Top, from left: Bill Lawry, Saeed Anwar, Garry Sobers, Maurice Leyland, Allan Border, Jimmy Adams. Bottom, from left: Trevor Goddard, Wasim Akram, Alan Davidson, JJ Ferris, Johnny Wardle © Getty Images
Top, from left: Bill Lawry, Saeed Anwar, Garry Sobers, Maurice Leyland, Allan Border, Jimmy Adams.
Bottom, from left: Trevor Goddard, Wasim Akram, Alan Davidson, JJ Ferris, Johnny Wardle © Getty Images

Among the irks of Indian cricket fans of the 1980s was the lack of a left-handed batsman. For a stretch of a decade and a half, WV Raman was the only one of note between Surinder Amarnath in 1978 and Vinod Kambli in 1993. Similarly for Pakistan, there was a gap over a decade between Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Sadiq Mohammad.

It is not a subcontinent thing either. In the three decades (including World War II, but still 24 years) between Dave Nourse and Trevor Goddard, Headley Keith was the only left-hander to feature in the South African top seven more than five times.

Fun fact: A left-handed batsman called JP Duminy batted 6 times and scored 30 runs for South Africa in the same slots during this phase. No known relationship exists between him (Jacobus Petrus) and the one we know (Jean-Paul).

And I am not going into bowlers at all, despite the fact that only six southpaws have taken 300 Test wickets at the time of writing this, and all of them have played in this millennium (quick quiz: can you name all?). If you restrict it to the 20th century, Wasim Akram was the only left-handed seamer to take 200 Test wickets.

If left-handers are such rarity, what is the size of the intersection between the two — men who both batted and bowled left-handed? Alas, there have been only 226 of them, and only 101 of them had gone past the 10-Test mark.

This is an XI based on these men — men who batted and bowled left-handed and had played Test cricket.

Openers: Bill Lawry and Saeed Anwar 

It was a tough choice to keep out Arthur Morris, but Lawry was easily the more consistent of the two. Lawry’s strike rate is obviously a concern, but Morris averaged 37 over the last 32 Tests in a 46-Test career. Lawry’s form never dipped, and he had a tendency to get runs when nobody did (the 1970-71 Sydney Test is an example).

While Lawry had little of that “lazy elegance” commentators use to describe left-handers, he did get those runs, often when the chips were down.

There should not be any such restriction for Anwar, who averaged over 40 in every major nation barring South Africa. Even there he scored at 34 and got 43 and 118 at Durban in 1997-98; the 118 is probably the greatest innings by a Pakistani on South African soil.

Middle-order: Garry Sobers, Allan Border (captain), and Maurice Leyland

Sobers and Border auto-select themselves. I am not getting into the batting credentials of these two legends. Border is also automatic choice as captain.

Additionally, Sobers will field at any position and will bowl seam, finger-spin, or wrist-spin as per circumstances. Border could bowl too: his average against West Indies (24.31) was better than those of Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, and Dennis Lillee.

Leyland had an uncanny knack of rising to challenges. For example, his First-Class batting average of 40.51 shot up to 42.59 in Roses matches and 46.07 in Test cricket. In Ashes contests it reached a whopping 56.83.

No, I cannot keep Leyland out. Even if someone else shows up he will always have the edge in sides I select, for Leyland is the greatest cricketer with whom I share a birthday.

All-rounder: Trevor Goddard 

If you have not heard of Trevor Goddard, you have South African cricket to blame, for they had dropped him for good for no apparent reason (of course, South Africa played a solitary Test after that before getting banned for over two decades).

Goddard did the 2,000 run-100 wicket double. Before you point out that 28 others have done this (till date), let me point out that he averaged 34.46 with bat and 26.22 with ball. The ratio between the two numbers (1.31) has been bettered by only five men in history who have done the double.

To add to that legacy, Goddard led South Africa in 13 Tests including the famous 1962-63 tour of Australia, where South Africa held the hosts to a 1-1 draw.

No, Goddard has to be picked — even if that means him, a classical specialist opener, batting down the order. Perhaps Shakib Al Hasan will make it if I make the same list five years later.

Bowlers: Wasim Akram, Alan Davidson, JJ Ferris, and Johnny Wardle

Like Sobers and Border, Davidson and Akram auto-select themselves. Ferris’ average (12.70) sounds unreal even for the 19th century, but perhaps more astonishing was the fact that he got 48 wickets in 8 Tests despite the presence of Charlie Turner (he also got 13 in a Test for England).

Ferris also sent down 144 balls on average per innings, which will be needed to provide Akram and Davidson with the breathers they need. While Goddard and Sobers are around, few have matched Ferris in relentless stamina.

Rangana Herath and Daniel Vettori were serious contenders for the spinner’s slot. Iqbal Qasim toiled through the 1970s and 1980s with a significantly superior record than Abdul Qadir, the man who overshadowed him for reasons unknown.

Wardle averaged 20.39, but more importantly, he averaged under 21 both home and away. A reason behind this was his nagging accuracy: he went for 1.89 runs an over. He bowled finger-spin but switched to wrist-spin at will, and bowling both with terrific efficiency. He also averaged almost 20 with bat.

Wicketkeeper: Jimmy Adams 

This was tricky, since no cricketer who batted and bowled left-handed has kept wickets in Test history. One had to resort to limited-overs formats — and even there the count was one.

Adams averaged 41 with bat in Test cricket. His most famous series was in 1994-95 in India, where he scored 520 runs at 173.33, faced 403 balls per dismissal, and acquired the nickname Padams for exceptional use of pads to counter the Indian spinners.

He also took a 4-wicket haul and a 5-wicket haul in Test cricket, but will need to keep wickets here, as he had done 26 times in ODIs. Since he led West Indies in none of these matches, we can assume that he did not particularly relish the role, but we are not left with much choice.

As for the 12th man, I will go with Eknath Solkar, the man with the highest catches-to-Test ratio (1.96) among non-wicketkeepers.

Left-hander’s XI (in batting order): Bill Lawry, Saeed Anwar, Garry Sobers, Allan Border (c), Maurice Leyland, Jimmy Adams (wk), Trevor Goddard, Alan Davidson, Wasim Akram, Johnny Wardle, JJ Ferris, Eknath Solkar (12th man).