All-rounders, three-dimensional players, name them however you want, are pivotal for a team’s success. Especially in franchise level cricket, they are sold like hotcakes. Most of the all-rounders nowadays are specialized in one of the aspects. It is really hard to find a genuine all-rounder who possesses both the qualities in equal proportion. Someone like, Sir Ian Botham who was equally good in both departments can be one of the best examples.
Botham played in an era in which few of the best all-rounders played Test cricket. Botham alongside Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Sir Richard Hadlee was deemed as the fab four all-rounders. Imran was the first to debut among the four in 1971. Botham made his debut in 1977.
Among the four players, Kapil Dev who was the last one to make his debut in 1978 and Botham had more than 100 matches in their basket, with Kapil playing the most. In any case, when it comes to wins, Botham was an x-factor and played a crucial role for England. England won 32% of their matches when Botham was part of the side, which is the most among the four. Kapil had the least as India had won only 18% of the matches when he was part of the team.
Among the four all-rounders, Botham had the 2nd most runs while batting. With 5200 runs, he was just 48 runs behind Kapil Dev. However, his average was certainly better than Kapil. Speaking of average, Imran Khan was the best of the lot. His batting average of 37.7 was second to none and his bowling average of 22.8 was the 2nd best among these four.
When it comes to scoring centuries, Botham leads the way far from the other three. He has 14 centuries to his name and his ratio of 11.5 innings per century is the best among the lot. Likewise, Hadlee tops among the 5 wicket haulers. He has 36 five-wicket hauls at a ratio of 4.7 innings per a 5-wicket haul. In fact, his ratio is the 2nd best among all the bowlers in Tests with 250 wickets. Kapil and Imran both share 23 five-wicket hauls and Botham is at 2nd with 27.
Botham played only two matches in his debut year in Tests in 1977. It didn’t take too much of time for Botham to hit a purple patch in Tests. In the upcoming year in 1978, he scored a double of 500 runs and 50 wickets in a calendar year. He was the first all-rounder to achieve this feat in Tests. Only in a span of two years, Botham reached the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets. He was the quickest in terms of matches to feat this in Tests. Later again in 1981, he repeated the same, scored 629 runs and snatched 62 wickets. On virtue of it, he became the 1st to achieve the double in a calendar year twice. Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Shaun Pollock are the only all-rounders to do a double in a calendar year multiple times.
Botham and Kapil were different from the other two. Both of them had a stupendous career from the start and towards the end, their form was gradually plummeting. Botham in his first seven years itself blossomed to the top with 4159 runs and 312 wickets, but struggles to keep the momentum in later part of his career. In the next 7 years, he bagged only 71 wickets and scored just over a 1000 runs. The same goes with Kapil Dev, he scored 62% of his runs and 68% of his wickets in the first half of his career.
In contrast, Sir Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan were like old wine, the older they got, the better they were. Since 1971 to 1981, Imran had scored at an average of 24.8 and picked up wickets at an average of 28.3. But From 1982 till his last match he had scored at an average of 51.3 and had wickets at an average of 19.2. Hadlee wasn’t different either, from 1973 to 1982, he had a batting average of 21.4 and a bowling average of 26.4. Later, since 1983, it all changed for Hadlee as his batting average went up to 33.0 and bowling average came down to 19.6.
Though they have contrasting success, the four of them were the best in their own terms for their teams. They feature amongst the players who have scored over 3000 runs and snared over 300 wickets in Tests.
There is only one bowler who made his debut in the 2000s and feature in this list. This shows the prominence of these four all-rounders. Each one of them was valuable to their teams in Tests. Botham was a masterclass with the bat. Kapil Dev became the linchpin of Indian pace bowling in Tests. Hadlee laid the foundation to a country that was building itself in the cricketing world. An inspired young Pakistan team orchestrated by Imran Khan went on to lift the World Cup in 1992. The rivalries to prove each other bought the best out of these all-rounders. Comparing them is certainly a hectic task as all of them have a fantabulous record to back them.