On the Front Foot: Vettori's feat is special but Flintoff's an all-round superstar

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The Independent Online

What constitutes an all-rounder has been the subject of some animated discussion. It was fuelled, of course, by the retirement from Test cricket of Andrew Flintoff, having scored 3,845 runs and taken 226 wickets. Nobody, unless they also doubted that wood came from trees, would question Flintoff's authenticity as an all-rounder. But then came Daniel Vettori's achievement in becoming (in front of two men and a dog in a Test in Colombo) only the eighth player to have scored 3,000 runs and taken 300 wickets, a club of which Flintoff is not a member. Vettori is demonstrably an extremely accomplished cricketer. Captain of New Zealand, he has played international cricket for 12 years and his left-arm spin has prospered in a country which is not conducive to slow bowling. For most of the time in the second part of his career he has batted at No 8, though he has scored more runs at No 9, where he first batted, than anybody else. Vettori is not alone in being a specialist No 8 and Shane Warne, Chaminda Vaas and Shaun Pollock all to some extent made that position their own. To reach the landmark speaks of durability as well as accomplishment. Vettori, at 30, must have a chance of joining Kapil Dev as the only man so far to have scored 4,000 runs and taken 400 wickets. But it might still not be enough for him to be recalled as an all-rounder, great or otherwise.

Nifty nine top the charts

There is no easy way of classifying all-rounders. The gut reaction tells you that of the four magnificent performers of the 1980s, Richard Hadlee was the lowest ranked because he was a lesser batsman. Imran Khan might sneak in at the top but then, although his batting average was 37.69 to Ian Botham's 33.55, he scored six hundreds to Botham's 14. Kapil scored eight hundreds but took most wickets in 29 more matches than any of the others. Fifteen players have scored 2,000 runs and taken 200 wickets, another 36 have scored 1,000 and taken 100. Nine of these have averaged more than 30 with the bat and under 30 with the ball. This is an arbitrary but fun measurement of the true all-rounder. It rules out Vettori and Flintoff. Botham (33.55 and 28.40), Imran (37.69 and 22.81), and Kapil (31.05 and 29.65) qualify but not Hadlee (27.17 and 22.23. There is a New Zealander, Chris Cairns (33.54 and 29.80). The others are Trevor Goddard, Keith Miller, Monty Noble, Shaun Pollock and the only other Englishmen, Wilfred Rhodes.

Broad's our next best bet

The next genuine English all-rounder should be Stuart Broad, who has a wise head on 23-year-old shoulders. By the end of the Ashes, Broad had played 22 Tests and scored 767 runs at 30.68 and taken 64 wickets at 35.78. Botham and Flintoff, both older at that stage of their careers, had respective records of 1,068 at 36.83 and 118 at 19.27 and 683 at 20.09 and 33 at 50.09. So Broad was not as good as Botham who declined as his career wore on but much better than Flintoff who had yet to reach his peak. As, of course, has Broad.

...and let's not forget Prior

Talking of all-rounders, Matt Prior is rapidly entering the fold now his wicketkeeping has improved. After his 23 Tests he has scored 1,326 runs at 44.20 and had 53 dismissals. The great Alan Knott by then had scored 839 runs at 32.27 and got 73 dismissals.