The history of testcricket have witnessed some great players who are to be considered weapons with both the ball and bat.
A true all-rounder, someone who is equally adept with both the bat and ball and has the ability to make a team as either a bowler or a batter.
In the below list tries to capture the 10 players who were or were closest to being the greatest true all-rounders in cricket’s history.
Sir Garfield Sobers
Few would dispute that Garfield Sobers is the greatest all-rounder of all time.
Sobers was a true all-rounder, a threat with both bat and ball. But what really sets Sobers apart from the rest is the fact that he was essentially three players rolled into one. He could bowl both fast-medium and spin, being effective with both. But it was as a spin bowler that Sobers was first picked for the West Indies team, often batting low in the order. He would go on to take 235 wickets at an average of 34.03. However, as his career developed he continued to work on his batting, which improved to the extent that he is now remembered as one of the finest batsmen of all time. Sobers scored 8032 test runs in 93 tests and his average of 57.78 is the 10th-best on the all time list and compares with any batsman in the history of the game, leaving aside Sir Donald Bradman.
He scored 26 centuries and 30 half-centuries. But his most famous feat remains the 365 not out he scored in 1958 against Pakistan which remained a test world record for many years .
Sobers was an excellent fielder specially in close in and captained the West Indies for many years.
Jacques Kallis is unquestionably the greatest all-rounder of the modern era and rates highly on the all-time list, too. In 166 tests Kallis amassed 13289 runs with 45 centuries . As a batsman, there are few better than Kallis, averaging 55.37, including 41 centuries and 55 half-centuries. As a batter he is spoken in equal terms as Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting , Dravid and Sangakkara.
Unlike most all-rounders, Kallis is a technically proficient batsman. Whilst most all-rounders tend to score their runs in rather unorthodox style and at a faster pace , Kallis has a classical approach, playing a range of controlled shots with solid defence and very tough to dismiss.
As a fast-medium bowler, Kallis has taken 274 wickets at an average of 32.51 which is good enough to get into the XI of any quality team . He is capable of bowling at 140 kph for longer periods .
A true champion and undoubtedly Pakistan’s finest cricketer ever, Imran Khan ranks very highly in the list of all-time great all-rounders.
It was as a bowler that he’s best remembered, taking 362 test wickets at an average of 22.81. He was a genuine quick and opened the bowling for Pakistan for many years; he would rate as highly as any bowler from any era. He had a deadly inswing at rapid pace and was good at reverse swing
As his career progressed and he began to sustain more injuries, his batting became more prevalent, to the point where he was in the team solely as a batsman by the end of his career. In batting he turned from being a basher in his early days to a technically more correct player like a specialist. This showed that he could indeed make the team as both a bowler and a batsman. Imran scored 3807 runs in 88 tests . He finished his test career with an average 37.69, including 6 centuries and 18 half-centuries, becoming one of only eight players to achieve the ‘all-rounders triple’ of 300 wickets and 3000 runs.
There have been few captains in the same class as Imran , and it was his foresight and strategy that helped his earlier fragmented Pakistan teams achieve their full potential.
He ended his career as a 39-year-old on a high , after winning the 1992 World Cup with Pakistan in which he played with an injury and used to take painkillers .
The great Australian all-rounder of the post-war era, Keith Miller was test cricket’s first true all-rounder.
He was perhaps best remembered as a fast opening bowler, forming a partnership with Ray Lindwall, recognised as one of the great test-match opening bowling pairs.
His wicket tally of 170 doesn’t truly reflect his skill, as he would undoubtedly have taken many more had his career not been limited by the lack of play during World War II. His average of 22.97 is a better indicator of his achievements.
As a batsman, he scored 2958 runs in 55 tests at 36.97, including seven centuries and 13 half-centuries. He is remembered as a classical batsman with an array of shots, but he also had the ability to take the game away from an opponent with a quick attacking innings. An absolute champion as an all-rounder and highly rated by old living experts who saw him play.
The great Englishman of the late 1970s to 1980’s, Ian Botham was one of the greatest all rounders of all times.
It is his Ashes heroics that he is best remembered for, as he was the difference between the two teams in the series that became known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ in 1981, where England would beat Australia 3-1. In that series he singlehandedly won the Leeds test from a follow on position with a blistering 149 and won the next test with a fifer in a tiny run chase of Australia in sensational style
For his career, he scored 5200 runs in 102 tests and averaged 33.54 with the bat, but showed on various occasions that he was capable of playing a big innings, scoring 14 centuries and 22 half-centuries and used to be a hard-hitter, shown by his high strike rate of 60.71.
As a bowler, he took 383 wickets at 28.40, a statistic which doesn’t fully reflect Botham at his best, as before injuries hampered his ability, he averaged closer to 21in bowling . Botham’s finest years as an all rounder was from 1978-1985 and he retired in 1992. Unlike Imran , Botham however had a disappointing tenure as a captain.
India’s greatest all-rounder ever, and indeed India’s greatest fast bowler, Kapil Dev ”s career coincided with his adversary Botham and the other two all rounder greats Imran and Hadlee during late 1970s to 1980s
He had a prolific test career spanning 16 years in which he earned a reputation as a consistent bowler capable of bowling great outswingers and a hard hitting batsman.
He became just the second bowler in the history of the game to take 400 wickets, surpassing Richard Hadlee’s world record in his final test, to finish with 434 wickets at an average of 29.64.
This average seems relatively high compared to some of the other great all-rounders, but it must be remembered that Kapil played a lot of his cricket at home in India on wickets that are far more friendly to spinners and batsmen, tending to hinder rather than help seam bowlers.
With the bat, he averaged 31.05 in a career which included 5248 runs in 131 tests , eight centuries and 27 half-centuries. Kapil is the only all-rounder to have completed 4000 plus runs and taken 400 plus wickets. His best years of test cricket was between 1979 to 1983 and he won many matches for India singlehandedly. Kapil Dev missed only one test in his entire career of 131 tests, a true tribute to his astonishing fitness levels as an all-rounder and he was a brilliant all-round fielder specially in the outfield with a razor sharp accurate throw .
Kapil was highly remembered for a One Day innings during 1983 World Cup, This being of course, his 175 not out against Zimbabwe at the where after a terrible start at 9/4 and then 17/5 , Dev came in and saved India from what would have been a huge upset. India would go on to win the tournament in a huge upset over the two-time defending champion West Indies, with Kapil Dev being the key figure in the tournament.
Shaun Pollock was another superb all-rounder of South Africa after Kallis . He has a fine record that simply can’t be ignored when looking at the great all-rounders of all time.
Widely acknowledged as one of the great South African cricketers of all time, Pollock was a bowling all-rounder who was, for a time, one of the most consistent bowlers in the world while also being capable of chipping in with the bat.
He took 421 wickets at 23.11, he was consistent and very economical, generally hard to score runs off and his accuracy and deft movements of the seam brought him many wickets. He forged a great bowling partnership with Allan Donald in late 1990s to early 2000s .
As a batsman, he was capable of giving a solid performance but often struggled to push on to a big score; this is shown by only having two centuries to his name. However, he still averages 32.31 with 3781 runs in 108 tests , which isn’t dissimilar in averages to that of Kapil Dev , Andrew Flintoff or a few others
Pollock finished his career in 2008, and in time, he will no doubt be remembered as one of the finest all-rounders of the modern era.
Stokes is the greatest all-rounder in 2010s era and a player who excels in big games and big occasions. He is the only currently playing all-rounder in the list and may move upwards in the ladder in the list of great allrounders by the time he finishes . Stokes is largely a batting all-rounder but capable of bowling long spells at lively pace which is a testimony to his
His batting exploits in the 2019 Ashes test at Leeds was enormous. He played arguably one of the greatest all time test innings carrying England singlehandedly to a sensational one wicket win chasing 369 in 4th innings to keep the series alive. On that day Stokes scored 135 notout and brilliantly handled a last wicket stand with Jack Leach against the torrid Australian bowling attack .
Then in the 2019 World Cup, his late innings in the final ultimately helped England to win their first ever World Cup .
An all-rounder of great ability, Stokes has recently captained England to big test series wins at home and in the subcontinent embracing a new aggressive playing intent by scoring runs at an express pace .
Till the end of 2022 Ben Stokes has played 89 tests , scored 5602 runs at 36.14 average and hit 12 centuries with a top score of a belligerent 258 vs South Africa. As a bowler he has taken 193 wickets at 32 average with a best of 6/22—already high quality statistics to put him in the all time top 10 greatest all rounders.
New Zealand’s greatest cricketer by quite a long stretch, Richard Hadlee was often the difference between New Zealand being a pushover or a formidable team during his tenure at the top.
Hadlee often had great duels with his 3 other contemporaries Botham , Kapil and Imran during the 1980s
It was as a bowler that he is best remembered, taking what was then a world record of 431 wickets at an average of 22.29. He began his career as a tearaway fast opening bowler, but as he matured, shortened his run-up and concentrated more on moving the ball, something at which he is arguably the greatest of all time.
Hadlee had many memorable bowling spells in test cricket none bigger than his 9/52 effort against Australia at the Gabba in 1985 . He took 15 wickets in that match.
He was a handy lefty lower-order batsman who would come in and throw his bat at the ball, ending up with a reasonable average of 27.16 which included two centuries and 15 half-centuries for his 3214 runs in 86 tests
This showed that while he was mostly a bowling all-rounder, he was a capable batsman who could provide crucial runs nearer to the end of an innings at a brisk pace .
As an all-rounder Hadlee pips his countryman Chris Cairns to become the greatest from New Zealand
Flintoff was a great England all-rounder during 2000s and is best known for his heroics in the 2005 Ashes series that saw England win the Ashes for the first time since the 1986/87 season, defeating an Australian team that entered as the best in the world.
A fast bowler capable of bowling in excess of 140 Kilometres per hour, Flintoff took 226 wickets at an average of 32.78.
He was also a fast scoring batsman capable of some decent performances, averaging 31.07, including five centuries and 26 half-centuries for his 3845 runs in 79 tests .
But the statistics don’t best show the contribution Flintoff made to his team. If unconvinced about his greatness, simply look at his influence in England’s Ashes winning teams of 2005 and 2009.
Also, he would contribute with both the bat and ball in these performances, securing his spot amongst the great all-rounders of all time.
We have to give special mentions to few other all rounders as Chris Cairns (came very close to be slotted in the top 10 ) , Tony Greig, Richie Benaud , Shakib Al Hassan and the two currently playing Indians Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.