For any cricket team, its all-important balance hinges on the quality of its all-rounders.
There are plenty who can bowl a spell or two and strike the ball well in limited overs but Test cricket is a different ball game.
In a format that demands top level technique and temperament, quality all-rounders are a rare commodity.
Here, we look at the best of them in Test cricket and slot them into four tiers.
SHAKIB AL HASAN
Bangladesh have been a Test nation for less than two decades, but in Shakib Al Hasan they’ve been blessed with a talent who future generations will try and fail to upstage.
The left-arm off-spinner can be devastating with the ball and is among the best bowlers while showing great consistency at the crease with his technique and stroke-play only improving over the years. In fact, his batting average in red-ball cricket is nearly 40 to go along with a bowling average of just over 31.
An absolute superstar in an often underdog team, Shakib has been an excellent role model on and off the pitch. He’s always boasted a great temperament, even at the age of 22 when he first captained the team in Tests and starred in Bangladesh’s first overseas series win, beating West Indies 2-0.
Perhaps the best way to justify Ben Stokes’ place in the top tier is to measure him against an England cricket icon in Andrew Flintoff. Very much an all-action all-rounder in the same mould, Stokes may well be held in even higher regard.
He currently averages 34.75 with the bat and 32.43 with the ball, bettering the numbers of his predecessor that read 31.77 and 32.78. His heroics have even seen him emulate Flintoff’s presence and ability to be a match-winner.
A 198-ball 258 against South Africa in 2016 was Stokes at his brutal best while four five-wicket hauls is a remarkable return from a fourth seamer. His supreme ability and athleticism makes an impact in the field as well – a trait he can boast over most other all-rounders.
Given his talent as a batsman, many argue that Ravindra Jadeja has underachieved at the crease and should be scoring more runs. However, he’s no slouch with the bat, boasting an average of 32.28 and it’s with the ball where he’s excelled.
Initially called up for India’s series with Australia in 2013, he impressed by dismissing Michael Clarke five times in six innings and picking up 24 wickets in total. Jadeja thrives on pitches that are conducive to spinners but is known to struggle on others at times.
He’s a valuable lower-order batsman and has produced some fighting innings in the past like his unbeaten 86 having walked in at 160-6 against England. He has 10 half centuries to his name and scored his first ton in Test cricket last year against West Indies.
West Indies cricket in recent times has gained a reputation for producing explosive, entertaining talents but what it really needs is more players like Jason Holder.
This isn’t to suggest the Windies skipper is by any means dull but while the likes of Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell produce fireworks in T20 leagues, Holder is the most well-rounded and reliable cricketer in the country.
He announced himself in Test cricket as a lower-order batsman and medium-pacer with two wickets and an embattled 52 at New Zealand in 2014. The following year he scored his maiden ton, showing great character against as the team was reeling at 189/6. His defiant century saved the Test for his side.
The answer to India’s seam-bowling all-rounder search, Hardik Pandya is one of their most important players. Despite being something of a T20 star, his ability with bat and ball lends the team invaluable balance regardless of the format.
He may be an unorthodox and explosive hitter in limited overs but boasts the natural technique and stroke play necessary to thrive in red-ball cricket. With an average of 31.29, he’s comfortably cemented his spot in India’s lower-order.
Still fairly new to Test cricket, he’s been a valuable addition to the bowling attack. While not the quickest, he has a knack for hitting the right areas and troubling batsmen.
With a century and a five-wicket haul to his name, he’s already proved himself as a potential match-winner even in Tests.
A late-bloomer of sorts, Chris Woakes’ Test career only really took off three years ago just when it seemed like it was petering out. A dramatic turn in fortunes during the summer of 2016 though quickly saw him become one of the best all-rounders in the game.
As a wicket-taking quick and technically gifted batsman, Woakes should be rarity but he just so happens to be team-mates with Stokes. Such has been his contributions though that he’s remained a mainstay in the side.
A 10-wicket haul against Pakistan in 2016 displayed the fullest extent of his talents with the ball while he also has an unbeaten 137 to his name against India at Lord’s.
At only 21, Sam Curran made his Test debut against Pakistan last year and he didn’t take long to make an impact.
In only his second match, left-arm medium pacer terrorised batsmen with the movement he generated off the turf and picked up figures of 4/74. He also scored a terrific half-century under pressure.
Despite his slight frame, Curran’s ability to swing the ball coupled with his natural aggression makes him a fierce competitor. At the crease as well his batting can be classed in the ‘combative’ category making him perfectly suited to the lower order.
With the kind of seam options England boast, he always has his work cut out for him in terms of selection but his special brand of consistency and bite means he offers something different – it’s a wonder why they didn’t use him until the fifth Test of the Ashes, where he immediately starred.
He may have burst onto the scene in T20 format during the 2016/17 Pakistan Super League but Shadab Khan has shown that he could have a bright Test cricket career ahead of him.
Boasting an artillery that’s well-stocked including a wrong’un that’s difficult to pick, the leg-spinner has is showing good signs just five Tests into his red-ball cricket career.
The 20-year-old is a great turner of the ball and it’s only a matter of time until his superb bowling figures in limited overs is reflected in the longer format of the game.
In the mean time, he’s already made an impact for Pakistan as a lower-order batsman, bagging three half-centuries in just nine innings.
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