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Great All-Rounders Where Are They?

By Orin Davidson

Jacques Kallis achieved a rare feat in international cricket without much fanfare last week.

He became the second player to achieve 8000 runs and 200 wickets in One Day Internationals, but it was met with hardly a hue and cry in East London, South Africa.

Jacques Kallis
(Photoby Shiek Mohamed)

Maybe it was because the opposition was weak Zimbabwe. Nevertheless Kallis has worked diligently over the years to development his game as one of the world’s leading allrounders.

These days though, allrounders in both forms of the game hardly make the news for eye catching individual feats.

As a result hardly much prominence or attention is given those players compared to those who made the game a huge spectacle back in the day.

It makes it difficult to identify anyone as the world’s best all-rounder in contemporary competition.

Outside of Kallis, Andrew Flintoff of England and Pakistan’s Abdur Razzaq are regarded as the world’s best established allrounders.

In my book there are others who have shown the talent to be rated in the said category.

West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle are highly skilled players with both bat and ball. So is Shane Warne, the world’s leading Test wickettaker who can step it up with the bat when he puts his mind to it.

Gayle is a tremendous striker of the ball which coupled with his deceptively effective spin bowling, could make him a much more valuable player if given greater responsibility.

On the contrary Bravo is handling the workload well and getting better with bat and ball as a result.

Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya is just as good as any of the others because his left arm orthodox spin has regularly bailed out his country with priceless wickets in both forms of the game. No need to mention his power batting at the top of order.

Daniel Vetorri can bat also very well whenever he gets the opportunity to build a proper innings. That is in addition to his renowned orthodox left arm spin which makes him New Zealand’s best player at the moment.

Yet none can walk in the footsteps of great allrounders of yore who gave real meaning to the characterization of the multi-dimensional player.

The greatest of them all Sir Gary Sobers is a rare specie who is blessed to the world only once in several generations. Some special talent is released in successive generations, but in Sobers’ case he has not been replicated yet in his lifetime.

His batting was stupendously good enough to be ranked among the best players ever to play the game.

Donald Bradman is rated in some quarters the greatest batsman who ever lived, but in my opinion Sobers was unmatched by anyone.

Bradman has the best ever Test batting average which many use to label him the greatest ever. But averages alone must never be the lone determinant of a player’s ability. Strength of opposition, conditions of play and length of career must be taken into consideration and if Bradman accumulated his mountain of runs against ordinary England teams with only a total 14 Tests against sides from the West Indies, South Africa and India for not longer than 52 Tests, surely it is debatable whether he was more accomplished than Sobers.

Given his battles against strong Australia and England teams and tricky spinners from India and Pakistan, all over the world in 92 Tests, it would be unfair to place Bradman higher in the pecking order, even though there is only a difference of 1002 runs in Sobers’ 7998 and his 6996 career Test-run tallies.

One of Sobers’ best innings is not recorded in his stats but his magnificent 254 double century against the Rest of the World in 1971 when Dennis Lillie, arguably the best fast bowler ever, was in his prime was a treasurer to behold.

If his awesome batting talent was not enough, Sobers’ bowling skills were mind- boggling. Not only was he a classy medium pacer, Sobers could also produce left arm orthodox stuff and unbelievable, was also just as good twirling the left handers’ leg spin, known as the wrist spinner, which all accounted for his 235 Test wickets.

And if one adds his brilliant fielding skills, at any position on the field, especially close in where he pulled off some of the game’s amazing catches, that amounted to 109 in total, one could rate him a true cricketing genius.

After Sobers, the game has seen one great allrounder and some outstanding ones.

Ian Botham comes readily to mind as probably the best since Sobers. His batting and bowling were almost equal in excellence which separated him from the likes of Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee.

For India, Kapil was instrumental in them winning their lone World Cup title win while setting himself up at the same time as a one-time World Test wickets record holder.

Similarly Imran’s ability with bat and ball as well as his captaincy skills spurred Pakistan to their single World Cup championship triumph.

Yet, the same success level cannot be said of the established allrounders of the modern era.

Flintoff gets the most opportunities but is yet to produce magical batting and bowling displays. Kallis still has a few World Cups to win for South Africa and Tests against Australia, to reach the next level.

The obvious drought in super star allrounders around the world cannot be attributed to workload excess. Botham and Dev both amassed more than 100 games in both forms of the games while compiling their wickets and runs in excess of 3000 and close to and over 400.

The reality is that Sobers’s type appear only in a life time experience scenario.

It explains why Kallis’ current feat has been met with muted response.
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