An all-rounder is one who can both bat as well as bowl, and be selected in the team as both a bowler as well as a batsman.
A batting all-rounder (like Sanath Jayasuriya) is one whose batting is more important and a bowling all-rounder (like Richard Hadlee) is one whose bowling is more important to the team.
A generally accepted rule is that the batting average of a player is better than his bowling average, then he is a good all rounder. Only three players in the history of the game, Garfield Sobers, Jacques Kallis and Walter Hammond have a difference of more than 20. Walter Hammond I would however not figure in my list of great all rounders simply as he has less than 100 Test wickets.
Who is the greatest all rounder of all time?
Sobers has scored more than 8000 runs at an average more than that achieved by Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, who also took more than 200 Test wickets.
But is it Kallis? Or is it Ian Botham who has the feat of five wickets in an innings and 100 in the same Test match as many as five times. Even the great Sobers and Kallis have performed this twice.
My view is that it is Sobers. His first Test ton at 21 was 365 and he broke the world record for highest Test score. He was the first to hit 6 sixes in an over. He was a brilliant fielder too and as a bowler could bowl both spin and pace.
Who was the last great all-rounder? Undoubtedly, it’s none other than Jacques Kallis. Just imagine, as a batsman he was as important to the team as Rahul Dravid and scored as many runs as the Wall with more Test tons and a better average.
As a bowler he has performed as well as Zaheer Khan, with 292 Test wickets compared to Zaheer’s 311.
In the 80s and early 90s the cricket world was fortunate to see at one time not one or two but four great all-rounders: Botham, Imran, Sir Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev.
Thereafter, Andrew Symonds and Andrew Flintoff were the best we saw other than Kallis. Flintoff was a genuine all rounder with almost 4000 runs in Test cricket and more than 200 wickets.
Andrew Symonds was a hard hitting batsman, a terrific fielder and of course a more than useful bowler.
Does this mean that the quality of allrounders has deteriorated with passage of time? In the longer form of the game, there are not many at the moment. As it stands, probably Ben Stokes is the best currently on display.