James Franklin (left), Abdul Razzaq (centre) and Irfan Pathan © Getty Images
By Abhijit Banare
They don’t feature in the list of top 10 all-rounders in the ICC ODI or T20 rankings. Yet their value to their respective teams is more than just cold statistics. Their worth needs to be measured in terms of the balance they bring to the team rather than focusing on career statistics which doesn’t really make an impact. A hat-trick, some match-winning partnerships and individual innings is something which is common among them, yet they remained inconsistent during most part of their career which isn’t entirely their fault.
Here are three underrated all-rounders in current era International cricket.
Currently, Franklin and another experienced all-rounder Jacob Oram are swapping places in the New Zealand playing XI. And neither of them has been able to contribute significantly. It’s good to have an option for a particular spot in the team, but having confidence and backing one player to keep a stable combination is the real sign of a good team. However, Franklin doesn’t seem to enjoy enough confidence of the New Zealand captain and team management which is evident from the number of matches he played. Most of the match-winning contributions from Franklin were during moments where his team had almost been written off.
During the fifth edition Indian Premier Leauge (IPL) Franklin proved to be an extremely valuable player for Mumbai Indians. The only thing that made a difference here was, being used to an optimum level as an opening batsman and an extra bowling option during the latter half of the season. More than scoring runs it’s the composed and structured innings at the top which showed his real capability. Moreover, he’s a good player of spin which makes it more important for him to play up the order in T20 World Cup. In many ways IPL 5 proved significant to keep him afloat in the national side. The New Zealand Cricket board though didn’t consider him for a central contract twice in a row which again sums up a disappointing approach towards the Kiwi all-rounder.
Considered as Pakistan’s best all-rounder since Imran Khan, Razzaq’s career has been a series of unfortunate decisions. It’s difficult to draw logical conclusions why Razzaq was not included in the playing XI in the just-concluded T20 World Cup. He was won numerous matches for Pakistan batting lower down the order, besides being a reliable medium-pace bowler. He deserved a place in the Pakistani line-up. His inclusion would have helped do away with a fast bowler and add more solidity to the batting as Afridi doesn’t seem to be a batsman anymore.
Razzaq’s tiff with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been one of the major causes of being snubbed from selection on a regular basis and managed to keep his career going with a fruitful stint in county cricket.
Not many would agree on Pathan being part of this discussion. Yet, in recent years, Indian skipper MS Dhoni has frequently said that the team lacks a quality fast bowling all-rounder. But the comments often got buried when part-time spinners start doing well. Pathan’s presence is what brings the balance in the team. His style of batting is tilted to an aggressive approach which doesn’t focus on technique unlike an all-rounder like Shane Watson who is much more composed with his batting skills. In the first six overs where scoring well is necessary, it’s was poor judgment on part of the skipper to send Pathan up the order when there were much competent players to open with in the absence of Virender Sehwag. And it is this aspect which made the difference in the match against Australia.
Looking beyond T20 World Cup, it is a fast bowling all-rounder who plays a key role in successful teams. Be it Jacques Kallis for South Africa, Angelo Matthews for Sri Lanka or Stuart Broad for England. Each one of them are huge assets to their respective team. In this context, Pathan’s presence will help India provided there is a plan set by the team management about what is expected from him.
Franklin, Razzaq and Pathan started their careers as fast bowlers and eventually became handy batsmen. Eventually, they lost focus on their bowling – largely due to injuries. In such cases, the selectors, captain and coach have to think in the larger interest of the team and drop the player if he is not performing the primary purpose he has been picked for.
The only hope for these players is to perform well in the limited opportunities they get. After all, not every player gets a second chance to revive their career – something all the three above-mentioned players in question were fortunate to get. There are other cricketers who could have been part of this list like Andre Russell and Ravi Bopara, but Franklin, Razzaq and Pathan are the most prominent, considering their vast experience in international cricket.
(Like most Indians, Abhijit Banare has been obsessed with cricket since childhood. He is an avid follower, smitten by statistics and analysis. A journalism student in Mumbai, he considers himself lucky to have grown up watching batting legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. He also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)