Who was the closest all-rounder to Sir Gary Sobers? Arguably Sir Garfield Sobers is the greatest cricketer of all time with Bradman and the equivalent of Don Bradman to all-rounders.Statistics just don't display the supremacy of Sobers over any great all-rounder. However what is fascinating is that which all-rounder challenges the supremacy of Gary Sobers most?Before Sober's playing day's Keith Miller was the closest.In the 1980's we had the famous 4 in Ian Botham,Imran Khan,Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev.Kapil Dev was in the Ian Botham mould while Hadlee was lot like Imran.From the 1990's we had the likes of Chris Cairns,Shaun Pollock,Andrew Flintoff etc.However finally Jacquse Kallis came into prominence who towered above all all-rounders in the last twenty years. In the views of experts the greatest challengers to Sobers are Botham and Imran.In Richard Sydenham's 100 cricket legends selection 19 cricketers have chosen Ian Botham in their all-time 11 ,while 21 have chosen Imran Khan.Amongst those who chose Botham were Dicky Bird,Martin Crowe,Richard Hadlee,Mike Procter,Barry Richards,Saed Anwar,Mushtaq Ahmed,Abdul Qadir,Alan Donald and Dilip Vengsarkar.Amongst those who chose Imran were Muhtaq and Hanif Muhammad,Saed Anwar,Mushtaq Ahmed,Michael Holding,Malocolm Marshall,Arvande de'Silva,Kapoil Dev,Dilip Vengsarkar,Bob Willis,Richie Benaud ,Wasim Akram,Waqar Younus and Kirmani.From the sub-continent more have chosen Imran but it is fascinating that Saed Anwar and Abdul Qadir have chosen both Botham.Imran performed far better versus West Indies so one can understand why Holding ad Marshall chose Imran.In the end to me I narrow the contest between ,Kallis,Imran,Botham and Keith Miller. 1.Jacques Kallis If it comes to career statistics Kallis towers above everyone and even edges Sobers.Considering his aggregates in one day Internationals as well Kallis is statistically the champion allrounder of all time.On batting stats alone Kallis cane be rated amongst the top 3 being the closest to Sachin in century agregate in However what counts against Kallis is that he has hardly peformed as a bowler in the latter half of his career and he has not championed the cause with both ball and bat frequently in test matches and series in his peak.Kallis has also not been as great a match-winner as all-rounders like Imran or Botham .However Kallis has also played in an era where conditions have hardly been favourable to seamers and has hardly had ample bolwing opportunities in recent times.Never forget Kallis has taken 5 wickets and scored a century twice in tests and has dominated some series with both bat and ball.Versus West Indies in Capetwon in 1999 he scored a century and a fifty and took five wickets.In taht series in 1999 he captured 17 wickets at 17.58 and averaged 70 with the bat.Verus Bangladesh he scored an unbeaten 139 nad captured 7 wickest at Potchesfstroom in October 2002.In England in 1998 he scored 294 run,including a 132 at Old Trafford and captured 11 wickets at 27.82. Kallis's allround statistics are the equivalent of what Sachin Tendulkar is as a batsman. Batting and fielding averages Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St Tests 157 266 40 12941 224 57.26 28174 45.93 44 56 1444 95 190 0 ODIs 321 307 53 11498 139 45.26 15756 72.97 17 85 903 136 125 0 Bowling averages Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10 Tests 157 260 19437 9186 282 6/54 9/92 32.57 2.83 68.9 7 5 0 ODIs 321 280 10636 8558 270 5/30 5/30 31.69 4.82 39.3 2 2 0 2.Ian Botham At his best to me Ian Botham was the closest to Sobers.From 1977-82 in his 1st 51 test matches he was the best all-rounder after Sobers.No all-rounder could change the complexion of games with both ball and bat.In the 1980 Jubilee test and the 1981 Ashes Botham literally resurrected England from the grave to take them to a famous victory.He made the impact of a tornado in all departments of the game,be it when his made 149 n.o at Leeds v Australia in 1981 or captured 5-1 at Edgbaston and 13 wickets in Mumbai in the jubilee test in1980.Infact even Sobers has not equalled Botham's herculean efforts in the 1981 Ashes and the 1980 jubilee test.At his peak he was the best match-winning all-rounder,with a cavalier match-winning flair comparable to Gary Sobers.Botham has taken 5 wickets and scored a century 5 times ,more than anyone else. cricinfo statistics Runs Average 100s/ 50s Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM First 51 Tests 2833 38.80 11/ 10 231 23.06 19/ 4 Next 37 Tests 1976 31.36 3/ 11 135 33.85 8/ 0 Last 14 Tests 391 20.57 0/ 1 17 57.52 0/ 0 Career (102 Tests) 5200 33.54 14/ 22 383 28.40 27/ The four leading allrounders between Jan 1977 and Dec 1982 Player Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM Diff in ave Ian Botham 58 3229 37.11 11/ 13 262 24.52 20/ 4 12.59 Imran Khan 37 1429 29.16 1/ 4 186 21.79 13/ 3 7.37 Kapil Dev 44 1904 32.82 2/ 11 172 29.68 13/ 1 3.14 Richard Hadlee 23 767 21.91 1/ 4 114 23.22 11/ 2 -1.31 England had a few other top-class batsmen in their side in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but Botham's stats were good enough during this period to have got him into the side as a specialist batsman alone. In the seven years between 1977 and 1982, Botham's batting average was 37.11, a number that was topped by only three England batsmen. Geoff Boycott and David Gower were the only ones to average in the 40s, while Graham Gooch's average was only marginally ahead of Botham's. What's also incredible is the kind of conversion rate Botham managed, despite batting fairly low down the order: he scored 11 hundreds in 58 Tests, an average of 5.3 Tests per hundred. Gooch and Gower, on the other hand, averaged about 10 Tests per century, while Chris Tavare did even worse, scoring only one hundred in 21 matches during this period. 3.Imran Khan Imran Khan,was the most charismatic cricketer of his time and the best fast bowler and allrounder in his prime.In both series he played against Ian Botham in 1982 and 1987 he outplayed his rival.Imran was the best match-winning cricketer with Viv Richards in his peak.What marginally,went against Imran was that he was at his best as a batsman when he was past his best as a pace bowler.Imran also could not win or turn the complexion of game with the bat like Botham.However he could champion a cause in a crisis.Botham was more effective with both bat and ball in match or series but overall Imran was more consistent.As a fast bowler or cricketer overall Imran was marginally head of Botham,even as a match-winner. Cricinfo statistical analysis: In the 1980s, Imran was in his pomp, and he was easily among the top five players in the world during this period. Till the end of 1988, both his batting and his bowling were in fine fettle: he averaged almost 40 with the bat and less than 18 with the ball, numbers which indicate quite emphatically just how dominant he was. He was even more lethal in the 14 months between November 1981 and January 1983: in 16 Tests during this period he averaged almost 48 with the bat, and took 104 wickets at an incredible average of 14.87, with eight five-wicket hauls. India and Australia played six Tests each against Pakistan during this period, and both suffered extensively at the hands of Imran: he destroyed India's much-vaunted batting line-up with 40 wickets at 13.95, while Australia fared only slightly better, conceding 29 wickets to him at 16.65. Of the 11 Man-of-the-Match awards he won in his entire Test career, five came in a six-month period from August 1982 to January 1983. In the third Test of that series against India, Imran scored 117 in Pakistan's first innings and had match figures of 11 for 117, making him one of only two players - Ian Botham is the other - to score a century and take ten wickets in the same Test. In his last three years in Test cricket Imran didn't bowl much, averaging only about 25 overs per Test, but his batting went to a new level altogether, as he went past 50 nine times in 20 innings. Imran Khan's Test career Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM Till Dec 1979 25 832 22.48 0/ 1 98 31.88 5/ 1 Jan 1980 to Dec 1988 48 2028 39.76 4/ 10 236 17.77 18/ 5 Jan 1989 onwards 15 947 72.84 2/ 7 28 33.53 0/ 0 Overall 88 3807 37.69 6/ 18 362 22.81 23/ 6 In the 1980s, Imran was in his pomp, and he was easily among the top five players in the world during this period. Till the end of 1988, both his batting and his bowling were in fine fettle: he averaged almost 40 with the bat and less than 18 with the ball, numbers which indicate quite emphatically just how dominant he was. He was even more lethal in the 14 months between November 1981 and January 1983: in 16 Tests during this period he averaged almost 48 with the bat, and took 104 wickets at an incredible average of 14.87, with eight five-wicket hauls. India and Australia played six Tests each against Pakistan during this period, and both suffered extensively at the hands of Imran: he destroyed India's much-vaunted batting line-up with 40 wickets at 13.95, while Australia fared only slightly better, conceding 29 wickets to him at 16.65. Of the 11 Man-of-the-Match awards he won in his entire Test career, five came in a six-month period from August 1982 to January 1983. In the third Test of that series against India, Imran scored 117 in Pakistan's first innings and had match figures of 11 for 117, making him one of only two players - Ian Botham is the other - to score a century and take ten wickets in the same Test. In his last three years in Test cricket Imran didn't bowl much, averaging only about 25 overs per Test, but his batting went to a new level altogether, as he went past 50 nine times in 20 innings. During his peak years in Test cricket, Imran was easily the best allrounder among his peers. In the nine years between 1980 and 1988, his bowling average of 17.77 was almost 22 lesser than his batting average - the difference was clearly the best among those with 1500 runs and 100 wickets during this period. Hadlee's bowling performances were exceptional during this period, but he couldn't quite match up to Imran with the bat, while both Botham and Kapil had far lesser success with the ball. Top allrounders between 1980 and 1988 (Qual: 1500 runs, 100 wickets) Player Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM Diff in ave Imran Khan 48 2028 39.76 4/ 10 236 17.77 18/ 5 21.99 Richard Hadlee 51 1987 31.04 2/ 10 284 19.03 28/ 7 12.01 Ian Botham 72 3989 34.38 10/ 19 255 31.83 15/ 2 2.55 Kapil Dev 72 3103 31.98 5/ 16 242 30.05 14/ 2 1.93 Ravi Shastri 61 2702 34.64 7/ 10 132 38.24 2/ 0 -3.60 4.Keith Miller- Several experts rate him next to Sobers and the best fast bowling allrounder of all.Miller was more consistent than Ian Botham and more effective with bothy ball and bat than Imran .However he did not have the same opportunities to prove his true prowess. cricinfo statistics Keith Miller's Test career Period Runs Average 100s/ 50s Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM First 11 Tests 599 54.45 1/ 3 27 20.85 1/ 0 Next 33 Tests 1685 32.40 3/ 9 100 21.77 3/ 0 Last 11 Tests 674 39.64 3/ 1 43 27.11 3/ 1 Career (55 Tests) 2958 36.97 7/ 13 170 22.97 7/ 1 His all-round skills were so good that Miller remains one of only two Australians (Monty Noble, who played in the 1890s and 1900s, was the other) who scored more than 1500 runs and took over 100 wickets, and had a higher batting average than a bowling one. The difference for Miller was 14, which is easily the best among Australians. Criteria In the final analysis the most important point is what criteria has to be taken into account.If it came to replacing Gary Sobers in an 11 then Kallis is the most likely candidate with his staggering aggregate of runs combined with his bowling ability. If it came to choosing someone as an accomplice to Sobers in an 11 then Botham,Miller or Imran would be a more likely choice .Infact Imran would just edge Botham and Miller as he would be the ideal fast-bowling all-rounder who would accompany Sobers.If Sobers is not in the team then arguably Kallis,Miller or Botham could be the more likely candidates to replace him with their batting prowess.If we look at overall consistency Imran Khan or Jacques Kallis are the closest to Sobers but at his prime Botham would win the race.Imran was without doubt the best fast bowler while Kallis was the best batsman .Amongst the best allrounders of the 1980's Richard Hadlee was the best ,marginally ahead of Imran.It is debatable whether a batting all-rounder or a fast-bowling allrounder is more useful to a team and some great cricketesr like Alan Davidson give greater utility to the fast bowlers.What was unique about Sobers was his ability to change the complexion of match with both bat and ball.,duplicated most by Miller and Botham at their peak.With his prowess as a fast bowler,Imran could be a great match-winner for a team. The fairest verdict for the closest to Gary Sobers may well be a draw between Botham,Imran and Kallis with their different qualities.If we consider performances and all-round ability at their best Ian Botham would win ,but if we evaluate overall consistency and statistics it would be Kallis or Imran.