BANGALORE: Former New Zealand all-rounder Sir Richard Hadlee named Pakistan's Imran Khan on Saturday as the best all-rounder of his generation.
Hadlee, in the city as a special guest of the Karnataka State Cricket Association for their platinum jubilee celebrations, had taken his then world-record breaking 374th Test wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in 1988.
He played in an era that saw the careers of several great all-rounders coincide, the chief among them being Ian Botham and Kapil Dev, aside from the enigmatic Imran.
"If I was asked to pick who was the better of the four of us, and I am on record as saying Imran because he was a versatile batsman, potent strike bowler and charismatic captain. As a batsman, he could bat anywhere in the top six, sometimes in the top four, and play any type of innings depending on the circumstance of the game," he said.
"As a bowler, he was a potent strike bowler ... His record suggests he was a fine bowler. He commanded a lot of respect," Hadlee added.
Although he considered himself to be the better bowler of the four, Hadlee acknowledged his relative weakness with the bat.
"I scored less Test hundreds than anyone else, my batting average was lower than the others. So while I had some good innings, my batting was inconsistent. I wouldn't put myself in that same category, actually, but as a bowler definitely," he said.
"I didn't want to get out to Kapil or Immy or Beefy but I certainly wanted to get them out when I bowled. So that competition actually grew and that motivation actually grew," Hadlee went on.
The now hoary-headed Kiwi, however, included former West Indian captain Sir Gary Sobers in a unique category all by himself.
"Sobers traditionally has always been regarded as the number one because people would pay to go and see him play. Very flamboyant, rhythm batsman and bowler, fielder, captain. The stats would back that up," he said.
Among the present crop of all-rounders, Hadlee separated South Africa's Jacques Kallis from the rest.
"Statistically, he (Kallis) is the greatest all-rounder ever in the history of the game, no question about that. But obviously as time has moved on in his case, he is now being more selective. But I still would probably think his focus is Test cricket," he said.
Speaking on the phenomenon of reverse swing, Hadlee admitted that he was clueless when he first encountered reverse swing in a match.
"(Pakistan's) Sarfraz Nawaz was doing something with the ball. But later we came to know Pakistan had developed or found out what reverse swing is by looking after the ball," he said tongue-in-cheek.
"You can use natural saliva, sweat on the ball…But you can't use fingernails or anything of that nature. If you are throwing the ball on a rough surface that scruffs the ball. What's wrong with that? You are using the facility allowed to you," he elaborated.
From the current lot of fast bowlers, Hadlee singled out England's James Anderson for harnessing the potential of reverse swing to turn matches.