In the recent NZ vs SA cricket series, two of the great all-rounders in the modern game were on show: Jacques Kallis and Daniel Vettori.

But how do you measure what it means to be a great all-rounder? A simple little formula works well: take the difference between their batting average and their bowling average. One thing this does is flatten out (a bit) the impact of the surface on which they play. So if the batting averages are a bit inflated because they play on flat wickets, then the bowling averages will be up a bit too - and the difference between the two retains some consistency.

So let's take the qualifying criterion to be 100 wickets and 1000 runs in the modern game. Here are the Top 21 all-rounders - and, interestingly, Kallis is first and Vettori is last on the list.

1. Jacques Kallis (SA)  +24.33
2. Gary Sobers (WI)  +23.75
3. Imran Khan (Pak)  +14.88
4. Keith Miller (Aus)  +14.00
5. Shaun Pollock (SA)  +9.20
6. Trevor Goddard (SA)  +8.24
7. Tony Grieg (Eng)  +8.23
8. Ian Botham (Eng)  +5.14
9. Richard Hadlee (NZ)  +4.87
10. Chris Cairns (NZ)  +4.13
11. Alan Davidson (Aus)  +4.06
12. Kapil Dev (Ind)  +1.41
13. Trevor Bailey (Eng)  +0.53
14. Irfan Pathan (Ind)  -0.69
15. Wasim Akram (Pak)  -0.98
16. Andrew Flintoff (Eng)  -1.01
17. Ray Lindwall (Aus)  -1.88
18. Malcolm Marshall (WI)  -2.09
19. Richie Benaud (Aus)  -2.58
20. Stuart Broad (Eng)  -3.02
21. Daniel Vettori (NZ)  -3.85

(a) We need to massage the figures a little further. Kallis and Sobers are way up there because they were such classy batsmen first and foremost, with batting averages in the upper 50s. Classically, the all-rounder fills the #7 spot in the line-up without that kind of average. So let's add one further criterion. What does the list look like if we say the batting average must be above 30 and the bowling average must be below 30? Both Kallis and Vettori drop off because neither one is a good enough bowler and the list looks like this (in order):

1. Imran Khan
2. Keith Miller
3. Shaun Pollock
4. Trevor Goddard
5. Ian Botham
6. Chris Cairns
7. Kapil Dev

So if I was looking for the best all-rounder to fill the #7 spot, this is the list to which I'd turn, with Imran Khan considered to be the greatest all-rounder to have played the game.

(b) The case of Australia is fascinating. There are three all-rounders mentioned above - and from overlapping eras some 50 years ago. They have dominated world cricket without world-class all-rounders. However if Shane Watson is able to progress to 1000/100 at his current rate he will enter the list at #5, between Keith Miller and Shaun Pollock.

(c) The top-ranked all-rounder in the world today is Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan, a great achievement in itself given Bangladesh's low ranking as a team. He is four wickets away from joining the 1000/100 club, at which point he will enter the list at #12, with a +3.32 score. Like Vettori, he is left-arm spinner who bats - and unlike probably every other NZ cricket fan, if I had the choice of either Shakib or Dan for my team, I'd pick Shakib every time.

nice chatting


PS - Here is a picture of Daniel Vettori to remind you of what he looked like when he was a really good Test bowler :). Sadly he is playing the wrong form of the game now, as he is a world-class ODI bowler. But if Glenn Turner is to be believed (and he is usually right), Vettori's eyes are on passing Hadlee's 431 wickets and joining Kapil Dev as the only members of the 400 wickets, 5000 run club. I hope it is not true. I have Vettori in my NZ team to win the World Cup in 2015, as that should be his focus now.


Paul, i completely agree with you re: Daniel Vettori. He looked a little off-colour in this latest test series. I hazard a guess that it affected his batting as well.
Whilst we were soundly beaten in the series it was a treat to see some of the best players in our neck of the woods. For me Hashim Amla stood out as a player of real class and the South African bowling unit have the potential to rival the West-Indian line-ups of the 80's (if they don't already)
During the test series, the discussion about who the best all-rounder in the world is came up time and time again on Radio Sport. Various criteria were used including statistics but interestingly enough Dion Nash pushed a different angle, that of the ability to turn a game in either discipline, bowling or batting. This of course lends itself towards those who could either rip through a batting line-up or produce quick runs with some consistency.
Obviously this favours the likes of Botham, Imran Khan or Cairns.
It is only when you start putting all the factors together that you realise that Vettori whilst being a 'great' for NZ, doesn't compare as favourably as we at first might think.
hmm...back to my sermon : )
Ben Carswell said…
I love these posts - they remind me of hours spent in 4th form French lessons working out variations of "Greatest sports teams ever" - Best British football team, Lion teams, world XI cricket & the like. I'm glad Mr Thompson never found out what we were up to!
Paul said…
Ever so tragically, Ben - I was still creating those teams during lectures at university. Oh dear...

And Shannon, I am a big Dion Nash fan. The more I have thought about it, the more I think his observation affirms something similar to the 'under30/over30' approach which I have taken. Because if you have those sorts of averages at #6-8 in the line-up, you have probably 'turned the game' as a batsmen and as a bowler at some point in your career.

Thanks again
Rhett said…
...I did it but with things like "favourite albums of all time" and "best British bands of the 90's".

But I am glad to know I'm not alone in killing time that way during school. In fact, I'm in illustrious company!
Greg said…
Thought you might be interested in the results from doing the same thing, just for the most recent series.

Kallis gets 16.16 (39.66-23.50) and Vettori gets -75.6 (19.4-95.0).

Vettori coming in a close second there. :-)

Still, he went through a slum back in 2003/4 if I recall. Hopefully this is just another one of those, and he improves. He's still quite young, for a spinner at least.
Paul said…
Maybe more worrying is the comparison between Kane Williamson and Daniel Vettori in the four tests of 2012 so far.

Williamson sits at +17.60
Vettori sits at -55.50

Methinks the sample is too small! I hope Vettori can bounce back but his skills are suited to ODIs now - containment, rather than spinning the ball to take wickets.

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