When Australia play Pakistan on Friday in the third quarterfinal of the World Cup, will it be a left-handed battle? If both teams field their expected first eleven, there will be six left-arm bowlers operating in one match.
Pakistan have three—Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz and Haris Sohail—and Australia have three—the leading pair of Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson, and James Faulkner.
There exists an inexplicable bias against left-handedness in society in general, but in cricket, it can be a decided advantage. Look at the teams who have fielded the most left-handed players in World Cups, and you have the two most successful nations in the tournament: West Indies and Australia.
Australians top the numbers when it comes to left-arm fast bowlers in World Cups. Gary Gilmour, Bruce Reid, Mike Whitney, Nathan Bracken, Johnson and Starc, for example, but they have had some serious talent when it comes to left-hand batting as well, with Matthew Hayden leading a list that includes Adam Gilchrist, Michael Bevan, David Warner, Darren Lehman and Alan Turner. All of them have scored over 200 runs in World Cups.
A high percentage of left-handed players have long dominated cricket, many with an elegance that is said to be available only to southpaws.
Statistics from across World Cups show that left-handers are increasingly coming to the fore in cricket. Left-handed batsmen have almost tripled in number since the 1992 World Cup. Interestingly, Asian teams have accounted for 30% of left-handed batsmen and nearly 40% of left-handed bowlers. Sri Lanka have played 47 southpaw batsmen so far, followed by West Indies with 43.
An ideal side today will have a left/right batting combination to start with and perhaps boast of alternative left/right combinations throughout their batting order. If the third quarterfinal is about leftie bowlers, the first, where Sri Lanka plays South Africa, will be about leftie batters. Sri Lanka have two—the incredible Sangakkara, and opener Lahiru Thirimanne; while South Africa are likely to field at least four: J.P. Duminy, David Miller, Quinton de Kock and R. Rossouw.
In India’s quarterfinal against Bangladesh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s mind will be almost entirely on lefties—Bangladesh’s slow left-arm bowlers Shakib Al Hasan, Arafat Sunny, Taijul Islam and Mominul Haque; and the three in-form batsmen Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. India too have their fair share of lefties in the batting line-up.
The last of the quarterfinals (20 March) will be a neat battle between the left-handed batsmen from West Indies, Chris Gayle and Jonathan Carter, and the left-arm bowlers of New Zealand, Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori.