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Stats: Comparing four of the greatest all-rounders of yesteryear

A statistical comparison between cricket's greatest all-rounders - Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee.

Four of the greatest all-rounders: Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee

A genuine all-rounder is a rare commodity in Test cricket. Delivering performances with the bat as well as ball requires tremendous physical ability and various skills. Throughout the history of the game, only a few all-rounders have managed to consistently do well at the international level with both bat and ball.

Among the best all-rounders cricket has ever seen, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Ian Botham stand out for their outstanding contribution and incredible performances. These four players played a crucial role in improving the overall performance of their respective countries.

Kapil Dev led the Indian team to its first World Cup victory, while Imran Khan was the catalyst which transformed Pakistan into a force to be reckoned with. He gave the nation an identity and made them world champions. 

With Ian Botham, England played the best cricket of that era and he was often the major contributor to their success. New Zealand had little success at international level, but in Richard Hadlee, they found the match winner and their role model. He taught them how to win matches and instilled confidence in the New Zealand team.

All four all-rounders are no doubt legends and are remembered for their monumental performances. But who among them was the best?

To answer this difficult question, we take the help of statistics and apply a few parameters that will help in comparing these stalwarts.


#1 Difference between batting and bowling average

BT Sport, Cricket, Lord's, pic: August 1987, MCC Bi-Centennial Match, Imran Khan, Pakistan, Imran Khan played in 88 Test matches for Pakistan between 1971-1992 : News Photo
Imran Khan was a more than useful batsman for Pakistan

A key feature of a genuine all-rounder is his consistency with the bat as well as the ball. A balanced performance in both aspects of the game adds value to the cricketer and makes him an asset for his captain. 

Here are the stats that shows the difference between batting and bowling averages of these players. 

 Batting average Bowling averageDifference
Imran Khan37.6922.8114.8
Richard Hadlee27.1622.294.87
Kapil Dev31.0529.640.41
Ian Botham33.5428.405.14

Imran Khan’s batting average of 37.69 stands out from the rest and his bowling average is effective as well. The former Pakistani captain’s figures were exceptional thanks to the period of 16 Tests between 1981 to 1983 when he was at peak of his career.

In these 16 Tests, he averaged 48 with the bat and also had a phenomenal bowling average of 14.87. It includes arguably his greatest Test performance which came against India at Faisalabad in 1983 where he grabbed 11 wickets and scored a century in that Test.

2nd Test Match - England v Pakistan : News Photo
Botham was the leader of the bowling line-up, too

Richard Hadlee’s bowling average is impressive but he also has the lowest batting average from this group. Ian Botham and Kapil Dev’s bowling average is on the higher side and hence, in this category, Imran Khan is the winner among the four. 

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