Guru

      January 26th 2013 @ 8:48am
      TheGenuineTailender said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      I honestly believe Shane Watson will be remembered as one of the best, particularly in limited overs cricket. His batting at test match level has been very good when you consider he’s balanced that with a very good bowling average and is opening the batting.

      Ultimately injuries have cost him the opportunity to become a modern great.

    • Roar Guru

      January 26th 2013 @ 8:52am
      sheek said | January 26th 2013 @ 8:52am | ! Report


      For the benefit of fellow Roarers, I would like to mention the claims of Mike Procter as one of the finest all-rounders in the histroy of the game.

      Procter played the last of his seven tests in early 1970, but age wise (b.1946), & under different circumstances, he would have played test cricket throughout the 70s.

      His overall first class record is remarkably comparable to Imran Khan. Consequently, I have no hesitation in suggesting that Procter is behind Sobers & Kallis, on a par with Imran, & most probably ahead of all other all-rounders of the period. Of course, Ian Botham’s “big match” appetite must also be acknowledged.

      I understand that Procter is disqualified from this discussion through no peronal fault of his own, but just as long as Roarers appreciate that he was very, very, very, very good. As was his fellow Saffie Clive Rice, who unfortunately played no test cricket at all.

      • January 26th 2013 @ 9:25am
        Jimmy said | January 26th 2013 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        Clive Rice was phenomenal but cannot be considered. Poor bugger. Agree on Proctor. When I visited my daughter in SA, I recall watching him play as a schoolboy in Natal at the private school he went to. He was incredible – joyously hitting sixes over the large gum trees! Great credit to the schools coaches in not trying to change his bowling action. Much later I saw a lot of him in England when he played for Gloucestershire and he was terrific – as a player and as a Captain.

      • Columnist

        January 26th 2013 @ 10:32am
        Glenn Mitchell said | January 26th 2013 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        No argument at all there Sheek. Had it not been for South Africa’s exclusion Procter could well have been right up there with Sobers’ legend. Rice was also was a terrific talent.

        • January 26th 2013 @ 11:04am
          Jimmy said | January 26th 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          By that remark we can be almost certain of who your No 1 pick will be?

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