Top 10 Indian left-hand batsmen who left a lasting impression

From Nari Contractor to Sourav Ganguly, a look at the top 10 Indian left-hand batsmen who graced the game and left a mark in world cricket.

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Regarded one of the most elegant batsmen in the game's history, Sourav Ganguly in full flow was a treat to watch.   -  GRAHAM CHADWICK

Left-hand batsmen have a special place in cricket. They are different from the majority – graceful and mostly looking to have all the time in the world to play. We have come to admire batsmen like Gundappa Viswanath, Mohammad Azharuddin and VVS Laxman for their artful batsmanship, all timing and style, hitting the ball but not wanting to hurt it.

Among the left-handers we saw in the last 50 years, David Gower was the one to be revered. You would not want to miss a ball when he was on strike. Mark Waugh was the right-handed version of Gower.

Our own Sourav Ganguly came closest to that class of silken strokeplay. There was not a moment of boredom when Ganguly batted.

Here, we pick 10 left-handers to watch, beginning with Nari Contractor. From accounts based on old-timers, writers and players, he commanded respect and had a following. 

In later years, Ajit Wadekar emerged as the most attractive batsman to watch. This list does not include left-handers Hrishikesh Kanitkar, S. Ramesh, Hemang Badani, Ravindra Jadeja, all successful with immense utility – as bowlers and fielders. But the list had to be restricted to 10 who would deliver in all conditions. 

These may not be the best 10 in every cricket lover’s diary. So, feel free to make your own favourites.

Nari Contractor

Among the most gutsy of Indian openers, he was looked up by his contemporaries for inspiration. Consistency was his hallmark and his career, like that of Ajit Wadekar, can’t be judged by the number of Test centuries he made. He had two classy innings of 90-plus – 92 at Delhi against the West Indies in 1969 and 92 again against Pakistan at the same venue in 1961 – which are talked about by old-timers for their tenacity.

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That he made runs on uncovered pitches and without protective equipment spoke for his ability to absorb pressures. Sadly, his career ended to a life-threatening head injury caused by a bouncer from Charlie Griffith, notorious for his dubious action.

Nari Contractor plays a shot during a match between Warwickshire and India at Edgbaston.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Contractor represented India in 31 Tests and scored 1611 runs with one century and 11 half-centuries. In the 138 First-class games, he scored 8611 runs with 22 hundreds.

Ajit Wadekar

Garry Sobers once had a message to be conveyed for Ajit Wadekar. “Please say hello to a great batsman from a good batsman.” That is how the legendary West Indian rated Wadekar, one of the most stylish batsmen Indian cricket has seen.

For Wadekar, batting was an exercise in nonchalance. His leisurely walk to the crease was such a deception actually. He was quick on his feet and electric in shot execution.

His ability to be in the best position to pull and hook was stunning. A delight to watch and a batsman who played to entertain. His Ranji Trophy 323 against BS Chandrasekhar and EAS Prasanna in 1967 is rated among the classics.

Ajit Wadekar plays a shot as Alan Knott watches during India's Test match against England at The Oval, London on August 21, 1971.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Wadekar represented India in 37 Tests and scored 2113 runs with one century and 14 half-centuries. In the 237 First-class games, he scored 15380 runs with 36 hundreds and 84 fifties.

Salim Durani

I once asked Tiger Pataudi to pick his best Indian XI. The first name he wanted me to write down was Salim Durani. “Now we shall pick the rest,” he smiled. Durani, according to Pataudi, was a “genius” who was “wasted” due to his erratic moods. Durani, his contemporaries vowed, was the most unpredictable player on the field. He could throw away his wicket and then next day swing the match on its head with his bowling.

His dismissals of Sir Garfield Sobers and Clive Lloyd to fashion a thrilling win in Port of Spain in 1971 helped India make history. In 13 years he played just 29 Tests and yet most captains preferred to have him as the first choice in their XI. That he could hit sixes on demand made him a darling of the spectators.

Former India Test player Salim Durani in action.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

In 29 Test matches, Durani scored 1202 runs with one century and seven half-centuries. In the 170 First-class games, he scored 8545 runs with 14 hundreds and 45 half-centuries. 

WV Raman

The lazy artist who is rightly rated an under-achiever. For his awesome talent to take charge of the opposition often with his single-handed charge, Raman did not achieve what he promised. He had the rare skills to excel in all conditions. Not the one to worry about the playing surface, his strength was in adapting to the challenge quickly. He could attack and play the waiting game with equal comfort.

WV Raman plays a shot during a match.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

His off-side play was breathtaking and footwork against the spinners was cited by coaches as an example to emulate. His knock of 83 on debut against the West Indies in Madras in 1988 was as crafty as one can imagine but Narendra Hirwani's 16 wickets in that Test stole the limelight. He was a feared batsman in domestic cricket with some outstanding innings to is credit.

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Raman represented India in 11 Tests scoring 448 runs with four half-centuries. In 132 First-class games, he scored 7939 runs with 19 centuries and 36 fifties. 

Vinod Kambli

Comparison with Sachin Tendulkar was unfair to this talented Bombay batsman. If only he had the dedication of Tendulkar there is no doubt Kambli would have figured among the greats of the game. Two double centuries in the same season, against England and Zimbabwe, established him as a frontline Indian batsman but he failed to live up to the promise.

Vinod Kambli lofts Kanwaljit Singh for a six during the Bombay-Hyderabad Ranji Trophy semifinal on April 25, 1991.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Often he was guilty of throwing his wicket away but when he batted he stood out for his strokeplay against the best of bowlers. He liked to take on the challenges from the opposition and the contests that he thus created were delightful parts of those matches.

In 17 Test matches, Kambli scored 1084 runs with four centuries and three half-centuries. In the 129 First-class games, Kambli amassed 9965 runs with 35 centuries and 44 fifties.

Sourav Ganguly

One of the finest to have graced the game and arguably the greatest left-handers Indian cricket has known. The dream debut he made at Lord’s with a century in 1996 only confirmed his prowess. We often forget that Ganguly was deprived of five years of international cricket after being picked to tour Australia in 1991-92.

He was a champion stroke-player with a delightful range of shots square of the wicket. His aggressive approach to batting allowed him the freedom to dominate the competition and there was an enviable streak of consistency in both the formats of the game.

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His Test innings of 144 against Australia at Brisbane in 2003 was as pacy as the 183 against Sri Lanka at Taunton in the 1999 World Cup. He was a captain’s delight in every format of the game.

The former India captain represented India in 113 Test matches scoring 7212 runs with 16 hundreds and 35 half-centuries. In the 254 First-class games, Ganguly scored 15687 runs with 33 centuries and 89 half-centuries.

Yuvraj Singh

His batting would take away all the fear of failure from the dressing room. The pressure to score when most failed only ignited a fire in him to tear into the opposition. The elegance that marked his batting was a natural phenomenon. He backed himself to shine in difficult situations and this quality made him the special player in the captain’s diary of men to rely upon. His talent to pick the ball early made him a terror at the crease.

Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj Singh raises his bat after smashing six sixes off Stuart Broad during India's 2007 T20 World Cup game against England in Durban.   -  REUTERS

 

He was known to impart power to carry the ball far into the crowd and also pick gaps with delicate placements. He worked on his batting as he progressed but ended up with an average record in Tests. That remained his biggest disappointment even though he played right through his career on merit, sadly wanting to prove his credentials in the longer format of cricket. He is one batsman you would pay to watch.

Yuvraj represented India in 40 Tests scoring 1900 runs with three centuries and 11 half-centuries. In the 139 First-class games, he piled up 8965 runs with 26 centuries and 36 fifties. 

Gautam Gambhir

Gritty and compact, he was a picture of confidence at the crease. He created his space in the middle with his desire to fight. He loved a fight actually. In fact, it was an essential part of his build-up to the occasion. The image of an angry man was crafted to motivate himself and that was the driving force behind his match-winning knocks on two big platforms – the 2007 T20 World Cup final in Johannesburg and the 2011 World Cup in Mumbai.

Gautam Gambhir in action for Team India at the ICC World Cup in 2011.   -  FILE PHOTO/K. PICHUMANI

 

He could not only light up a limited-overs contest with some sensational strokeplay but also play the sheet anchor role as he did with an epic show in Napier against New Zealand when he batted 436 balls to make 137 to help India draw the Test. He was a complete batsman who deserved greater credit for his contribution to the game.

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In the 58 Test matches he played, Gambhir scored 4154 runs with nine centuries and 22 half-centuries. In the 198 First-class games, he scored 15153 runs with 43 hundreds and 68 half-centuries. 

Suresh Raina

Century on Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2010 was a well-earned reward for this gifted batsman. That he played his first Test five years after making his ODI debut was hard to understand. Despite the good form, Raina was made to wait.

To his credit, he became an integral part of the ODI team and came up with many match-winning performances in the limited-overs formats. In the 2011 World Cup, Raina came up with crucial knocks against Australia and Pakistan and justified Greg Chappell’s claim that the southpaw possessed tremendous mental toughness to deliver in challenging situations. His exceptional showings in T20 cricket also endear him to the young fans in modern cricket.

Suresh Raina celebrates after notching his maiden Test century.   -  REUTERS

 

Raina represented India in 18 Test matches and scored 768 runs with one century and seven half-centuries. In the 109 First-class games, Raina scored 6871 runs with 14 centuries and 45 half-centuries. 

Shikhar Dhawan

He made his mark as a junior cricketer and maintained his reputation at the next level with sterling performances. His tendency to score in exacting circumstances has helped him to remain one of the most trusted batsmen in the team. His sensational Test debut against Australia in 2013 was an innings as good as any seen for a long time.

Shikhar Dhawan celebrates his century on Test debut   -  S. Subramanium

 

His 187 took the wind out of the Australian attack and the feature of the innings was the timing of his shots. He toyed with the bowlers and left a huge impact on the audience with his wide array of shots. His innings evoked lavish praise and helped him remain relevant in all formats of cricket.

In the 34 Test matches, Dhawan scored 2315 runs with seven centuries and five half-centuries. In the 122 First-class games, the southpaw has scored 8499 runs with 25 centuries and 29 half-centuries. 

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