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An all-rounder is a cricketer who regularly performs well at both batting and bowling. Although all bowlers must bat and quite a few batsmen do bowl occasionally, most players are skilled in only one of the two disciplines and are considered specialists. Some wicket-keepers have the skills of a specialist batsman and have been referred to as all-rounders, but the term wicketkeeper-batsman is more often applied to them.
There is no precise qualification for a player to be considered an all-rounder and use of the term tends to be subjective. The generally accepted criterion is that a "genuine all-rounder" is someone whose batting or bowling skills, considered alone, would be good enough to win them a place in the team for which they play. Another definition of a "genuine all-rounder" is a player who can through both batting and bowling (though not necessarily both in the same match), consistently "win matches for the team" (i.e., propel his/her team to victory by an outstanding individual performance). By either definition, a genuine all-rounder is quite rare and extremely valuable to a team as he effectively operates as two players.
Confusion sometimes arises when a specialist bowler performs well with the bat. For example, the great West Indies pace bowler Malcolm Marshall sometimes produced a good innings, but not often enough for him to be considered an all-rounder. Instead he would be called a "useful lower order batsman". Equally, a specialist batsmen may be termed a "useful change bowler" and a good example of this type is Allan Border who once took 11 wickets in a Test match in 1989 when conditions suited his occasionally used left arm spin.
One of the main constraints to becoming a recognised all-rounder is that batsmen and bowlers "peak" at different ages. Batsmen tend to reach their peak in their late twenties after their technique has matured through experience. Conversely, fast bowlers often peak in their early to mid twenties at the height of their physical prowess. Other bowlers, mostly spinners but also fast bowlers who can "swing" the ball, are most effective in their later careers.
One commonly used statistical rule of thumb is that a player's batting average (the higher the better) should be greater than his bowling average (the lower the better). In Test cricket, only three all-rounders have batting averages that are 20 greater than their bowling average over their entire careers: Garfield Sobers, Jacques Kallis and Walter Hammond. However, some other players have achieved such a differential over significant parts of their careers, such as Imran Khan, Steve Waugh, Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson. (Michael Slater had a batting average of 42.8 and a bowling average of 10.0, but cases such as his are usually excluded by specifying a minimum number of matches, runs or wickets; Slater took only one wicket for a total of ten runs in his entire test career.) Doug Walters almost achieved the 20-run average differential with a batting average of 48.26 and a bowling average of 29.08, however he was generally regarded as an occasional bowler who could break partnerships rather than a genuine all-rounder. Another way of comparing the two averages is batting average as a percentage of their bowling average. The idea being that lower bowling averages are central to an all-rounder's success since a batsman can be overlooked for a bowl, but a bowler will nearly always need to bat. Under this both Imran Khan and Keith Miller would be added to Kallis and Sobers as allrounders to average more than 60% more with the bat than the bowl.
In overall first-class cricket, there are several players with significantly higher batting averages. Statistically, few can challenge Frank Woolley who had a batting average of 40.77 and a bowling average of 19.87. Woolley took over 2000 wickets in his career, scored more runs than anyone except Jack Hobbs and is the only non-wicketkeeper to have taken more than 1000 catches.
Fielding prowess is another important consideration when assessing a player's all-round ability. Besides Woolley, other great fielders who are termed all-rounders include W G Grace, Walter Hammond, Paul Collingwood and Gary Sobers. They were all very athletic fields and safe catchers.
Essentially, an all-rounder is better at bowling than batting or vice-versa. Very few are equally good at both and hardly any have been outstanding at both. Thus the terms "bowling all-rounder" and "batting all-rounder" have come into use. For example, in Test cricket, Richard Hadlee had a handy batting average of 27.16 and an outstanding bowling average of 22.29, so he would be termed a bowling all-rounder. Conversely, Gary Sobers had an outstanding batting average of 57.78 and a good bowling average of 34.03, so he would be termed a batting all-rounder. The ideal of the genuine all-rounder is Imran Khan and Keith Miller who had averages of 37 (batting) and 23 (bowling), which is very good as a batsman and amongst the greats as a bowler.
Sobers has been hailed as the "greatest-ever all-rounder" though, as the figures show, even he was much better at one discipline than the other. He was primarily described as a great batsman and a very good bowler. His distinctive capability was that he was able to bowl medium fast seam as well as wrist spin, having originally entered the West Indies team as a finger spinner. 90 out of 100 judges in the Wisden Cricketers of the Century award chose Sobers in their five selections.
An all-rounder who missed out on Test Cricket due to the apartheid era of the 1970s and 1980s was the South African Clive Rice. His first-class batting average was 40.95 and his bowling average was 22.49. Another outstanding South African all-rounder was Mike Procter who played only seven tests for the same reason, taking 41 wickets at an average of 15.02. His batting averages were 25.11 in tests and 36.01 in first-class cricket, and he scored 48 first-class centuries in 401 matches including an equal-record six in consecutive innings.
Bits and Pieces Players
A "bits and pieces player" is a slang expression for a cricketer who can bat a bit and bowl a bit but excels at neither. Such players often thrive at one day and twenty-20 cricket, but struggle more at first class and test level.
Modern day examples of cricketers accused of being bits and pieces players include Glenn Maxwell, James Hopes, Ian Harvey, Robin Singh, Grant Elliot, Chris Harris and Steve Smith. England have showed particular enthusiasm for bits and pieces players over the years with such players as Craig White, Ronnie Irani, Jamie Dalrymple, Dermott Reeve, Samit Patel, Ian AustinLuke Wright and Dimi Mascarenhas.
Notable all-round feats
V E Walker of Middlesex, playing for All-England versus Surrey at The Oval on 21, 22 & 23 July 1859, took all ten wickets in the Surrey first innings and followed this by scoring 108 in the England second innings, having been the not out batsman in the first (20*). He took a further four wickets in Surrey’s second innings. All-England won by 392 runs.
On 15 August 1862, E M Grace carried his bat through the entire MCC innings, scoring 192 not out of a total of 344. Then, bowling underarm, he took all 10 wickets in the Kent first innings for 69 runs. However, this is not an official record as it was a 12-a-side game (though one of the Kent batsmen was injured).
The first player to perform the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in an English season was W G Grace in 1873. He scored 2139 runs at 71.30 and took 106 wickets at 12.94. Grace completed eight doubles to 1886 and it was not until 1882 that another player (C T Studd) accomplished the feat.
In the 1906 English cricket season, George Herbert Hirst achieved the unique feat of scoring over 2000 runs and taking over 200 wickets. He scored 2385 runs including six centuries at 45.86 with a highest score of 169. He took 208 wickets at 16.50 with a best analysis of 7/18. In the same season, Hirst achieved another unique feat when he scored a century in both innings and took five wickets in both innings of the same match. Playing for Yorkshire versus Somerset at Bath, Hirst scored 111 and 117 not out; and took 6/70 and 5/45.
Alan Davidson was the first player to take ten wickets and score a hundred runs in a Test match. Playing for Australia against West Indies at Brisbane in 1960-61, he took 5/135 and 6/87, and scored 44 and 80 in what became the first Tied Test. He was playing throughout with a broken finger.
Nineteen players on a total of 26 occasions have taken five wickets in an innings and scored a century in the same Test match. Ian Botham achieved this feat five times, and Jacques Kallis, Garfield Sobers and Mushtaq Mohammad twice each. Whether an all-rounder is required or not at test level has often been debated.
Australia's Current All-rounder Policy
In 2012 Australian selector John Inverarity declared his intention was to see the Australian team develop all-rounders, despite the fact they did not have one in the '90s when Australia was the number one test country in the world. (Inverarity was an all rounder.) There has been much criticism of this policy. Two all rounders were chosen on the Australian tour to India in 2013, Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell, which Australia lost 4-0.
Other all rounders who have been unsuccessfully used by Australia at test level in recent years include Phil Carlson, Simon O'Donnell, Trevor Laughlin, Peter Sleep, Shaun Young, Brendon Julian, Steve Smith, Cameron White and Andrew McDonald. Andrew Flintoff's success in the 2005 Ashes prompted Australia to promote Shane Watson to the test side. Watson made his debut batting at number seven, then he moved to number six; however he has enjoyed his greatest success as an opener.
Australia has enjoyed more success with all rounders who can justify their selection in a specialist position alone, such as Greg Matthews, Tom Moody, Steve Waugh (originally selected as an all rounder but became a specialist batsman who occasionally bowled), Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds.
Australia's greatest enthusiasm for all rounders in recent years was found in the 1950s and 1960s, where the national team included all rounders such as Ron Archer, Keith Miller, Richie Benaud, Ken Mackay and Alan Davidson. However while Benaud and Davidson were both clearly all rounders at first class level, both averaged only in the 20s at test level with the bat. Bob Simpson and Ian Chappell started their careers as all rounders but became specialist batsmen who occasionally bowled.
England's Current All-rounder Policy
After the success of Ian Botham England experimented with a number of all rounders including Derek Pringle, Chris Lewis, Craig White, Dominic Cork, Phil DeFreitas, Alex Tudor, David Capel, Mark Ealham, Darren Maddy, Chris Cowdrey, Adam Hollioake, Ian Greig, Gavin Hamilton, Chris Schofield, Ben Hollioake, Dermot Reeve, Phil Newport and Ronnie Irani. None enjoyed extended success at test level as an all rounder - although some such as Cork and De Freitas, did well as essentially specialist bowlers - until the emergence of Andrew Flintoff. Flintoff's presence in the team was regarded as crucial, despite the fact that England won more test matches when he was out of the team due to injury.
Since Flintoff's retirement, England became the number one test nation without an all rounder, though it did have Matt Prior, who is a wicketkeeper batsman, and Stuart Broad who is sometimes claimed to be an all-rounder.
South Africa's Current All-rounder Policy
In 2013 South Africa had arguably the greatest all rounder in the world in Jacques Kallis, who holds his place as a batsman alone but is also a more than useful bowler. South Africa have a strong tradition of all rounders, such players including Clive Rice, Lance Klusener, Brian McMillan, Trevor Goddard, Aubrey Faulkner, Eddie Barlow, Mike Procter, Jimmy Sinclair and Shaun Pollock.
West Indies Current All-rounder Policy
The West Indies have produced some of the world's greatest all-rounders, including Learie Constantine, Garfield Sobers, Gerry Gomez and Collie Smith, and their current side includes some notable all-rounders such as Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. However it is thought the West Indies all rounder culture is not as strong as other countries. In particular, current West Indies all rounders who excel in the shorter forms of the game such as Pollard do not replicate that success at test level. When the West Indies were the dominant team in the world in the 1970s through to 1980s they did not normally use an all rounder, except for occasionally Collis King.
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