T20 might bring back all-rounders

Format will breed youngsters who can develop all-round skills

The most exciting aspect of cricket is to watch a top all- rounder exhibit his skill and natural ability. They are geniuses at work.

Cricket has had some outstanding performers over the years.

Fortunately, for me, the 1970s had four of them, each a matchwinner on a given day. The feats of Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan are etched in the annals of world cricket.

South Africa was kept away from Test cricket due to apartheid. They had two awesome all-rounders in Clive Rice and Mike Proctor, who could have been classified amongst the best. Both bowled fast and dangerously, and batted brilliantly.

The greatest all-rounder was the legendary Gary Sobers. He was in his era the best batsman in the world, one of the best opening bowlers and fielders and could have also played for the West Indies as a spinner. We talk about the gait of a Viv Richards, but nothing came close to the lean trim figure, and confident swagger of Sobers.

Were they playing today, the IPL would have made them all multi-millionaires, as apart from being astute fastbowlers, they had the natural flair to hit the ball into the stands. They also happened to be incredibly good fielders.

The performance of a Jacques Kallis or a Shane Watson is the closest to the genuine all- rounder of yesteryear. Both have not shown the capability of running through a side solely on their bowling or turning a match on its head through a whirlwind batting performance on a consistent basis. This is a far cry from the famous quartet — Botham, Kapil, Imran and Hadlee.

This is an era of specialisation.

Focusing intensely on one aspect and being a master, rather than a jack, of several is what coaching manuals exemplify.

Also, the hectic cricket calendar and the fast life of commuting mean that the coaches ensure that the body is not subjected to excessive wear and tear.

This could be the reason why the modern-day cricketer is reluctant to pursue his skills in all the elements of the game. Watson is a prime example. In order to prolong his career Watson decided to concentrate more on his batting and kept bowling an emergency option.

This great game is being affected by excessive analysis and study. A genuine world class bowler and batsman combination has disappeared.

Coaches around the world have to change their approach at the school and college levels. Maybe, the success of the 20- over format will now breed youngsters who will work even harder to develop their all-round skills.

(The writer is a former Test cricketer)

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