It's one of the oldest debates in cricket and it has ranged from frothy cold beers in outback pubs when the shearings done, past suburban boundaries where young blokes claimed their current heroes and club sectretaries smiled and talked the greats ... and that's just here in the land of lithe bronzed men with steady smiles and a larrikin wit. The debate can be had among the pink gin set, it can have a calypso backbeat or be delivered with a subcontinental head wobble.
In the land of the long white cloud where men run quick and the sheep try to run quicker, there is no debate. They know their man Paddles is the King.
The world's greatest all rounder. Who is/was he?
Largely by experience, reading, trusting in the opinions of those I trust about such things and on the strength of one innings, Gary Sobers would be my man. The stats always said so - eight thousand runs, two hundred plus wickets and hundred odd catches. His versatility said so - left arm quick, left arm medium swing, left arm spin, field and take catches anywhere. He moved like a ghost - one minute there, next minute ... there.
I've long held this view.
I was flicking through the Hozstat pages in search of quiz questions and the list of allrounders the website proposes drew my attention. Criteria - 1000 runs, 50 wickets, 50 catches and the first thing that struck me was Nathan Astle's name, mid list. Must be something wrong with the criteria, especially since the name Imran Khan was absent.
Not content to accept this and in an effort to qualify what was on show, I decided to make some adjustments using a simple formula. Equating a century being potentially match winning, I allocated one point per run and twenty points per wicket, since a 5fa is as important as a century. Further, I allocated 30 points per catch, as three catches in an innings seemed to me as rare as a century.
Having sorted that, I decided that only players who had taken three catches in an innings, five wickets in an innings and scored a century (not, you understand, all in the same innings) would be included. I made the other criteria, 2000 runs, 100 wickets and 50 catches.
Realising now that players who played before the 1990's, when cricket match programs ballooned, would be disadvantaged, I divided the points tallied by the number of Tests played to give a form of match contribution average. The resultant table was ...
Batsmen who bowled miss out (the Waughs, Simpson, Hammond, Woolley, Walters, Gayle and Jayasuriya) and of course others missed their place on the 3 catches in an innings rule (Kumble, Kapil, Lindwall and even a superstar such as Astle). The three I had the hardest time leaving out were by criteria judgement were Greg Chappell, who was a bit more than a batsman who bowled, Keith Miller on shear guts and glory alone and Shane Warne, who failed by one run to score a Test century. I therefore compromised with myself and included Warne anyway, as a batting average of 25 is all rounder status at 8 or 9.
Bugger me. Look who's on top of the list!