The best Test team of left-arm spinners

The criteria of selection for this team are very simple.

To be considered, a player must have at least one decent spell of left-arm spin bowling (orthodox or the left-arm wrist spinner variety) in his Test career.

And, of course, he must bat left-handed.

So, this is my team:

Simon Katich (Australia)
A steady but unspectacular middle-order bat, Katich converted himself into a highly successful Test opener late in his career. And eight of his ten test hundreds came as an opener. He could easily have doubled his tally of Test hundreds, as he had 11 scores between 80 and 99 with two efforts to confirm his membership in the 99 club.

He took only 21 wickets in Tests, but his average of 30 suggests that he was under-bowled by the Australian skippers. His best figures of 6 for 65 helped Aus win at SCG against Zimbabwe in October 2003. Interestingly, Brad Hogg also played in this match and the SCG crowd had the rare opportunity of watching two left-arm wrist spinners bowling in tandem.

Wilfred Rhodes (England)
While Katich was a case of a middle order bat becoming a successful opener, Rhodes the Yorkshire man was a case of a number 11 ending his career as an opener for the Poms. He scored two Test hundreds, both as openers: 179 at MCG in early 1912 was followed by 152 at Jo’Bo in late 1913.

As his batting improved, his effectiveness as a left-arm orthodox spinner declined a bit. But, he still finished with 127 Test wickets at an impressive average of 27.

Salim Durani (India)
Vinoo Mankad from Jamnagar, also known as Nawanagar was India’s first world-class left-arm spinner. In fact, he was a genuine all-rounder but sadly, he batted right-handed. So I have picked the Afghan-born Durani.

Though he was born in Kabul, he grew up at Jamnagar where his father, a wicketkeeper, played for the Nawanagar team alongside Mankad.

Durani was the hero with the ball in India’s 2-0 series victory over Ted Dexter’s England in the 1961-62 series. After three drawn Tests, India won the last two Tests at Calcutta and Madras with Durani taking 18 wickets in two Tests. At Madras, he had his career-best Test figures of 10 for 177.

But, perhaps his most famous bowling effort came at the Queen’s Park Oval in early 1971. After the Indian spinners restricted the WI team to only 214 on opening day, a fine hundred from Dilip Sardesai helped India to a 138 run first-innings lead.

But by the end of the third day, the home side had recovered reaching 1-150. To make matter worse for India, Erapalli Prasanna, India’s main spinner, had injured himself in the field and was unable to bowl anymore.

This called for a greater presence in the bowling crease for Durani, and he responded to the call superbly. He dismissed Clive Lloyd and Gary Sobers early on the fourth day to regain the initiative for India which led to a historic seven-wicket win.

In fact, in the team dinner in the previous evening, Durani had claimed that he would dismiss Lloyd and Sobers the next day.

He was an attractive left-hand batter but he never achieved the expected consistency. He frequently moved up and down the order before ending his career with an average of 25. His only Test hundred came at Port of Spain in 1962, interestingly, this time WI won by seven wickets.

Allan Border (Australia)
The home side started the 1988-89 series against WI with high hopes. While no one expected them to regain the Sir Frank Worrell trophy, most Aussie fans expected their team to produce a better show than 1984.

By the end of the first day’s play in the opening Test at Gabba, all the hopes had become an illusion as the Windies unleashed their newest fast bowling machine, Curtly Ambrose. While, Courtney Walsh, his would-be partner in crime in the 90s, took a hat-trick at the Gabba, it was Ambrose with his relentless back of the length bowling who tormented the Aussie top order.

By the time the fourth Test started at SCG on the Australia day, 1989, the series was already over. But the faithful Aussie fans who turned up at SCG on the day enjoyed a memorable experience, as AB, the Aussie captain, took centre stage with the ball.

He took 7 for 46 as Windies collapsed from 1-144 to 224 all out, He took 4 for 50 in the 2ndd innings; and also contributed with the bat in the seven-wicket win. He was the obvious choice for the MOM award.

Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
Shakib can be described as the Vinoo Mankad of Bangladesh. In fact, in a sense, he has surpassed the Indian legend. While Mankad only had chances to play the longer versions of the game, Al Hasan has proved himself to be a champion of cricket in all three versions of the game.

As a left-arm finger spinner, he mostly bowls fast and flat in limited over matches. He uses the arm ball well, picking up a lot of LBW decisions.

He bowls in a more orthodox manner in Test matches. He gives the ball more flight and gets prodigious turns on helpful tracks. He already has two ten-wicket hauls in Test cricket.

As a batsman, he averages almost 40 in Tests. He likes the square of the wicket shots, especially in the offside. These shots have brought him lots of runs, but he has been dismissed attempting these as well.

Shakib Al Hasan has been banned for Bangladesh

(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

Sir Gary Sobers (WI)
The top all-rounders in Test cricket can be classified into two categories: the great ones and (above them) Sir Gary Sobers.
Statistically, Jacques Kallis is the only one who comes close to him, but then Kallis never entertained the crowd with his batting the way Sobers did.

Sobers had two styles of batting. Depending on his mood, he would flay the opposition bowling with or without any footwork.

And when it comes to bowling, no one can match his versatility. He could bowl left-arm medium pace, left-arm orthodox spin and the left-arm wrist spinner variety.

Here in this team, he would be required to open the bowling.

Jimmy Adams (WI) (wicketkeeper)
While the Jamaican never kept wickets in a Test match, he certainly did so with a high degree of efficiency in ODI cricket.

As a batsman, he enjoyed a Don Bradman-like average of 87 after 12 Tests. But things evened out after that and he finished his 54-match Test career with an average of 41. He was an efficient and orthodox batsman but despite coming from Jamaica, he didn’t show the flair of Lawrence Rowe and Jeff Dujon in his batting.

During the 1994-95 tour to India, he proved himself to be a fine player of spin bowling, although his frequent use of the pads as the first line of defence often seemed too monotonous. And it prompted Henry Blofeld to call him ‘Jimmy Padams’.

Right from the beginning of his Test career he showed the ability to bat well with the tail-enders, cleverly manipulating the strike. This was vital for his team as following the retirement of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Dujon, the Windies batting frequently looked a bit vulnerable.

In his debut Test at Bridgetown in 1992, he enjoyed success with both bat and ball. He took 4 for 43 with his slow left-armers in the SA first innings and then scored a vital 79 not out in the WI 2nd innings. But, he was used sparingly as a bowler in Tests and ended up with only 27 wickets.

His only five-wicket haul in a Test, 5 for 17, came at Bridgetown in 1996 against the Kiwis.

Michael Bevan (Australia)
He produced an almost perfect replay of the Border’s SCG efforts eight years later. The main differences being that this time the Adelaide Oval was the venue and Bevan was picked as a frontline spinner. And, of course, he bowled the left-arm wrist spinner variety.

With the Adelaide Oval pitch expected to produce turn, the Australian selectors decided to drop a specialist seamer and add spin support for Shane Warne. They picked Bevan, but instead of playing the supporting role, he took over the main role.

He followed his 4-31 in the first innings with 6-82 in the second. He also contributed 85 not-out with the bat as the home side outplayed their opponents to retain the Frank Worrell Trophy.

Bevan was adjudged the MOM and this Test was the highlight of his short 18 match Test career.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Michael Bevan of Tasmania in action during day four of the Pura Cup match between the Victorian Bushrangers and the Tasmianan Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 27, 2005 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Ravindra Jadeja (India)
Jadeja now carries the long tradition of Saurashtra in producing quality left-arm spinners. He, of course, he is an all-rounder.

While people have scoffed at his Ranji trophy triple-hundred, his Test batting average of 35 can’t be ignored. His bowling average 24 is better than many more illustrious slow bowlers.

He certainly benefits from playing a lot of his matches in turning tracks, but he deserves greater accolades as a top-class Test all-rounder.

Alan Davidson (Australia)
The NSW all-rounder led the Aussie pace attack in the post-Keith Miller/Ray Lindwall era. But the situation required him to try left-arm wrist spin at Kanpur in 1959, and being the genius that he was, he succeeded in this role as well.

The Aussies went into this second Test of the series 1-0 ahead and they established early dominance. The home side was bowled out for only 152 in the first innings with Davidson and skipper Richie Renaud doing the damage.

But then Jasu Patel, the Gujarat offie, started the Indian fight-back. He took 9 for 69 as Australia was restricted to 219 all-out. Patel cleverly exploited the roughs outside the right-handers’ off stump created by Davidson bowling left-arm over the wicket on opening day.

Sadly for Australia, the team didn’t have any specialist off-spinner as Keith Slater, the Western Australia offie, was left out of the touring team. Neil Harvey bowled some part-time off-spin, taking 1 for 35; but it was Davidson who did the greatest damage bowling left-arm wrist spinner variety.

He ran through the Indian batting order taking seven for 93, but left-hander Nari Contractor held firm scoring 74 and India eventually won by 119 runs, their first-ever Test success against the Aussies.

Interestingly, Davison’s match figures of 12 for 124 here was his best in Test matches.

Alan Davidson circa 1960

(Central Press/Getty Images)

Rangana Herath (SL)
After a string of all-rounders in my team; I decided to include a specialist left-arm spinner in the number 11 slot. And Herath, the Sri Lankan, fully deserves it. After playing the support role to Muttiah Muralitharan during the early period of his career, Herath became SL’s main spinner following the retirement of the great one.

And he finished his Test career with more than 400 wickets. The Lankan management rightly didn’t overuse him in limited over cricket and letting him concentrate on his Test performances.

While he often looked unplayable on turning tracks, he also frequently impressed in less favourable spin bowling conditions. He used his variation of pace and flight well and he also possessed that mystery delivery, the one that came into the right-hander at a good pace.

12th man: Karsan Ghavri
Daniel Vettori probably deserved this spot more, but I decided to strengthen my opening bowling options. With 109 wickets in 39 Tests, Ghavri was the second Indian medium-pacer after Kapil Dev to take more than 100 Test wickets.

In general though, he never enjoyed much success as a pace bowler in Tests. Probably, his most valuable contribution as a new ball bowler came in his penultimate Test match. On the fourth evening of the MCG Test of 1981; his dismissals of John Dyson and Greg Chappell in successive deliveries eventually led to an Australian collapse, which saw Indian snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Interestingly, Ghavri’s best bowling figures came as left-arm spinner. In the final Test of the 1976-77 series at Mumbai, England needing 214 for victory, made a good start in the fourth innings reaching 2-86. India’s problems were compounded by the fact that skipper Bishan Singh Bedi had an injury in his bowling arm.

BS Chandrasekhar was unusually expensive and bowled just four overs. Erapalli Prasanna was accurate, but he was lacking the killer venom of his heydays.

It was the introduction of Ghavri as a slow left-arm spinner that completely changed the complexion of the match. He ran through the England middle order taking 5 for 33, but sadly there wasn’t enough support from the other end. England finished at 7-152, drawing the match to clinch the series 3-1.

Interestingly, Ghavri shared the new ball with Sunil Gavaskar in this match.

Ghavri was born in Rajkot (Saurashtra) and represented both Saurashtra and Bombay in the Ranji trophy.

Honourable mentions: Bobby Peel (England), Bert Ironmonger (Australia), Iqbal Qasim (Pakistan), Dilip Doshi (India), Daniel Vettori (NZ).

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