There are some interesting comments on the Forum tonight about the respective credentials of Ross Whiteley, Jonathan Clare and David Wainwright as all-rounders.
I suppose to some extent the jury is out on all three, but they offer intriguing potential and variety. All three have shown their batting talents, while to have a left and right arm seamer and left arm spinner among all-rounders of potential is a luxury few sides enjoy.
Ross Whiteley first appeared as a left arm seamer in the Kevin Dean mould, but if you've read this blog since I started it you may recall my suggesting that his batting might develop, as he struck me as a clean hitter in the Ian Blackwell mould. Last season's performances amply illustrated that Whiteley had arrived as a batsman with good technique who could hit the ball a country mile when set. At the same time his bowling seemed to have gone back, a habit of dropping one on leg stump with annoying regularity costing him runs as he "lost" his action. Yet the signs from Australia are good and Ross would be a huge asset if he could be seen as a third or even fourth genuine seamer in the side.
That's the way with all-rounders. The young Sobers was a bowler who could bat and then it clicked. The young Kallis was a batsman who bowled and then found a few yards of pace. The young Hadlee was effectively a rabbit with the bat, while the young Imran Khan looked not especially talented with bat or ball until he filled out. Likewise Wayne Parnell dominated junior cricket as an all rounder of brilliance, yet has found batting at senior level a bigger problem than bowling. Its a tough job, the decathlon of cricket, the master of all trades. It needs a strong physique to carry off too, as Andrew Flintoff, another who soared only occasionally in his youth, will testify.
Jonathan Clare has a strong physique but only last season overcame the mental scars of serious injury. Unless you've had a serious shoulder injury you don't know how hard it is to bowl quickly again and Clare had a really serious one that caused him to miss a lot of cricket, yet saw him return when he was not perhaps ready. I once missed a year of bowling with a rotator cuff injury and barely bowled a ball with any menace for a year after that. For a club player like me that was no big deal, but for an 85mph seamer like Clare its the difference between a quick yorker and cafeteria bowling. Similarly his confidence at the crease was affected and the player rarely bats above seven or eight in one-dayers anyway, hardly the position from which to build an average.
As for David Wainwright, a first-class batting average of 32 is impressive for someone who has batted low for Yorkshire and indicative of talent. He already has two first-class centuries and could easily add more as I expect him to bat at seven for Derbyshire. He will be seen as a replacement for Greg Smith and while not as adaptable as the South African, who could bowl seam and spin, I would argue that his spin is perhaps a more useful weapon for a Derbyshire side starved of experienced twirlers since the departure of Robin Peterson. I could see Wainwright passing 500 runs and 40 wickets in the Championship. If he does, we will enjoy a good year.
I'm a hard task master and have always regarded a genuine all-rounder as someone who averages more with the bat than he does with the ball. Such a qualification would mean some good players over the years were discounted as such, including, at the moment, the three players named above. Yet using the four day game - the only one where comparisons are fair - as a benchmark, Clare averages 28 with bat and ball, Wainwright 32 with bat and 35 with the ball and Whiteley 38 and 70 respectively.
All can improve on those figures in the season ahead and convince any doubters of their all round talent. And when one considers that we have Peter Burgoyne coming through and Rana Naved for the T20 we're pretty well off.
And that's without including the merits of Wes Durston, Chesney Hughes and Dan Redfern, the latter someone I feel could easily bowl more than has been the case in recent seasons. Batsmen who bowl, maybe - but a handy asset for the new skipper.