There has allways been a debate not just on who is the best allrounder but even as to who qualifies as an all rounder. There is a school of thought that says that an all rounder is someone who could get picked in a team only as a batsman or only as a bowler. It sounds great but really would disqualify a lot of all rounders for a large part of their careers. I have tried to see an allrounder from BOTH his batting and bowling capabilities and after a lot of thought I felt the following criteria would be fairly comprehensive and logical.
NO OF TESTS PLAYED : This is just to eliminate the fluke of a great performance in a very short career. I have taken here a 20 test (minimum) limit but for the earlier periods, a ten test limit should suffice. There could be extra ordinary cases of proven mettle but did not play minimum tests for various reasons. Mike Proctor is a great example.
BOWLING CRITERIA : I find that the greates bowlers in history have been those not necessarily with THE lowest average (though their averages will be low) but those who take wickets regularly. Thus wickets per test is a very good criteria. The top bowlers in the history of the game have taken close to 4.5 or more wickets per test.
Barnes with 7 tops the list. Murali the great wicket taker of today is at 5.85, Grimmett 5.84, Orielly 5.33, Lillee 5.1, Hadlee 5.0, Kumble and Warne 4.7, Marshall and Bedser 4.6, Donald and Trueman 4.58, McGrath, Tyson and Garner 4.5 and so on. I know the criteria could have also been strike rate which appears more accurate than this one but it is a bit unfair when considering bowlers of different typs. Slow bowlers will always have a much higher (inferior) strike rate to pacers.
So I decided that for an all rounder a minumum of 2.5 wickets per test should be required to qualify.
BATTING CRITERIA :
I think rather than pure average, how often the allrounder makes a significant contribution to the total would be better criteria. I took any score above 50 to be such a score.
The top batsmen get a fifty every 2.5 to 4/4.5 innings or so. To give an idea, this factor for some top batsmen is, Bradman (1.9), Hobbs & Barringtin (2.37), Walcott (2.55), Tendulkar & Richards (2.63),
Woodful, Gavaskar, Dravid, Greg Chappell & Lara (2.7), Sobers, Miandad Border (2.9), Boycott, May Hammond (3), Gower, Umrigar, Ganguly (3.6), Jayasuriya and Arvinda 3.8, Vaughan and Zaheer Abbas 3.9.Mark Butcher, Carl Hooper etc take more than 4 innings per fifty.
I think from an all rounder , who is also contributing with the ball, the team would expect a fifty (or more) every now and then which alongwith his 2.5 wickets or more per test would make him extremely valuable to the side. I have fixed a fifty plus innings every 8 innings or less as the criteria for being eligible.
I also took as a criteria at least one score of three figures to show that he was not just a bowler who could smash his way to a fifty but a batsman who could stay long enough to get a big score.
This left me with a list of 14 top all rounders from test history. Here they are in the order of number of tests played.