Kapil, Hadlee, Botham and Imran: The Fab-4 All-Rounders

All-rounders are valuable assets for any cricket team; they can bat as well as bowl. And to have genuine all-rounders who can bat and bowl equally good is an added advantage for any team. 

Genuine all-rounders have been known to read the pitch well i.e. if they bowl first and take wickets, then generally they are able to tailor their style of batting as per the condition of the pitch to score more, as well as, score valuable runs to propel the team’s total and vice-versa. And these all-rounders did it many times.

Here, we’ll discuss those Fab-4 all-rounders of the late 20th century who have won many matches for their teams, both with the bat as well as with the ball!

Kapil Dev

Best remembered for winning the 1983 World Cup for India as a captain, Kapil Dev was one of the maverick all-rounders in the history of cricket. Debuting for India in 1978, he became one of the best fast bowling all-rounders for India.

A right-arm fast bowler who could swing the ball both ways and bowl quick bouncers occasionally, Kapil Dev was someone who had a liking for tormenting Pakistan batsmen with the ball; he took 99 wickets in 29 tests against them at an average of 31 and took 89 wickets in 25 tests against the best team of his era: West Indies at an average of just under 25. He was also a hard hitter of the ball, averaging highest against England (41.06) with 1355 test runs out of his 5248.

Kapil Dev had an incredible test record; as a right-handed batsman, he scored 5248 runs in 131 Tests at an average of 31.05 and took 434 wickets at an average of 29.64 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 2.78 runs per over. He made 8 hundreds and 27 fifties in test matches with a best of 163 runs against Sri Lanka. He is also the only all-rounder to take more than 400 wickets as well as make more than 5000 runs in test cricket!

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Kapil Dev (R) and Mohinder Amarnath (L) post for a photo with the World Cup, Lord’s, 1983.

Kapil also had an impressive ODI record with 3783 runs in 225 ODI’s at an average of 23.79 and took 253 wickets at an average of 27.45 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 3.71 runs per over with best bowling figures of 5/43. He made 1 hundred and 14 fifties in ODI’s with a best of 175* runs against Zimbabwe in 1983 World Cup.

His fitness and agility were as strong as that of an ox and despite maintaining incredible fitness in an era when there were very few gym facilities, he never got injured in his entire career until he retired in 1994 at the age of 35. The trivia is that he hardly missed any ODI’s due to injury and he missed a single test match just because the test captain Sunil Gavaskar dropped him from playing XI because Kapil got out by playing a rash shot in the previous test match.

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Kapil Dev during his iconic 175*

Kapil Dev had a very good personal record as a player in the 1983 World Cup, finishing with 303 runs in 8 matches at an average of 60.60, took 12 wickets at an average of 20.41, and also took 7 catches.

He was also a brilliant captain, apart from winning the 1983 World Cup by defeating the arch-nemesis West Indies in the final, he also helped India win a test series in England in 1986 and guided India to the semi-final in 1987 World Cup. He was inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010.

Richard Hadlee

One of the finest all-rounders to have ever played for New Zealand, Richard Hadlee was one of the Fab-4 all-rounders who possessed the agility to bowl fast even at the age of 39, and not only that, he was also a hard hitter of the ball. Hadlee usually batted at No.7 for New Zealand in both tests and ODI’s despite being a strike bowler for the team. He was definitely the best bowler in terms of statistics amongst the Fab-4 all-rounders.

A fine swing exponent of the ball, the right-arm fast bowler Hadlee had a likening for tormenting the Trans-Tasman rival, Australia, against whom he took 130 test wickets in just 23 tests at an average of 20.56. He also took 97 wickets in 21 tests played against England. He also had an unusually impressive record on spin-friendly pitches of Sri Lanka; and he took 27 wickets in 4 tests played there.

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Richard Hadlee appeals for a wicket, Australia vs New Zealand, Melbourne, 1987.

Hadlee had an incredible test record as an all-rounder in an era where bowlers thrived much better than the batsmen; as a left-handed batsman, he scored 3124 runs in 86 Tests at an average of 27.16 and took 431 wickets at an average of 22.29 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 2.63 runs per over.He made 2 hundreds and 15 fifties in test matches with a best of 151* runs against Sri Lanka.

Hadlee also had a good ODI record with 1751 runs in 115 ODI’s at an average of 21.61 and took 158 wickets at an average of 21.56 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 3.30 runs per over with best bowling figures of 5/25. He made 4 fifties in ODI’s with a best of 79 runs against Australia. Notice that he had a slightly better bowling average in ODI’s than in tests.

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Richard Hadlee in the Prudential Cup

Hadlee’s notable achievements include the maiden test series win against Australia in Australia in 1985, where he took 33 wickets in just 3 matches with two 10- wicket hauls. Hadlee’s best bowling figures in an innings (9/52) also came in the first test along with a 6-wicket haul in 2nd innings, where New Zealand humbled Australia for the first time ever in test cricket. He even scored a fifty (54 runs) with the bat in that test match. The second test was lost by New Zealand but he took up a collective haul of 11 wickets in the third test to ensure a win for New Zealand and a series win of 2-1 against Australia at their soil.

This humble chap decided to hang his boots after the conclusion of the test series against England in 1990, taking up a wicket of England’s tail-ender, Devon Malcolm on the last ball of his Test career. He was knighted soon after and he was inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.

Imran Khan

The best batsman across tests and ODI’s amongst the Fab-4, Imran Khan is certainly remembered for winning the 1992 World Cup for Pakistan as a captain. A blazing 72 runs off 110 balls by him in the final of 1992 World Cup match against England ensured Pakistan to be reigning World Cup champions for the first time ever.

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Imran Khan hit 72 runs in the final, Pakistan vs England, Melbourne, 1992.

Imran Khan was a cricketing prodigy on his own; he debuted for Pakistan as an 18-year old against England in a test match in 1971. But he wasn’t a very active test cricketer in the first half of his career.  His career started to bloom only after 1982 and his form, both with the bat and the ball never dipped thereafter until his retirement after the conclusion of the 1992 World Cup.

Taking the captaincy from Javed Miandad in 1982, he led Pakistan to their first test win in England after 28 years. He took 21 wickets in the three tests as well as averaged 56 with the bat in that series. Though Pakistan lost the test series by 2-1. Imran learned a few important lessons of captaincy and propelled Pakistan to semi-finals in the 1983 World Cup. 

He captained Pakistan to their first-ever test series win in 1987, against India, and later that year, they followed it with their first away test series win against England.

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Imran Khan with the World Cup

Imran Khan had an incredible test record; as a right-handed batsman, he scored 3807 runs in 88 Tests at an average of 37.69 and took 382 wickets at an average of 22.81 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 2.54 runs per over. He made 6 hundreds and 18 fifties in test matches with a best of 136 runs against Australia. 

Imran also had a rather excellent record in ODI’s with 3709 runs in 175 ODI’s at an average of 33.41 and took 182 wickets at an average of 26.61 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 3.89 runs per over with best bowling figures of 6/14. He made 1 hundred and 19 fifties in ODI’s with a best of 102* runs against Sri Lanka in 1983 World Cup.

Imran’s knowledge of reverse-swing bowling helped future cricketers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis benefit immensely with the technique, thus Pakistan bowling line-up exploiting the best batting team on any given day. He was inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.

Ian Botham

One of the finest all-rounders for England in pre-Stokes and pre-Flintoff era, Ian Botham was one of the most unflinching players of the English team, unlike other players who were conservative in their style of playing the game. His flamboyant looks, as well as his baseball-style hitting of the ball with the bat, made him a symbol of fear to the opposition. He was, on his day, capable to single-handedly win test matches or ODI’s against any opponent on any part of the world. He was definitely the best fielder amongst the Fab-4 all-rounders of that era, taking 120 catches in 102 tests.

Botham debuted in 1976, played close to 16 years before retiring in 1992. With England touring India in February 1980, in a test match in Mumbai, he single-handedly won the match for England, scoring 114 runs with the bat and taking 10 wickets in the test.

He also excelled in the 1981 Ashes series, which was famously called as Botham’s Ashes, scoring two hundreds and a solitary fifty in that series. In one of the tests at Leeds, he scored 50 and 149* respectively, as well as took 7 wickets, including a six-for to rout Australia.

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Ian Botham hitting a shot en-route 149* runs, England vs Australia, Leeds, 1981.

Botham had an overall good test record; as a right-handed batsman, he scored 5200 runs in 102 Tests at an average of 33.54 and took 383 wickets at an average of 28.40 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 2.99 runs per over. He made 14 hundreds and 22 fifties in test matches with a best of 208 runs against India.

Botham had an above-average ODI record as a bowling all-rounder with 2113 runs in 116 ODI’s at an average of 23.21 and took 145 wickets at an average of 28.54 runs per wicket at an economy rate of 3.96 runs per over with best bowling figures of 4/31. He made 9 fifties in ODI’s with a best of 79 runs against New Zealand in 1992 World Cup.

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Ian Botham appeals for a wicket against Australia

But post-1986, he was not the same force anymore while playing for England. Both his batting and bowling deteriorated in tests and though he showed flashes of brilliance occasionally, it wasn’t penetrative enough to help England win matches by his contributions, though he was inducted in ICC Hall of Fame in 2009 due to extraordinary performances given by him in the late ’70s and early ‘80s.

The Fab-4 all-rounders helped put their respective countries on top of the cricketing map single-handedly many times when the ruthless and fearless West Indian team were ruling the roost for a majority of the time as well as Australia backing up to become world champions in Kerry Packer era.

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