Thursday, March 10, 2011

Adding an Extra Dimension

We want a 3D TV, we want a 4D in physics, we want an extra dimension in everything! Cricket is not far behind in any manner. There has been a growing need for all-rounders in limited over cricket in the 20th century.

There was that era of yester-years, when Sir Gary Sobers, Sir Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan, who stood apart from almost most other contemporaries by being a hall-mark character of their own kind in their own countries. All, in different periods of time, too. They were what is called "all-rounder". Excellent in one department, and very impressive in the other. Everybody who played for their teams after that were scaled in comparison to the greats mentioned above.

And you look at most teams that played till mid-1990s, and you find a clear cut between the duties of the 11 players in the team. 5 bat, one keeps wickets and 5 bowl. Sometimes, 6-1-4. The batsmen rarely bowled, the bowlers rarely wasted time with bat in their hands. Captains have sometimes even declared their innings even if they trailed the opposition, so that the bowlers don't get tired...or injured!

But, from the mid-1990s, the ODI teams felt the need to have a few more all-rounders in the team. Then came in Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Hooper, Freddie Flintoff, Robin Singh, Ganguly, Sachin, Jayasurya, Michael Bevan, Chris Harris and the likes. They became the lynchpin of the sides. They were the batsmen they depepnded on most of the time, or the bowler who could be trusted with the job of strangling the opposition of runs or take wickets, as the case may be.

The boundary wall between the batsmen and the bowlers thinned a bit. The bowlers could play a few lusty blows towards the end of the innings, in test cricket too. Bowlers came in to avoid follow ons. Nehra once hit a 4 off Andre Adams to win a tough game in NZ. Alex Tudor hit a game winning 99*, coming in as a night watchman. Gillespie scored a double-ton, maybe the first one to have scored a double-ton in (unfortunately) his last test. Kumble once made India's only century on an English tour.

And batsmen rolled their arms over at times. Sehwag triggered a collapse in the South African camp in a Champions trophy semi-final. Jadeja stemmed the flow of Zimbabweans at Sharjah, when he temporarily took over the captaincy from Azharuddin in the middle of the match, as Azhar had a minor injury to treat to. Dwayne Bravo's fortune changed the moment he got Yuvraj Singh bowled in the last over of a pulsating match to stop India's record number of chases. Jonathan Trott, recently, was the pick of the English bowlers on one day, when he bowled a few economical overs (comparatively) and picked up a couple of wickets.

Nowadays, it's hard to find a uni-dimensional cricketer in an ODI team. Most of the batsmen are capable of swinging their arm around for an over or two when needed...and bowlers are off-late used as floaters for pinch hitting.

Also, the ones who were in the system were forced to make the transition to keep themselves afloat. Dilshan, who was a bowler when he came into the side, developed his batting. Now, he is a lethal batsman, effective off-spinner, electric fielder, good wicket-keeper and also a thinking (vice-) captain. He checks every box in the list of "Things cricketers do". Others in his line include fellow teammate, Thilan Samaraweera, Cameron White (who doesn't bowl anymore, for God-knows-why), Shoaib Malik and of course, Sachin Tendulkar (the aspiring medium pacer, only to be brought to the path of righteousness by Dennis Lillee). Batsmen who have turned into good all-rounders include Shahid Afridi, Shane Watson, Abdul Razzak, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle, Luke Wright etc.

Some naturally born all-rounders? Shakib al Hassan, Collingwood, Sammy, Pollard, Yusuf Pathan, David Hussey, Angelo Matthews et al.

The new blood being recruited are full of multi-dimensional players. In a few years' time, we wont be able to call anyone "batsman" or "bowler". They will simply be, a cricketer. We might as well be enjoying a complete game of cricket in every player. Hope no beauty is not lost in the process!

(I do not own any of the pics used)


  1. I think it is good for the game when cricketers are well, just cricketers, as it gives a wholesomeness to the game. But one important thing is to be kept in mind. In trying to mould a bowler/batsman into an all-rounder/cricketer, it must come out naturally and not egged on him. A one off useful or vital contribution with his non-specialised task is not be a reason to push him to complete the full circle. Because at the grassroots level, every cricketer is groomed a batsman/bowler. When one comes good with his alternate side, its a plus, but isn't to be forced. Thou shall not cut the bird that lays the golden eggs. Irfan Pathan comes to every one's mind in that context.
    The other aspect is that the all-rounders u mention like David Hussey and Sehwag are in pure sense all-rounders as say Kallis or Vettori. They are just part timers that have done their job but never relied on. The true all rounders like Matthews, Bravo,Watson are reliable in even their alternate jobs. Plus once the day of pure cricketer comes, we may no longer see experts that have always given so much to savour like Sachin or Lara, or McGrath or Walsh. A Dilshan may become the best expertise in batting we may see...

  2. Very nice article! Another thing with allrounders I've noticed is that most of them are brilliant in the field . They are better athletic than majority of the specialist batsmen & some bowlers.

  3. gud da... not to forget guys like dhoni... wk who turns his arms arnd jus for fun...

  4. @Raghu - I think I did exaggerate a bit on David Hussey, but I didn't mention Sehwag as a true all-rounder. He is a part-timer, yes... someone who can fill-in for an under-performing bowler.

    Should've mentioned a couple of Kiwis in the natually born all-rounders' list - Styris and Oram. And as bowler turned all-rounders : Dan and Franklin.

  5. @nkr4068 - Yes, they are good fielders. Some specialists aren't, as they are more likely to concentrate on their bread-winner job!

  6. @Anonymous - Not just MSD, Taibu too :-)