A genuine all-rounder is a rare commodity in Test cricket. Delivering performances with the bat as well as ball requires tremendous physical ability and various skills. Throughout the history of the game, only a few all-rounders have managed to consistently do well at the international level with both bat and ball.
Among the best all-rounders cricket has ever seen, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Ian Botham stand out for their outstanding contribution and incredible performances. These four players played a crucial role in improving the overall performance of their respective countries.
Kapil Dev led the Indian team to its first World Cup victory, while Imran Khan was the catalyst which transformed Pakistan into a force to be reckoned with. He gave the nation an identity and made them world champions.
With Ian Botham, England played the best cricket of that era and he was often the major contributor to their success. New Zealand had little success at international level, but in Richard Hadlee, they found the match winner and their role model. He taught them how to win matches and instilled confidence in the New Zealand team.
All four all-rounders are no doubt legends and are remembered for their monumental performances. But who among them was the best?
To answer this difficult question, we take the help of statistics and apply a few parameters that will help in comparing these stalwarts.
#1 Difference between batting and bowling average
A key feature of a genuine all-rounder is his consistency with the bat as well as the ball. A balanced performance in both aspects of the game adds value to the cricketer and makes him an asset for his captain.
Here are the stats that shows the difference between batting and bowling averages of these players.
|Batting average||Bowling average||Difference|
Imran Khan’s batting average of 37.69 stands out from the rest and his bowling average is effective as well. The former Pakistani captain’s figures were exceptional thanks to the period of 16 Tests between 1981 to 1983 when he was at peak of his career.
In these 16 Tests, he averaged 48 with the bat and also had a phenomenal bowling average of 14.87. It includes arguably his greatest Test performance which came against India at Faisalabad in 1983 where he grabbed 11 wickets and scored a century in that Test.
Richard Hadlee’s bowling average is impressive but he also has the lowest batting average from this group. Ian Botham and Kapil Dev’s bowling average is on the higher side and hence, in this category, Imran Khan is the winner among the four.
#2 Percentage of runs scored and wickets taken
More than the individual performance, what matters the most for any cricketer is his contribution to the team. All these four all-rounders reached several personal milestones, but how crucial was their performances for their teams?
We look at the percentage of runs scored and wickets taken by these players for their respective teams.
|Indivdiual runs||Total team runs||Percentage||Individual wickets||Total team wickets||Percentage|
Richard Hadlee was the frontline bowler for his side and it reflects in his percentage of 32.5 which is the highest among the group. His heroics in Brisbane when he ran through Australia’s batting line-up and picked up 15 wickets was the highlight of his career.
Although Kapil Dev too was the primary pace weapon for India, he mostly played on Indian pitches where spinners were considered the best wicket taking option. Imran Khan once again impresses with his percentage of 30 and 9.10.
Ian Botham was the leader of England’s batting line-up and hence was responsible for scoring 107 percent of total team runs.
These stats do not produce a clear winner but it surely highlights the role played by these players for their teams. They scored about 8-10 percent of their team’s runs and also picked up about 25-30 percent wickets which made them an integral component of the team’s success.
#3 Performances in away Tests matches
Another criterion to judge a player’s impact is to look at his performance in difficult situations. Away Tests are always considered a challenge as cricketers have to deal with alien conditions and have to perform out of their comfort zone.
Once again, the batting averages of Imran and Botham are hard to miss from this table. At the same time, Hadlee’s bowling average of 21.72 is far ahead than then rest of the players in the list. It also shows that the former Indian captain, Kapil Dev, struggled in away Tests.
Imran Khan is the winner in this criterion as his batting average of 33.83 is backed by his decent bowling average of 25.76.
#4 Hundreds and five-wicket hauls
A century and five-wicket haul are personal milestones for batsmen and bowlers respectively in Tests.
|100’s||Century frequency (avg)||Five-wicket hauls||Five-wicket hauls frequency (avg)|
Hadlee was superb with the ball and he has the most number of five-wicket hauls in this list. Getting a five-wicket haul every 4.16 innings is exceptional and that is why the former Kiwi bowler is rated among the best bowlers of all-time. Although he was also handy with the bat, he was not known for scoring big hundreds.
Imran Khan and Kapil Dev have good records but Ian Botham is top of the batting charts, he scored a hundred every 11.5 innings and picking up a five-wicket haul every 6.22 innings.
#5 Number of wins
The ultimate aim of any player is victory and, in the end, the result is what matters the most.
Kail Dev played the most number of Tets among the four, but he also has the least number of wins, but it has to be noted that the Indian team of that period struggled to win Tests as it favoured the ‘safety first’ approach. Hence, on numerous occasions instead of pushing for a victory, India settled for a draw.
Ian Botham was the X factor in the England side and hence he was on many occasions the architect of their victory. The famous ‘Botham’s Ashes’ of 1981 showed the significant impact that he could have on the game.
During that series, he produced, what is regarded as the finest performance by an all-rounder ever. After losing the first Test, England were low on confidence. Botham in the first innings picked up six wickets and scored 50 runs. He then rejuvenated England by scoring a sensational 149 and led them to a famous victory.
Imran Khan too was instrumental in pushing Pakistan’s team to achieve tangible results. Richard Hadlee’s New Zealand had limited exposure to international cricket and it is reflected in the 22 wins they achieved during his career.
Comparing these maverick cricketers is a tedious task as all of them have a fabulous record in batting and bowling. Statistics reveal only a part of their legacy. More than the numbers, their value can be adjudged by looking at their sterling performances and the memories which they gave to cricket fans.