Was Kapil Dev the Greatest ODI Allrounder of the 80’s?

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Was Kapil Dev the Greatest ODI Allrounder of the 80’s?

For this article, 600 One Day International cricket matches were run in an online cricket simulator in order to suggest who was the greatest allrounder of the 1980’s. The players examined were Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Sir Ian Botham and Sir Richard Hadlee, who were the four players whose names are always mentioned in discussions about the greatest allrounders of that decade.

Method, assumptions and limitations of this simulation

To run this simulation we selected each allrounder in all 11 positions and then compared them to the other three. 100 matches were simulated for every combination of the four players. For each round, one player batted first 50 times and the other 50 times. This is a useful method of comparing allrounders because it seeks to find the sum total of each player’s batting and bowling statistics in terms of how they help their side to victory.

There are several potential questions regarding this methodology, not least the fact that the players in question never batted in most of the positions that they do in the simulator. Another limitation is that Ian Botham’s stats include the end of his career when he was nowhere near the force he was in his first five years. Having said that, it could be argued that longevity is a crucial factor in determining the quality of a player’s career, and so Botham has to take the good with the bad.

A quick look at the stats

If you compare the stats of Imran Khan, Sir Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Sir Ian Botham, there are many similarities and a few notable differences.


1. Kapil Dev 95.07
2. Ian Botham 79.10
3. Richard Hadlee 75.50
4. Imran Khan 72.65


1. Imran Khan 33.41
2. Kapil Dev 23.79
3. Ian Botham 23.21
4. Richard Hadlee 21.61


1. Richard Hadlee 39.1
2. Imran Khan 40.9
3. Ian Botham 43.2
4. Kapil Dev 44.2


1. RIchard Hadlee 3.30
2. Kapil Dev 3.71
3. Imran Khan 3.89
4. Ian Botham 3.96

What is notable here is that Kapil Dev’s strike rate is much higher than the others, although not by as high a percentage as Imran Khan’s batting average. Richard Hadlee leads both categories of bowling, although his strike rate is not considerably better than the others.

The simulator results

Imran Khan vs. Richard Hadlee: Khan 43, Hadlee 57
Kapil Dev vs. Ian Botham: Dev 94, Botham 6
Imran Khan vs. Kapil Dev: Khan 5, Dev 95
Richard Hadlee vs. Ian Botham: Hadlee 69, Botham 31
Imran Khan vs. Ian Botham: Khan 49, Botham 51 (tied after 98 matches)
Kapil Dev vs. Richard Hadlee: Dev 89, Hadlee 11

1. Kapil Dev – 278 wins/300 matches, 92.67%
2. Richard Hadlee – 137 wins/300 matches, 45.67%
3. Imran Khan – 97 wins/300 matches, 32.33%
4. Ian Botham – 88 wins/300 matches, 29.33%

Discussion of the simulator results

Dev’s victory against the other three great allrounders of the 80’s suggests that batting strike rate is perhaps an underappreciated statistic, which might explain who so many feel that Kapil Dev was an underrated ODI allrounder.

If you look at the stats more closely, 11 Kapil Devs averaging close to 24 suggests that a par score for Dev might be 265-270, and this kind of scoring is certainly what occurred in the simulator. Dev was the only player to cross 300, which he did on over a dozen occasions. With the second-best economy rate in this simulation and facing batsmen with strike rates in the seventies, it was a simple matter for him to repeatedly score over 240 and then simply restrict the opposition batting to less than this, regardless of the number of wickets taken. Matches in which Dev was all out in the 40-45th over and won by restricting Khan to a score around 210/4 off 50 overs were very common. When Dev did lose, it was usually from collapsing in a heap or, in the case of facing Hadlee, not crossing the 240 mark that was usually enough.

Hadlee beat Khan and Botham, and he did this thanks to economy rate, which could be another undervalued statistic. Unlike bowling average, which is effectively a composite of strike rate and economy rate, it is through taking wickets or restricting runs through which bowlers win matches, not necessarily by being well-balanced in both categories.

Khan and Botham were level after 98 out of their 100 matches, suggesting that they both have an argument for being ranked third in this simulation.

Was Kapil Dev the Greatest ODI Allrounder of the 80’s?

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