Dual role, single-mindedness!

Top all-rounders in the current era possess the ability not just to win matches for their team, but also to assume the unglamorous roles of a workhorse with the ball or a dogged resister with the bat. And across formats. Here are five currently playing all-rounders who have illuminated international cricket with their impact.

With cricket non-stop throughout the year, only dramatic events on the field — a sharp collapse or a marathon knock — seem to catch our attention. But careers and legacies are charted out via consistent performances over painstakingly long periods, virtually unnoticeable until stats show it to us. While batsmen and bowlers toil to make an impact day in and day out, all-rounders do the same in both disciplines to justify their label. Their life is harder than most but some revel in it.

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Top all-rounders in the current era possess the ability not just to win matches for their team, but also to assume the unglamorous roles of a workhorse with the ball or a dogged resister with the bat. And across formats. It is easy to discern why holding a spot itself would be difficult, let alone shining as the best and the brightest.

Here are five currently playing all-rounders who have illuminated international cricket with their impact.

1. Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh’s cricketing rise, especially in the last few years, can be attributed to a group of individuals, but if one has to be singled out among them, it has to be Shakib. The southpaw — a highly skilled left-arm spinner and middle-order batsman — has made his presence felt in all formats for his team. He can bowl long spells in unhelpful conditions in Tests, as well as stun the opposition with a cluster of wickets at any time, and in any format. With the bat, his characteristic is touch more than power, but with an arsenal of all kinds of attacking strokes. On occasions, he has even made a lasting impact in both disciplines, such as the first Test against Australia earlier this year in Mirpur, where he took 10 wickets and scored 84 and 5 in his two innings. His performances single-handedly propelled Bangladesh to a historic first ever Test win against the heavyweight Aussies.

 

2. Ben Stokes: The languid and assured demeanour of this Englishman amid the chaos and fear all around his team caught the eye in the 2013-14 Ashes. Although England suffered a 5-0 whitewash, which resulted in a subsequent overhaul of the team itself, a star was born. The century he scored in Perth in that debut series of his was a sign of things to come. Subsequently, he established himself as an exciting strokeplayer, capable of destroying all kinds of attacks, and a seam bowler capable of reverse-swing. In 2015, he had a key role in England’s memorable wins at Lord’s against New Zealand and at Trent Bridge against Australia, where his six-wicket haul in the second innings contributed to an innings win for his team. In the tour of South Africa later that year, he hit an entertaining 258 at Cape Town, the only double-century he has hit so far in his career. A few months later, Stokes was a catalyst in England’s run to the final of the ICC World Twenty20, a tournament that ended in agony for him as he conceded four sixes in the final over of the final to allow West Indies to claim its improbable second title. Next year, though, he had his moment with the ball against the same opponent in Tests; a spell of six for 22, his best bowling figures in the format, helped England claim a series clinching win at Lord’s.

 

3. Ravindra Jadeja: A left-arm spinner capable of running through opposition line-ups and a handy lower-order batsman, Jadeja has won matches for India in all formats. Having burst on to the elite cricketing arena via the Twenty20s — specifically, the Indian Premier League — he honed his skills as a spinner to suit himself to the longer format, and before long, rattled the best of batsmen. In early 2013, he established himself as a match-winner in Tests by dismantling the Australians alongside R. Ashwin to help India gain a 4-0 whitewash at home. His bowling helped India clinch the Champions Trophy later that year in England, showcasing his adaptability across formats and conditions. From time to time, he shifts onlookers’ attention to his batting as well, especially in domestic cricket, in which platform he has hit three triple-centuries. Most recently, he showcased his capacity to dramatically turn matches around with his last-day spell of 7 for 48 in Chennai that precipitated England’s collapse for what for long periods in the Test looked like a certain draw.

Jadeja, alongside Ashwin, is among the world’s top all-rounders in Tests. He also holds a spot among the top 20 all-rounders in ODIs.

 

4. Mohammad Hafeez: The Pakistani top-order batsman and off-spinner has been consistent in limited-overs formats to be among the top 10 in the rankings in ODIs and T20Is. He is in the top 20 among Test all-rounders, too. He has the technique to defend against good attacks and accelerate when the opportunity arises. In the flat tracks of the Indian sub-continent, though, he seems to be most at ease, crafting match-winning knocks and pitching in with crucial wickets with his spin. He has had bursts of extraordinary runs as in the year 2011, and 2015, when he bounced back from an ICC bowling ban to steer his team with the bat to a 5-0 win in an ODI series.

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5. Moeen Ali: Primarily chosen as a stop-gap spin replacement for Graeme Swann in Tests, Moeen didn’t quite fill the hole left by his predecessor but instead made his presence felt as a handy all-rounder. His graceful strokeplay and all-round capabilities saw him become a handy member of England’s limited-overs teams, too. Moeen has suffered in Tests with the ball at times, leaving pundits frustrated in their eagerness for finding a fine spinner in the quality of Swann, but of late, he has been turning matches around with the ball, too, most recently, against South Africa at home, a series that included a hat-trick. He overtook Stokes as England’s leading all-rounder — according to the rankings — after his successful series and the two are now battling neck-and-neck for that mantle, a hearty sign for England’s cricket. Most recently, Moeen hit a 53-ball century against West Indies in a one-dayer, displaying his attacking might.

 

Special mention:

Shane Watson: The muscular Australian has lit up a cricket field on numerous occasions, and stolen the headlines when he did.

For he could hit sixes at will; in 2011 against Bangladesh, he slammed 15 sixes — many of them slog-sweeps to the cow corner — in his knock of 185. But there was more to him than his stylish and obliterating strokeplay. He could bat carefully if the situation demanded, and could catch the opponent off-guard with his seam bowling.

However, it seemed his infinite potential, captured by singular acts of awe, could not be sufficiently realised in Tests by the end of his career. For, although he could hit knocks like the 176 against England at The Oval in 2013, an innings of the high quality against a top-quality attack, he realised an average of only 35.19 in 59 Tests. However, with his all-round package, he carved out his rightful space in Twenty20s. He was an Indian Premier League star for Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, being one of the highly successful and sought-after cricketers in the league. He was quite successful in One-Day Internationals, too, with an average of 40.54 in 190 matches.