Mike Selvey's Lefties XI October 24, 2010

On the other hand

Left-handers are increasingly to the fore in cricket. What would an all-time XI composed exclusively of the species look like?
120

The rise of the left-hander has been relentless in the past decade or so. Once regarded as anomalous - fantasy sides of my youth ideally had a left-right opening combination, perhaps a cack-hander in the middle-order player and a left-arm slowie for balance, but that was it - they are now mainstream. Why should this be?

Perhaps, as a start, we should understand the semantic difference between being left-handed and being a left-hander. In cricket terms, the former is rarer, and for obvious reasons is the domain, almost exclusively of the left-arm bowler (although David Gower, I believe, writes left-handed but bowled, if you can call it that, right-handed). Of the five bowlers in my XI, four batted left-handed, and with the fifth it probably wouldn't have made any difference if he had as well. By contrast, six of the top seven batsmen are listed as being right-arm bowlers.

There is a reason and a logic to this. Batting at its best ought to be a top-hand-dominant game and each of these players conforms to that, none more so than Adam Gilchrist, whose right hand could scarcely get higher up the handle. With dominant eye playing its part, batting left-handed is actually the logical way to bat. At one time, I suppose, it was discouraged as not conforming to coaching stereotypes, in much the same way that left-handed children were said to have had their hands strapped in Victorian schools as discouragement. That attitude has disappeared now of course. And the more left-handers there are, the more there will be, as aspiring players seek to emulate their heroes.

In fact, with the rise also of left-arm bowlers, the game is becoming a mirror image of itself. There seem to be more pacemen now, who in particular have become an important part of limited-overs strategy. They are encouraged, too, in the past few years by the use of technology and the willingness of umpires to give slow bowlers lbw decisions where once they were declined (try a comparison between those gained by Monty Panesar, say, and Dan Vettori at equivalent stages of their careers).

How many lefties make the all-time World XI is a different matter. But they are on the march.

1 and 2. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer Have to come as a pair. Batman and Robin, Bluebeard the Pirate and his parrot. Only Haynes and Greenidge were more prolific together.

3. Graeme Pollock. Average of 60.97, second to Bradman of those with at least 20 Test innings, is pretty special.

4. Brian Lara At his best, surpasses anyone in the modern era. Insatiable appetite for runs, incredible flair, imagination and spacial awareness.

5. Clive Lloyd (capt) Destructive as a batsman, a uniter of nations as captain.

6. Garry Sobers Best allrounder in the game's history.

7. Adam Gilchrist Incomparable wicketkeeper-batsman.

8. Wasim Akram Genius, the best left-arm paceman of them all. Could make the ball recite Shakespeare if necessary.

9. Alan Davidson Swing and cut brought him 186 Test wickets @20.53 for goodness sake. Phenomenal.

10. Bishan Bedi Should it be Bishan luring his prey like a competition angler? Or deadly Derek Underwood, indefatigable Dan Vettori, or silky Hedley Verity? By a whisker, if only for aesthetics, the man who hypnotised batsmen like a snake charmer did a cobra.

11. Johnny Wardle To bowl only the chinamen and googlies he purveyed like no other.

Former England and Middlesex bowler Mike Selvey is cricket correspondent of the Guardian

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fullerpilch on October 27, 2010, 17:13 GMT

    definitely the great Hedley Verity for Wardle..he was a war hero too!

  • Ozbuck on October 26, 2010, 22:15 GMT

    Leslie O'Brien Fleetwod-Smith was a left arm spin bowler of some eccentricity, and could bowl! the first of the 'flickers' (Middle finger behind the ball and flick it out), when fileding, he entertained those within earshot with bird calls. Blessed withno ability with the bat (10 Tests 54 runs @ 9, due to not outs), nevertheless, he opened for Australia when Bradman reversed the order to make a game of it against England. If not in the side, 12th man? Ozbuck

  • dummy4fb on October 26, 2010, 19:35 GMT

    @rats_rule and @vypati : I have an amusing anecdote about Sachin in his teens -- When he would play with the kids in his housing society, he would bat left-handed on purpose, and they could still NOT get him out :).

  • dummy4fb on October 26, 2010, 12:08 GMT

    Wasim Akram...........Could make the ball recite Shakespeare if necessary.

    GREAT

  • dummy4fb on October 26, 2010, 5:37 GMT

    left handers, vp, left handers!

  • rats_rule on October 26, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    i hope u r joking vpyati.... u must not be much of a tendulkar fan if you don't even know that he is a right handed batsman. either that or u cant read

  • EverybodylovesSachin on October 25, 2010, 23:11 GMT

    Cricinfo also create a team of eleven who are Bachelors..and also who got married and also only divorcee and so on...

  • vpyati on October 25, 2010, 21:23 GMT

    This is a joke. No Sachin Tendulkar????? No list can ever be complete without him.

  • 114_in_final_Six_overs on October 25, 2010, 17:38 GMT

    @onlyemperor, thats good-now we know where you are coming from. Living fact free is quite a blissful state of mind :)

  • dummy4fb on October 25, 2010, 16:08 GMT

    gary kirsten and tubby taylor, my openers. one to bat for my life, other to lead the side. and if Bedi makes the cut, we might as well include Sir Ravinder Jadeja.

  • No featured comments at the moment.