Spinning all-rounders deserve their due

Ritesh Misra Roar Guru

By Ritesh Misra, Ritesh Misra is a Roar Guru


11 Have your say

    Ben Stokes is currently the best all-rounder in the world, an oft-quoted assessment that will be accepted by many followers of the great game without any counter query.

    However is he so? As keen analysts of the game, should we accept blindly or should we ask counter queries before agreeing? Some queries that come to mind could be, first, do we automatically romanticise pace bowling all-rounders; second, do we not give due credit to spin bowling all-rounders; or third, are there any spinning all-rounders today who can pose a challenge to Stokes?

    Let’s have a look.

    An all-rounder is one who can be selected for both batting or bowling alone. The classic example is Gary Sobers, called a five-in-one cricketer by the great Don Bradman. Kallis too was one, and he batted as well as Dravid and took as many wickets as Zaheer Khan.

    However, no-one in modern cricket can stake such a claim except maybe Moeen Ali of England. Therefore it is prudent to talk of all-rounders today as batting all-rounders, such as Stokes, and bowling all-rounders, such as Ashwin and Jadeja. 

    Let us for a moment go back to the beginning of England’s just concluded series against South Africa. Coach Bayliss said Moeen Ali was a batsman who can bowl a bit. According to both his coach and captain, Moeen was the second spinner for his team behind Liam Dawson.

    However, Moeen responded with a magical series, performing every match, whether it was an 87 and a ten-for in the first Test, four crucial wickets in the second, a hat trick in the third to dramatically end the Test or a five-for and a blazing 75 in the fourth and final Test.

    Indeed, Moeen played a crucial role in England’s 3-1 win over South Africa. which was their first home series win agains them in almost 20 years.

    Ben Stokes too performed splendidly, and these two all-rounders played a stellar role for England. Moeen took 25 wickets at 15.64, which is the best performance by an English spinner since 1961. He also scored 252 runs in the series and, more importantly, he and Stokes had crucial knocks in potentially troublesome positions – indeed both of them proved themselves to be worthy all-rounders. Moeen’s double of 20 wickets and over 200 runs was only the seventh such occurrence in the last 17 years.

    Who else has performed this feat?

    (Image: AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

    Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock did so in the 2000-01 away series against the West Indies. Kallis scored 267 runs and took 20 wickets. Pollock too took 20 wickets and scored 302 runs in their team’s 2-1 series win, with super performances by Heschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten, Cullinan and Donald Bradman. 

    Andrew Flintoff and Shane Warne both performed this feat in the 2005 Ashes series, which is universally accepted as one of the most thrilling series of all time. Warne took a magical 40 wickets and scored 249 runs.

    Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath also had good performances with the ball while Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer and Michael Clarke did well with the bat. Yet England won 2-1 with stellar batting performances by Kevin Pietersen and Marcus Trescothick and super bowling by Simon Jones and Steve Harmison.

    However, the star was Flintoff, who scored 402 runs in the series and took 24 wickets to be England’s most successful bowler. Not surprisingly, Warne and Flintoff were joint men of the series.

    Flintoff is the only player who has done achieved difficult feat twice. He helped England to a 2-1 series win in South Africa by taking 23 wickets and scoring 227 runs. While Andrew Strauss and Matthew Hoggard also shone for the Englishmen, it was Flintoff who played crucial roles for his team.

    England were, however, at the receiving end in 2016 when India handed them a four-nil defeat. The two Indian spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravinder Jadeja performed very well for India and were a crucial difference between the two sides as the English spinners in comparison did not do as well.

    Left arm spinner Jadeja took 26 wickets and scored 224 runs while Ashwin scored 306 runs and took 28 wickets. Joe Root was England’s best batsman with 491 runs while Virat Kohli scored 655 runs for India. Moeen Ali had two Test hundreds; however, inexplicably he did not do as well with the ball as expected.

    Now let us not fall into the trap of assuming that this all-rounders feat having been achieved seven times in 17 years, is an easy feat. That it is an achievement can be understood from the fact that before 2000 this milestone was reached only way back in 1985, and there was no such performance in all Test series for the next 15 to 16 years.

    The last person to do the double of 20 and 200 in the 20th century was none other than the peerless Ian Botham in the 1985 Ashes series, which was won 3-1 by England with two Tests drawn. Botham took 31 wickets and scored 250 runs contributing to the series victory.

    Now if one analyses the above performances, one sees that along with Botham there were three more great pace bowling all-rounders, namely Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee. Then there was Kallis, Pollock and Flintoff. After that there is only Stokes.

    Is the fact that he is the only pace bowling all-rounder, adding to the romance? Otherwise, apart from Warne and Kumble, who have both retired, all the current bowling all-rounders are spinning all-rounders, namely Moeen, Ashwin, Jadeja and Shakib. 

    Let us examine their performances in recent times. I have taken Test performances only and have put below how many runs and wickets have been scored and taken by the four spin bowling all-rounders and the sole pace bowling all-rounder. 

    Performance of all-rounders in Test matches in the last year
    Runs + wickets
    865 + 48 Moeen Ali
    684 + 97 R Ashwin
    663 + 87 Ravindra Jadeja
    656 + 29 Shakib AHasan
    772 + 26 Ben Stokes

    Not unsurprisingly Moeen leads the runs table followed by Stokes, while Ashwin and Jadeja lead the wickets tally comfortably.

    While Stokes is indeed an incredible impact player in the sense that he scores runs when needed and does the same while bowling as well, it is seen that the spin bowling all-rounders, except Shakib, are far ahead of him with regard to bowling. Indeed Ashwin, Jadeja and Moeen are all ahead of Stokes very comfortably. The latest ICC all-rounders table also sees Jadeja at the top. 

    In conclusion, without going into who is the best all-rounder in the world, this proves that spinning all-rounders need to be given their due in world cricket. They are worth their weight in gold.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • August 13th 2017 @ 7:58pm
      jonty smith said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:58pm | ! Report

      I love this article Ritesh but other people won’t be able to share my love if this isn’t put in the cricket section. How has this ended up in the tennis section??

      • August 13th 2017 @ 11:55pm
        Ritesh Misra said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:55pm | ! Report

        I Have no idea . Thanks Jonty. Let me write to the editors

    • August 14th 2017 @ 1:58pm
      matth said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

      Runs and wickets doesn’t really work for Shakib, as Bangladesh have few opportunities to actually play. the English play the most tests, so their all rounders have the better figures. Better to us runs and wickets per test.

      Apart fro that quibble, the thrust of your article is spot on. The pace bowling all rounder may be more romantic, but it is the Shakib’s and Ashwin’s of this world that have been the most valuable players for a number of years.

      • August 19th 2017 @ 6:07am
        Ritesh Misra said | August 19th 2017 @ 6:07am | ! Report

        Thanks Matth. I agree that Shakib is hard done as Bangladesh has much fewer oppurtunities to play.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 3:49pm
      James said | August 14th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

      Ali did the 20 wickets and 200 runs in a four test series not a 5fivetest series. I know Botham has done it in a four test but has anyone else? Not for a second saying Ali is anything other than an ordinary bowler and a good batsmen but credit where its due and doing it in only four tests is very rare.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 7:22pm
      Johnno said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

      spinning all-rounders often don’t get the recognition they deserve in the game which is a shame.. There’s been some good ones over the years and some real characters.. I’ll think of a few.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 14th 2017 @ 8:59pm
      savage said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

      This article shows exactly how underrated are spinning all rounders.Many Fans says that Ben stokes is by far best all rounder in the world which i don’t believe as Stokes need to be more consistent.

      I think Ben Stokes is slightly overhyped but i don’t believe his potential is overhyped.To give stokes some credit,he’s easily been most versatile all rounder in the world.
      He had great performance in several countries like Bangladesh,Australia,South africa,India.You may argue that Stokes was best player for England in all of those 4 countries.

    • August 15th 2017 @ 5:45pm
      Liam said | August 15th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

      “Ben Stokes is currently the best all-rounder in the world, an oft-quoted assessment that will be accepted by many followers of the great game without any counter query.”

      No, he’s not. Jadeja is clearly better than him, at taking wickets first and making necessary, match saving runs.

      His attitude – and his celebrations – might irritated me to no end, but he’s clearly a better player right now. Stokes would have to take a lost more wickets or prove himself a much better batsmen to overtake him.

      • August 19th 2017 @ 6:10am
        Ritesh Misra said | August 19th 2017 @ 6:10am | ! Report

        Jadeja is a bowling allrounder and stokes a batting one. Yes, jadeja has the ability to score a crucial 30 or more, and he has improved tremendously as a bowler in the last year

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