In every global sport, left-handers seem to be a different kettle of fish and the same holds true for cricket. Lefties are a rare breed and often hailed to be a little more stylish and elegant compared to their right-handed counterparts. The Gentleman’s game has seen some flamboyant left-handed batsmen like Lara, Hayden, Anwar, Sangakkara, Warner and Jayasuriya whose batting exhibited elegance and class.
In ODIs, we had some legendary left-arm seamers in Wasim Akram, Chaminda Vaas and Mitchell Starc who have been bowling spearheads for their teams. Indian cricket which has generally been dominated by right-handers also had some lefties in their ranks who certainly left an impregnable impression with their cricketing skills at the World Stage.
So it would be interesting to compile a list of India’s best ever lefthanders in the one-day arena. Lefthander would imply cricketers who discharge their main role with their left hand. I have only taken those cricketers who have played at least 50 ODIs for India.
Batsman - Matches 50 | Minimum Runs Scored - 2000 | Average - 30
Bowler - Matches 50 | Min Wickets - 50
#1 Sourav Ganguly (C)
Playing Role - Opening Batsman / Medium Pacer
Sourav Ganguly is undoubtedly the best left-hand opening batsman India produced in the ODI format. Ganguly forged a lethal opening combination with Sachin Tendulkar which formed the backbone of the Indian batting line-up in the late 90s and the early 2000s. The ‘Prince of Kolkata’ was an elegant batsman with his majestic stroke play on the offside. Those booming cover drives were a spectacle every Indian fan cherished. ‘Dada’ was an exceptional player of spin and often stepped down the track to hit spinners for some lofty sixes. 10000 runs with 22 tons at a 40 plus average made him a prolific run-getter for India.
Ganguly was a handy medium pacer in seaming conditions where he had the knack of breaking partnerships. More importantly, he was an exceptional leader who turned the approach and attitude of Indian cricket with his aggressive and bold captaincy.
Sourav Ganguly ODI Record
Matches-308 | Runs-11221 | Average-40.95 | 100s-22 | Wickets - 100
#2 Shikhar Dhawan
Playing Role - Opener
Shikhar Dhawan is by far the most explosive left-handed opener to play for India. Dhawan packs a punch with his attacking stroke play, getting the team off to some fliers. Once settled, the southpaw has the ability to score some big hundreds. He is a big tournament player and has won crucial games in major ICC events. 'Gabbar' is equally adept against pace and spin and can plunder the best of bowling attacks when on song.
Shikhar is one of India’s best outfielders and patrols the boundary well. He has a powerful arm and hurls some rocket-like throws from the deep. Dhawan has combined well with Rohit Sharma to form a stable opening pair for India in ODIs.
Shikhar Dhawan ODI Record
Matches-102 | Runs-4361 | Average-45.90 | 100s-13
#3 Gautam Gambhir
Playing Role - Opener / Middle Order Batsman
Gautam Gambhir has been one of India's most dependable left-handers in the ODI arena. Gambhir is an attacking stroke maker who went about run scoring at a quick pace. The Delhi lad has a well-organized technique and is more of a run grafter in the shorter format.
The left-hander formed a deadly opening pair with Virender Sehwag and often played the stabilizer's role to perfection. Gambhir could also play the sheet anchor’s role and construct an innings in the middle order. Gambhir shall be best remembered for his valuable knocks in India’s successful campaign at the 2011 World Cup.
Gautam Gambhir ODI Record
Matches-147 | Runs-5238 | Average-39.68 | 100s-11
#4 Vinod Kambli
Playing Role - Middle Order batsman, Part-time wicketkeeper
A prodigious talent with the willow, Vinod Kambli was arguably India’s most naturally gifted left-hand stroke maker. Bestowed with immense batting talent, Kambli’s flashy yet entertaining stroke play was pleasing to the eye. The southpaw produced some breathtaking knocks with his trademark high backlift and shuffle that added a Calypso-like flavor to his batting. A maverick of sorts, Kambli’s chirpy and energetic presence on the field was a big plus for India’s ODI unit in the 90s.
Due to the lack of left-handed wicketkeepers in India, Vinod Kambli also makes it into the team as a wicketkeeper.
Vinod Kambli ODI Record
Matches-104 | Runs-2477 | Average-32.59 | 100s-2
#5 Yuvraj Singh
Playing Role - Middle Order Batsman / Left Arm Slow Bowler
Yuvraj Singh is the most entertaining stroke maker to play limited overs cricket for India. Yuvraj’s enthralling batting exhibits refined aggression. Bestowed with sublime timing, Yuvraj makes six hitting look effortless. He is not a bludgeoner of the ball but packs a punch with his huge back lift. ‘Yuvi’ has been an outright match winner finishing off many games with his whirlwind cameos. Besides his batting, he has been pretty handy with his slow arm spin. His natural athleticism made him one of India’s best ever fielders.
A fighter to the core, the Chandigarh lad endured tough times to emerge stronger as a champion player. Yuvraj was India’s trump card at major ICC events and contributed handsomely with both bat and ball.
Yuvraj Singh ODI Record
Matches-301 | Runs-8609 | Avg 36.47 | 100s-14 | Wickets-110
#6 Suresh Raina
Playing Role - Middle Order Batsman
Suresh Raina has cemented his place as one of India’s best finishers in the ODI arena. The destructive power hitter has won nerve-wracking games with his belligerent style of batting. The ODI specialist can blow away the best of attacks with his wide arsenal of shots.
Raina also adds depth to the team with his part-time off-spin. He is a live wire on the field and boosts the morale of the 'Men in Blue' with his spectacular fielding. A complete team man, Raina has been one of India's greatest ODI players.
Suresh Raina ODI Record
Matches-223 | Runs-5568 | Average-35.46 | 100s-
#7 Ravindra Jadeja
Playing Role: Bowling All-rounder
Ravindra Jadeja has been arguably one of India’s best spinning all-rounders. Jadeja has made some notable contributions with the bat coming down the order. 'Jaddu' adds variety to the Indian spin attack as he bowls his left arm with a flat trajectory. Jaddu has complimented the likes of Harbhajan and Ashwin as the second spinner.
'Sir' Jadeja has raised the benchmark of fielding with his supreme fitness and razor-sharp reflexes. Jadeja is the perfect team man to have around and he lights up the atmosphere in the dressing room with his witty sense of humor.
Ravindra Jadeja ODI Record
Matches-136 | Runs-1914 | Wickets- 155 | ER-4.90
#8 Irfan Pathan
Playing Role - All-rounder
Left-arm seamers are a rarity and Indian have been lucky to have a few of them. Irfan Pathan was one of India’s finest left-arm seam bowler. Pathan who had the natural ability to make the ball swing late was a potent threat to any batting order. He made a thunderous start to his ODI career by scalping the best with his lethal inswingers and toe-crushing yorkers.
The Baroda had some talent with the willow too and could step up the scoring rate with some lusty blows. Perhaps, the Indian think-tank didn't use the prodigious talent and a career which promised a lot faded away into oblivion.
Irfan Pathan ODI Record
Matches-120 | Runs- 1544 | Wickets-173 | ER-5.26
#9 Sunil Joshi
Playing Role - Left Arm Slow Bowler
Sunil Joshi was one of India’s most effective left-arm bowlers in the limited overs format. Joshi bowled with great control and accuracy. He was miserly at giving away runs and often produced some economical spells for India.
Joshi was effectively used as a pinch hitter, courtesy of his ability to step up the scoring rate with some clinical hitting. A cricketer with a sharp acumen, he knew his limitations well and bowled to his strengths in ODIs.
Sunil Joshi ODI record
Matches-69 | Wickets-69 | ER-4.44
#10 Zaheer Khan
Playing Role - Fast Bowler
Zaheer Khan would go down as the best-left arm seamer India has produced. ‘Zak’ broke into the ODI squad as a tearaway seamer but gradually matured into a world-class pacer honing his fast bowling skills. The left-armer added a lot of variations in his repertoire, thanks to a successful county stint in England.
Swing or seam, bouncer or yorker, Zaheer had it all in his bowling arsenal. Post the retirement of Javagal Srinath, he led the Indian seam attack with distinction for almost a decade. Khan could also finish the innings with a flurry by sending the ball over the park with his aggressive batting style.
Zaheer Khan ODI Record
Matches-194 | Wickets-269 | ER-4.95
#11 Ashish Nehra
Playing Role - Fast Bowler
Ashish Nehra ranks as one of India’s finest left-arm seamers. Nehra could make the ball seam around at menacing speeds. Nehra had the ability to bring the ball back in and deceive the best with the willow. He also possessed a lethal yorker which he used as a strike weapon in the death overs.
The Delhi pacer batted with injuries all through his career, but whenever he donned the national jersey he produced some match-winning performances. His exploits with the ball at the 2003 World Cup were instrumental in India making it to the title clash.
Ashish Nehra ODI Record
Matches-117 | Wickets-155 | ER-5.21
12th Man- Robin Singh
Talk about 100 percent commitment and you won’t find anyone better than Robin Singh. A later bloomer in international cricket, Robin Singh cemented his place as an ODI specialist in the mid-90s. Singh put in his heart and soul be it batting or bowling. He donned his role as a power hitter to perfection winning games for India. The left-hander could tear away bowling attacks by tonking some big blows.
Singh bowled his medium pace with accuracy and filled in with his quota of overs with economical spells. A sharp fielder, Singh could give the youngsters a run for their money with his fitness, commitment, and energy on the field.
There have been some left-handed cricketers who made significant contributions with both bat and ball for Indian cricket. However, they didn't make the cut as they didn't have a consistent run in the India ODI team.
Notable Mentions - Dinesh Mongia, Hemang Badani, Venkatpathy Raju, RP Singh, Maninder Singh, Sadagopan Ramesh and Parthiv Patel