There is some confusion as to the precise definition that a player needs to fit in order to be considered an all-rounder. The generally accepted criterion is that a genuine all-rounder is someone whose batting or bowling skills, considered alone, would be good enough to win them a place on the team. By this definition, true all-rounders are quite rare, and extremely valuable to a team since they effectively count as two players. Very few players have ever managed this distinction. The skills required for batting and bowling are very different and players tend to peak at different ages, while batsmen often reach their peak at 30 (when thier technique has matured through experience) bowlers, especially fast bowlers, are at their peak in their early to mid twenties; at the height of their physical prowess. More commonly, all-rounders are better at bowling than batting or vice versa. Thus the terms "bowling all-rounder" or "batting all-rounder" are used to describe such players.
One commonly used statistical rule of thumb is that the batting average of an all-rounder (the higher the better) should be greater than the bowling average (the lower the better). For example, Imran Khan had the combined Test cricket averages of 37.69 with the bat and 22.81 with the ball; likewise, Keith Miller had 36.97 and 22.97, and; Ian Botham had 33.34 and 28.40 respectively. The need to excel in both departments complicates comparison between players, especially when they played under the differing conditions of disparate historical eras.
The issue is clouded by the many specialist batsmen and bowlers who exhibit some degree of skill in the other department. For example, the Australian bowler Brett Lee has batting ability, but is not good enough to be selected as a Test batsman in his own right. There is no agreement whether players in this class, including batsmen who can bowl a few useful overs such as Sachin Tendulkar, are to be considered all-rounders; the term part-timer is often used in place of all-rounder in such cases. Television channels sometimes add to this confusion by using the same icons beside these players as they do beside true all-rounders.
Further adding complexity to the definition of all-rounders is the difference between test cricket and one-day cricket. Often, a player may bowl his entire quota of ten overs, or near thereto, in most one-day matches; however, he will be bowling only sparingly in test matches, with fewer than half the overs of the main strike bowlers. This makes them all-rounders in one-day cricket, but closer to part-timers in test cricket. Players such as Sanath Jayasuriya and Andrew Symonds fit this description well. The hybrid term one-day all-rounder is most descriptive in this case, and such players are denoted in the list below by (ODI).
VE Walker of Middlesex, playing for All-England versus Surrey at The Oval on 21, 22 & 23 July 1859, took all ten wickets in the Surrey first innings and followed this by scoring 108 in the England second innings, having been the not out batsman in the first (20*). He took a further four wickets in Surrey’s second innings. All-England won by 392 runs.
Next came EM Grace on 15 August 1862. He carried his bat through the entire MCC innings, scoring 192 not out of a total of 344. He then, bowling underarm, took all 10 wickets in the Kent first innings for 69 runs. However, this is not an official record as it was a 12-a-side game (though one of the Kent batsmen was injured).
A further confusion to all-rounder status is added when fielding is considered. Particularly in the modern game (limited overs cricket in particular) great emphasis is put on fielding skills and some exceptional fielders have been considered "all-rounders" by some, Jonty Rhodes and Paul Collingwood being prime examples. If one is to consider all three disciplines then Frank Woolley perhaps stands alone. He is the only player to take 1000 first class catches (excluding wicket-keepers), only Jack Hobbs has scored more first class runs and he took over 2000 wickets at an average of less than 20.