The special ones

Super southpaws… Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan celebrate India's victory against Australia in the quarterfinals.-PTI

Topping the list of left-handers in the Indian team were Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh. While Zaheer Khan shared the bowling honours with Shahid Afridi with 21 wickets, Yuvraj emerged with an excellent collection of 362 runs, 15 wickets, three catches and several brilliant stops on the field. By G. Viswanath.

One of the remarkable features of India's triumphant march against Sri Lanka in the World Cup final at the resplendent Wankhede Stadium was the presence of left-handed players in the playing XI. In fact, it was a feature during the entire competition.

When Kapil Dev and his men brought West Indies' quest for a third successive World Cup to a grinding halt at Lord's in 1983, the Indian team neither had a left-handed batsman nor a left-handed bowler. The team was packed with right-handers.

It was a calculated decision then as India opted to go into the final without Ravi Shastri, a left-arm spinner. Sunil Valson, a left-arm seamer, was in the squad but did not play a single match.

Left-handers, both batsmen and bowlers, have been part of India's World Cup campaign from 1975 and notable among them were Bishan Singh Bedi, Eknath Solkar, Karsan Ghavri, Ravi Shastri, Maninder Singh, Vinod Kambli, Venkatapathy Raju, Sadagopan Ramesh, Sourav Ganguly, Dinesh Mongia and Ashish Nehra.

Balancing the team with skilful right-handers and left-handers has its advantage provided the selectors have the opportunity to pick such a squad. K. Srikkanth's team of selectors has been lucky not only for the fact that Indian cricket possessed gifted players, but also that it has a highly experienced set that has gone through the wringer in several one-day competitions and Test cricket.

For a left-handed batsman, his right hand is the top hand or the controlling hand, whereas for a right-hander, his left hand is the controlling hand. A player chooses to do what comes naturally to him.

Indian cricket had been blessed with some fine and elegant left-handers. Vinoo Mankad was known as the ‘master' for his subtle and cunning spin, bowled with his left hand. Salim Durrani, who batted and bowled with his left hand, and R. G. Nadkarni would have relished playing one-day cricket. They would have had resounding success too. The three would have been a captain's dream, a straight pick in the playing XI. To an extent, Eknath Solkar too would have come into the reckoning for his fielding ability and slow left-arm medium pace.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni had left-handers — both batsmen and bowlers — who had exceptional skill in one department of the game and were above average in the other.

Yuvraj Singh, the player of the World Cup, is a rare cricketer with amazing batting, bowling and fielding skills. Then there is Gautam Gambhir, who is quite efficient with the bat and splendid on the field too. Suresh Raina too falls in this category. Then of course the Indian skipper had Zaheer Khan, the left-arm fast bowler, to operate with the new ball and the rough one.

The performance of the left-handers was a significant factor for India in the World Cup. Zaheer Khan paused before he sent down each delivery in his first unwavering burst of five overs. Gambhir was unyielding in spite of the fall of the giants, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Yuvraj did not allow a single shot to pass him at point, and when fielding near the line, he was equally good. Raina was a bundle of energy and speed inside the circle.

India's opponents felt the impact made by its left-handers right through the World Cup. Not that the right-handers were far removed from the action, but it was just that the left-handers stole the thunder.

On top of the list was the magnificent duo of Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh. While Zaheer Khan shared the bowling honours with Shahid Afridi with 21 wickets, Yuvraj emerged with an excellent collection of 362 runs, 15 wickets, three catches and several brilliant stops on the field. They were the special ones in the Indian team.