In the first seven matches of the men’s one-day international (ODI) World Cup, three saw game-influencing performances by all-rounders. There was Ben Stokes of England against South Africa. There was Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh against, again, South Africa. And there was Mohammed Hafeez of Pakistan against England. At a time in the game when the concept of pure all-rounders—a player potent with both bat and ball—is throwing up diluted versions of that art, that’s a telling number.
A look at the 10 squads shows 24 players have both skills in a reasonable measure. We have applied a cut-off of a batting average of above 25 and a bowling average of below 50 in ODIs. Every team has at least one such player, with the range going from one (Sri Lanka) to four (England). Their key batting and bowling metrics show a talent pool that doesn’t quite stand tall with all-rounders as they were originally defined, but they do add useful value in the modern ODI format.
As measures of value, we have created a composite batting metric and a composite bowling metric. The composite batting metric combines batting average (how many runs a player scores per innings) and batting strike rate (how fast does he score). For example, a player averaging 30 and scoring at a run a ball will yield a value of 130. The higher this value, the better.
The bowling metric combines bowling average (how many runs a player concedes for every wicket) and bowling strike rate (how many balls does he take for each wicket) and economy rate (how many runs he concedes per over). The lower this value, the better.
The best all-rounders are those that score high with the bat and are frugal with the ball – the bottom right quadrant in Chart 1. Of the 24, there are only six players placed in or around that quadrant. Leading the way is Andre Russell of the West Indies, who bludgeons with the bat and can be effective with the ball.
Russell is followed by Tom Curran of England, whose numbers are skewed by him not having played too many matches. A little distance away from them are Kedar Jadhav of India and James Neesham of New Zealand. And then, there is Hardik Pandya and Ben Stokes.
It’s a pool of all-rounders that can serve the role of a sixth bowler. On good days, they can even give 10 overs as a fifth bowler. On the batting side too, they have been known to give a similar kind of return. Still, it’s a far cry from pure all-rounders like Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Garfield Sobers or Jacques Kallis, but it works for the game today.
One aspect of that is the options they open up for their side by being in the line-up. In this World Cup, England is a good illustration of that. England have four such players of all-round capabilities in Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Tom Curran. At any point in time, three are likely to play, bolstering the middle-order, allowing England to play an extra specialist batsmen or bowler.
In the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj Singh did that for the Indian squad. He bowled 75 overs in nine matches, or an average of about 8 overs per match, and took 15 wickets. He also scored 362 runs, at an average of 91 and a strike rate of 86, to take the man of the series award. And he did so while performing his primary role as a specialist batsmen.
Like Yuvraj, most all-rounders in this World Cup have a primary skill. A measure of this deviation between their primary and secondary skill is the ICC all-rounder rankings, which is an adaptation of the batting and bowling rankings calculated as one. Each of the top-ranked all-rounder from the 10 countries shows a marked deviation between the batting and bowling ranking, other than Shakib Al Hasan, who is the top-ranked all-rounder in those rankings.
For example, on the batting side, only nine of the 24 all-rounders in this set average above 35 runs per innings, one of whom is Tom Curran, who has played only 17 matches.
Similarly, on the bowling side, only eight of the 24 all-rounders in this set averages an economy rate of less than 5 runs per over.
Just three players feature in both lists: Shakib Al Hasan, and Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim of Pakistan. They are effective and offer cumulative value in the one-day format, as it stands now, but none are standouts.
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