Sampras and Agassi, Palmer and Nicklaus, its always easy to compare rivals when there are two of them. Cricket in the 1980s was blessed with four swash buckling all rounders who could all lay claim to being the greatest of all time- Garry Sobers excluded, because he really has a better record than all. Ian Botham (102 tests), Kapil Dev (131 tests), Richard Hadlee (86 tests) and Imran Khan (88 tests) formed the quartet of outstanding all rounders. So impressive were their contributions that they have generated a vociferous fan base and any discussion comparing their achievements is almost always shadowed by emotion.
So in typical fashion, I thought of settling the argument by statistics so I borrowed some figures from cricinfo and from the statistical blog It Figures. Here are the results:
The first cut is to look simply at the difference between the batting averages and the bowling averages. Imran's relatively high batting average helps him out here.
No. Player Ctry BatAvg BowlAvg DiffThe second cut was a longevity based measure, which equates each wicket to 20 runs scored and sums up total runs in their careers. Kapil and Botham are helped here with their longer careers.
3 Imran Khan Pak 37.69 22.81 14.88
8 Botham I.T Eng 33.55 28.40 5.15
9 Hadlee R.J Nzl 27.17 22.30 4.87
12 Kapil Dev Ind 31.05 29.65 1.41
No. Player Ctry Runs Wkts AllrunsAnother valid measure should be outstanding individual match performances with bat and bowl. On the batting front it seems like Botham comes out ahead while on the bowling side Hadlee has the edge.
2 Kapil Dev Ind 5248 434 13928
3 Botham I.T Eng 5200 383 12860
6 Hadlee R.J Nzl 3124 431 11744
8 Imran Khan Pak 3807 362 11047
No. Player Ctry75+run/4wkt 100s Bowl SRThe conclusion?
2 Botham I.T Eng 11 14 56.9
8 Imran Khan Pak 5 6 53.7
12 Kapil Dev Ind 4 8 63.9
18 Hadlee R.J Nzl 7 2 50.8
Batting: Botham and Imran seem strongest in batting (former having bigger scores, latter with higher average).
Bowling: Hadlee seems to be the best bowler, with Imran a close second (average and strike rate)
Longevity: Kapil survived the longest and outscores them all in total runs and wickets.
The answer to this one, we'll leave everyone to form their own conclusions and share with us in the comments.