In a team of 11 players, you look for as many different kinds of players as possible. A quality all-rounder is one you simply have to keep in your team. Why? Simple really. He is the player who would do everything for you, someone who scores crucial runs for you which can drive home the advantage for you or get you out of a precarious situation, or even get in a couple of crucial wickets or stop the runs for the very same reasons. We look at five all-rounders who are at the top of this profession in Test Cricket.
The Modern Day All-Rounder
After the retirement of stalwart Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh not being at his peak and a few options not working out, India needed an all-rounder desperately. Ashwin made his debut in 2011 in a home series against the West Indies. The debut series was like a dream for the Tamil Nadu off-spinner – 22 wickets at an average of 22.91 with two five-wicket hauls and 121 runs at an average of 60.50, including a century, put him on the map. A player who puts an immaculate piece of his mind analyzing every part of his game and constantly plotting against the opposition, Ashwin has always looked to be a level higher than his opposition.
The 30-year-old has come a long way since his impressive start. After 52 tests, from an exclusion from the squad a few years ago to reclaiming his place back again, Ashwin’s record is phenomenal in both facets of the game. With the bat, he has 2035 runs at an average of 32.82 with four hundreds and 11 fifties. With the ball, he has 292 wickets at an average of 25.26 with 26 fifers. These numbers are magnified by the fact that he is the fastest to 250 test wickets in the game’s history. He is also the fourth fastest to the double of 2000 runs and 200 wickets. He is presently third in the all-rounder rankings. Can he finish as India’s greatest all-rounder?
After inconsistency with both bat and ball in the limited overs format, Ravindra Jadeja was not touted to be much of a success in the test arena. Safe to say, he has firmly put those critics to bed. Jadeja made his debut in 2012 and was in a competition with fellow left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha to be the second spinner alongside Ashwin. In 2013, he had a great year with the ball, picking 30 wickets at an average of 19.10 and he would chalk down a regular place in the side in all formats, sometimes ahead of Ashwin. Now he is the number two bowler in the rankings and his batting has improved with every series.
After 32 matches, the 28-year-old has scored 1136 runs at an average of 29.89 with eight fifties. With the ball, he has 155 wickets at an average of 23.60 with nine fifers. He is second in the all-rounder rankings. Can Jadeja improve his batting numbers?
It would not be wrong to say that Bangladesh’s progress over the last couple of years has been down to star man Shakib. Currently the number one in the all-rounder rankings, Shakib has made a place for him to be mentioned in the company of some of the elites of the game. Bangladesh’s success has resonated with the world class performances put forward by Shakib.
It took Shakib three years since his debut to get his maiden Test hundred and he has mot looked back ever since. In the past seven years, Shakib has finished with a calendar year batting average of more than 45 barring 2016. The 30-year-old has played 51 tests and scored 3594 runs at an average of 40.38 with 22 fifties and five hundreds. Earlier this year, Shakib became only the third Bangladeshi to score a Test double hundred during his 217 vs New Zealand at Wellington, which is also Bangladesh’s highest individual test score. With the ball, he has taken 188 wickets at an average of 32.37 with 17 fifers. He could well be the greatest cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced.
Cricket needs a few bullies who do not speak much but say a lot with their performances. Ben Stokes is one of those players. A muscular build, a certain swagger with which he approaches his game, England have evolved of late and Stokes is a huge part in that. Aggressive batting and bowling, agile in the field, always on the look out for opportunities, Stokes has taken his game to a very high level.
Stokes first burst on to the Test scene when he scored his first Test hundred in Perth during a 0-5 drubbing at the hands of the Aussies in 2013-14. That hundred was the only one by an Englishmen in the entire series. He picked up his maiden five-wicket haul in the same series at Sydney. 2014 saw Stokes play a couple of home tests against India, though he did not score a single run in three innings and was dropped for the rest of the series. A lukewarm 2015 did not help his numbers either before a breathtaking 258 in the New Year Test of 2016 against South Africa. Since then, the 26-year-old has hit new heights.
In his 19 tests since 2016, Stokes has scored 1431 runs at an average of 44.72 with four hundreds and seven fifties. His career record is impressive too. In 39 tests, he has made 2429 runs at an average of 35.72 with six hundreds and 12 fifties. With the red ball, Stokes has 95 wickets at an average of 33.94 with four fifers. He is fourth in the all-rounder rankings. Many feel he is the best all-rounder in the game right now.
In just his second Test match, Moeen amassed a very gritty 281-ball 108 against Sri Lanka in tough conditions. Though he would not a chance to raise his bat for the rest of the year, Ali showed his worth with the ball, spinning India out of a home Test series. This was a real statement. He would take 10/106 against the spin dominant Indians in two innings to decide the series in England’s favour. 2015 was not a very good year but he made sure 2016 would see him nail down a permanent spot in the Test side. 1078 runs in 15 tests, four hundreds and five fifties at number seven, spoke volumes about Moeen’s ability to get crucial runs down the order.
2017 has seen Moeen enjoy a sensational year with the ball. In seven Tests, he has 30 wickets so far at an average of 21.30 with his maiden 10-wickets match haul coming against the South Africans. His career record is equally impressive as that of Stokes. The 30-year-old has scored 2288 runs in 44 Tests at an average of 34.67 with five hundreds and 12 fifties. He also has 128 wickets at an average of 37.32 with four fifers, resulting in him reaching fifth in the all-rounder rankings. Could you really put a price on such a player?
All-rounders are exclusive species who are priceless with their services in every aspect of the game. They can turn the game twice in the same match. These five have been doing just that in the recent past and find themselves at the top of the all-rounder food chain. It is a sheer pleasure watching these players perform at such a high level.