Where Left was Right: Left-arm seamers on a roll in World Cup 2019

Left-arm fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult, Mohammed Amir, Mustafizur Rahman, Shaheen Afridi, dominated the tournament. Starc and Rahman ended up as joint top wicket-takers with 27 and 20 wickets respectively.

Creative, surprising, original, and never dull. Left-arm seamers have made every edition of the World Cup since 1999 truly spectacular. In line with a tradition that seems to have begun in 1999, these bowlers have lit up the 2019 version.

Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult, Mohammed Amir, Mustafizur Rahman, Shaheen Afridi, and Sheldon Cottrell have dominated the tournament. Starc and Rahman were top wicket-takers with 27 and 20 wickets respectively.

But this is not the first time that left-arm seamers are proving to be a powerful weapon in a World Cup. India’s Zaheer Khan also topped the charts for most wickets in 2011.

Left-arm quicks first took 100 wickets in the tournament for the first time four years ago. In 2015, 102 batsmen fell victim to left-arm fast bowlers at an average of 20.46.

In 2019, the number rose to 129 at an average of 20.03.

In the list of best bowling figures, left-armers dominate. Afridi (6/35), Starc (5/26), Amir (5/30), Beherendorff (5/44), Rahman (5/59) occupy seven of the top 10 positions in this list.

In the list of eight bowlers who have picked up a five-wicket haul in World Cup 2019, five are left-arm fast bowlers, two are right-handed and one is a left-arm orthodox spinner. Starc and Rahman lead the pack with two each.

Left-arm pacers have also topped the bowling charts in six of the last eight World Cups, including this one:

1992 – W Akram
1999 – G Allott
2003 – C Vaas
2011 – Zaheer Khan
2015 – M Starc & T Boult
2019 – M Starc

But what makes left-arm fast bowlers so successful?

While facing a left-arm fast bowler, the ball is always going away from the batsman, sowing that little seed of doubt. A right-hand batsman has to open up his stance, otherwise, the point the ball is delivered from creates a blind spot for the batsman.

Moisture in the air or pitch, as witnessed in quite a few grounds in England also helped the ball to move laterally through the air. The new ball also swung more.

In the death overs, their natural variations were very useful as they tailback into both right and left-handed batsmen, and their yorkers are difficult to get away.

Also, the number of right-handed bowlers remains higher than the number of left-handed bowlers. So, the batsmen are less used to playing left-handed bowlers.

“Most batsmen develop their technique against right-arm bowlers and they neglect the left-arm angles,” said former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad.

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