Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Greatest Ever All Rounders in Test Cricket

'All that, and a packet of crisps........' is the saying I think of, when I reminisce on the great skills of Test Crickets greatest all rounders, and their compelling effect on matches. As the saying indicates, they are indeed all that, and that little treat thrown is as an added extra to make them all the more memorable

This acknowledgement of their supreme standing in the game, makes you query about who indeed is the literal King amongst the all rounder Kings.

Lets look at a few notably names from the past, and present to try to decide who is indeed the best ever all rounder

Monty Noble (Australia)

"During his long career, Noble showed exceptional ability in every detail of the game, and by many people was regarded as the greatest all-round cricketer produced by Australia,"

Lofty praise indeed, in a Nation that produced the immortal Keith Miller. Justified too, for Noble was an everything man, in the regard that he could bat, bowl, field exceptionally well, and was one of the first lauded Captains. In respect of his tactical nous, and the revolutions he brought to the game through his inventive fields.

His batting was revered for its charismatic nature in respect to being equally adept in defence of attack. Then being so versatile to adapting to the demands of different conditions. His bowling took on the same demeanour, drifting between his skilful swing laden brisk medium, and then his very refined off spin

Epitomising this supreme skill is his first class record, where in his 248 games he scored 14,245 runs and took 654 wickets

Aubrey Faulkner (South Africa)

Tragically, for such an iconic figure in the game, that had so much more to give to the game. As seen in him being lauded as a Coach in retirement. His lifelong issues with Depression saw him take his own life.

In his career, he achieved fame as being a leg spinning all rounder. A man widely regarded as the first expert of the 'googly', and the fact that he delivered it at near brisk medium pace. At the time made it near on unhittable.

Equally skilled with either bat or ball, he had some of the most remarkable performances in the earlier stages of Test Cricket. Such as his 153 followed by 6 for 64 against the Australians at the Saffrons, Eastbourne in 1921. Just as remarkable, was him running through England with 6/17 in 1907 at Leeds. Which was described in this manner..

 'Disguising his break with the utmost skill, he made the ball turn so much both ways that the batsmen were almost hopeless against him, the result being that he took seven wickets in eleven overs at a cost of only 17 runs.'

Sir Garfield Sobers (West Indies)

When you had the sincere pleasure of watching this great West Indian play Cricket you always thought he could do anything on a Cricket field? Then, not only do, but in fact, do it better than any other player.
A breathtakingly talented batsman, a bowler who could bowl brisk left arm pace or revert to expert varieties of spin bowling. Then as a close in fielder, usually at leg slip, he was freakishly good. He had the reputation for his incredible strokeplay as a batsman, which indeed was justified, but amidst this adulation for that aspect of his play was forgotten his ability in real crisis. In the respect of being able to play a restrained back to the walls innings as expertly as his more known flashy ones.

One such innings was against a typically unhinged John Snow on a 2nd innings pitch in Jamaica, that had cracks the size of the Grand Canyon in 1968. In a match better known for a riot, where police had to use tear gas on the crowd, and John Snow ripping the West Indies to ribbons with 7/49 in the 1st innings. Sobers, played a match saving knock of 113*, after the West Indies were forced to follow on.

As for his bowling, its versatility was remarkable, and as such, it allowed him to win games in bowling his brisk left arm medium. As shown against England at Leeds in 1966, where he took match figures of 8/80, and then bowling left arm orthodox a few years later against Australia at the GABBA. He lead his Team to victory with a 4th innings haul of 6/73

In any talk of all rounders, when the name of Sobers comes up, this is the quote that stands true:

First there is Sir Garry Sobers, and then there are all the other great allrounders in Test cricket.

Keith Miller (Australia)

To people who started following the game in the 1950's, like I, Keith Miller was everything you wanted to be on the field, and indeed everything you wanted to be off the field too. In the respect of a blisteringly fast bowler and devastating batmen of rare compare. Then after play concluded, he was every single girls dream with his charisma, charm and dashing good looks. Even gossip merchants thought he was having affairs with Royals in his time in England!

In the moments that mattered in every match, he was the magic man. Just being able to bowl a crucial spell to change the course of a game with a host of wickets or an innings of sustained grit or conversely dazzling stroke play.

As was revered in his time as a fighter pilot in WW2, he was always a master in a crisis. As seen in his match saving 141* against England at Adelaide in 1947. Garnering this comment in respect

 "Miller, big and buoyant, is no pleasant batsman to have in opposition at 5.30 of a hot January day in Adelaide."

Miller in truth was an everything man, even at times reverting to spin to try to gain an advantage. Then like Shane Warne in this era, he was widely regarded as the best Captain, that Australia never had. Never getting the chance for he was a 'Jack the lad' type character, that always rankled the establishment, and in particular Don Bradman.

Ian Botham (England)

Anyone who bore witness to Ian Botham's extraordinary all round exploits in what in time became known as the 'Botham Ashes'. Knew of the sincere magic the man possessed.

Like all the great all rounders, he was never out of the game. Whether it be through a display of batting, that left you gobsmacked, a bowling spell that redeemed the lost or a catch in slips that defied the laws of physics.

He was an entertainer first, and a carer of figures last, but the fact that he became the first to have the double of 300 tests wickets with 5000 runs shows his calibre. A master manipulator in games through his sheer presence. His bowling was more bluff than bluster, but his thinking behind it made him a real threat to any batsman. Especially, when he was forced into that guise when back injuries blunted his pace. Pace, that had so assisted him in being able to motor to 200 wickets at just 21.20 per scalp, and allowing match winning spells like this
Then his batting was counter attacking at its best. Symbolised by its mastery of devastation and hitting, that was murderous in its intent. Just watch this Botham classic from the 1981 Ashes
Just incredible self belief shown in these words

In the lexicon of Ian Botham's cricket existence, there is no word for "impossible".

That made him stand alone in many eyes, and the first name to be echoed when looking at the best ever all rounder in the game history

Mike Procter (South Africa)

Many would see it as a bit of a stretch in me including a player who just played 7 Tests in a conversation of the best all rounder in the games history. Though in the case of Mike Procter, he was a player of rare ability, that was deprived of showcasing this due to South Africa's ban from the game from 1970 on.

Though supporting my contention are these words from Richie Benaud

 Mike Procter was “a marvellous all-rounder who would have walked into any test team since the war”.

I was fortunate to see him in his youth, while I was in South Africa between 1964-66, and then in his pomp in English County Cricket in the 1970's for Gloucestershire. Or to show his true calibre, 'Procter'shire as it was known in respect of him.

As a bowler, he had real pace and fire, that sincerely intimidated opposition batsmen. Alternatively, he was also a very refined and wily off spinner, if the situation suited that style of bowler Just watch this video of him to get a full appreciation of his threat with ball in hand
Did you ever in his great career, see Gordon Greenidge be bowled so comprehensively as here by Procter? I cannot for the life of me think of a time when I did in Greenidge's 108 Test career.

Then to match the fury of his bowling, which was remarked as being as fast as 100mph by many was his equally whirlwind batting. That was of the bludgeoning variety, but supported by the class and technique to share a record with a batsman of the name of Don Bradman in regards to 6 consecutive centuries in First Class Cricket. To support his supreme talent with bat in hand are these words from his team mate at Gloucestershire Zaheer Abbas

 “If I were to pick a World XI, he would be one of the first batsmen I would choose. Mike Procter was one of the best batsmen I have played with.

Supporting this contention was his 203 in 1978, that was widely regard as the best innings in English county Cricket since Wally Hammond's heyday.

Sport is sadly not about dealing in 'ifs', but IF South Africa was not banned, and Mike Procter was allowed a full career. Many thought that he would have been the very best all rounder of all

Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

Whereas most of the other all rounders stood out for their spectacular match winning characteristics. In the case of this exceptional present day player, he earns his respect due to the supreme solidness, and the consistency of his play.

In terms of in all the disciplines, you know that Kallis will more often than not be excellent. Even, now as age creeps up on him, he seems to be getting better, as his exceptional displays with the bat against India earlier this year showed. This after a year in 2010, where he averaged 79.86 with 6 centuries. Then, the fact that with the frequent hysteria over Sachin Tendulkar's achievements, Kallis is every bit his equal from a figures sense in batting. Figures achieved with the extra burden of bowling as well.
Where he has also excelled with his fast medium swing bowling, that has seen him reap 271 wickets at a very impressive average of 32.33. 

He is the 'accountant' of all the great all rounders being the master of numbers. That will probably see him end his career with 15000 runs, a batting average of 60, and 400 wickets. As well as 200 catches to show his excellence in the field

Displaying his supreme greatness.

Imran Khan (Pakistan)

If this was a debate decided by women, then this Pakistani playboy, who had all the girls pulses racing in his career would win hands down. For that fact, at 60, he still has young women going gaga over him....

Lucky man!

Away from my supreme jealousy over his pulling power with the opposite sex. My word could he play the game as well as anyone. A fast bowler of such sublime skill and threat with the ability in his early career to swing the ball in or out at hostile pace. Then, just to make you curse the heavens above if you were a batsman, he could make the ball talk off the pitch too. To best know his skill, and fanzine take in these words

“Thousands, if not millions, who had never dreamt of bowling fast on heartless baked mud suddenly wanted to emulate Imran and his lithe bounding run, his leap and his reverse-swinging yorker.

Some of his best displays were on thankless pitches against the arch enemy Indians. His effort in the 6 Test series in 1982/83, where he took 40 wickets at just 13.95 was super human. In those two years, he took 88 wickets at an average of just 14.03. All while bowling on dead Asian pitches, that offered little support
The lad could bat too!

Displaying a pristine technique, that so matched his looks, and possessing a Zen like temperament. He was good enough to bat anywhere in any Teams top 6, and performed against the very best attacks of the time. Like in his bowling, he enjoyed tormenting the Indians as his average of 51.95 with 3 centuries shows.

Then to make him complete, his greatest talent was his leadership. That unified a Pakistan Team to become a very refined Test Team, that was the only thorn in the great West Indian Team of the 1980's. Then had the belief to win the 1992 World cup.

Iconic figure, in all regards! 

Kapil Dev (India)

The greatest compliment I can give to Kapil Dev was that he was considered great, but in my mind I saw him as an under achiever. In particular, in regards to his batting, which was often revered for his hitting power that had no compare, but it belied the fact that he was a very talented batsman. The fact that he scored three of his 8 centuries against the might of the West Indies pace battery showed this.

I won't lie though, for this is the type of Kapil Dev's batting that we so associated with him....

Making bowlers raise the white flag in surrender in the wake of his sheer intimidation.

His bowling, which was symbolised by the supreme mastery of swing was made even more note worthy by the fact that India had never had a fast bowler of repute before Dev. In his first Test, when he bounced Sadiq Mohammad, and he duly called for a helmut. It was described as '"very likely the fastest delivery from an Indian bowler since independence". The fact that it took near on 20 minutes to deliver a helmut to the Pakistani batsman showed how foreign fast bowling was to India.

Remarkably, he became the wickets holder in Test Cricket after starting a career on pitches, that were in no way supportive of fast bowlers, and with little help from peers. Testimony to his bowling skill in the face of the difficulties he faced was embodied in this quote

Two-hundred and seventeen of Kapil Dev's 434 Test wickets were taken in the heat and dust of India by uncompromising toil

Away from his Test excellence, he was the driving force behind the remarkable Indian World Cup win in 1983. Where throughout the Tournament, he carried India on his back with his batting and bowling. Then, as if to give us more reason to laud his all round excellence in the Final, he took what was known as the catch of century.

Enjoy, these highlights of the Final- including Kapil's great catch off the deadly dangerous Viv Richard's
Who would be selection as the best ever all rounder in Test Cricket??????????????

1 comment:

  1. Well what can I say. One more good article. But I fail to understand why Sanath Jayasuriya failed to secure a spot here ?