In the 1982 Test match against India in Kolkata, as the game petered to a draw England’s Graham Gooch was thrown the ball and started to do his bowling impressions. A new addition to his repertoire was that of Indian Left arm spinner Dilip Doshi. When Gooch bowled left handed, historians went scrambling for the record books to see if this was the first time a bowler had bowled left and right handed in a Test match.
Whereas that was all a bit of fun, it would appear that a genuine ambidextrous bowler is climbing rapidly through the ranks in Pakistan, and may well make it all the way to International cricket.
Twenty-one year old Yasir Jan is the son of a greengrocer and is causing quite a stir in the subcontinent as he remarkably bowls pace with both his left and right arm. It has been said that he can generate speed of 145kmh (90mph) with his right arm and 135kmh with his left.
So unique is this player and so talented is he believed to be Pakistan Super League side Lahore Qalandars have signed him up to a ten year contract.
According to his coach ex Pakistan batsman Muhammed Salman “It is an advantage, As a captain when you have right-handed and left handed batsmen batting then you have a luxury to have a bowler who can bowl with both. There are no restrictions that a bowler can bowl with two hands in an over.” Of course the only restriction is he must alert the umpire before changing the the arm with which he delivers the ball.
Jan came to everyone’s attention playing for Rawalpindi Under 19’s. The opposition were running away with the game when his captain suggested that he try bowling left handed instead. His view being they had nothing to lose. Up until that point he had taken no wickets in the match, he then proceeded to take four wickets.
The 21 year old is now being helped financially to build up his wiry frame and fulfil what is clearly a unique potential.
There have been very few bowlers who can bowl competently with both arms. Graham Gooch as mentioned did it more as a joke, but fellow Pakistan batting legend Hanif Mohammed actually was the first Test cricketer to bowl with both hands in a Test match. Hanif who was also a handy wicket-keeper was renowned for bowling right arm off spin. In the test match at Kingston, Jamaica in 1958 when Garry Sobers then compiled a then record 365 runs Hanif bowled few deliveries with his left arm just to try and mix things up.
Sri Lankan Hashan Tillakaratne was a more than useful left-handed batsman and represented his country in 83 Tests and 200 ODIs. Tillakaratne could also bowl right-arm off-spin, and few knew he could bowl with both arms. It was at the 1996 World Cup when Sri Lanka had compiled a then ODI record score of 398 against Kenya that in the final over of the Kenyan innings, with the result clear, Tillakaratne bowled left and right handed.
Another Sri Lankan with more serious aspirations to bowl with both arms is under 19 spinner Kamindu Mendis. The 17-year old Mendis, who played at the Under 19 World Cup, is a right-arm offbreak bowler and slow left-arm orthodox spinner at the same time.
Another player who hopes to make it to international ranks is Indian Akshay Karnewar who is currently playing his debut season in Indian domestic cricket. Karnewar was Vidarbha’s most successful bowler in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 16 wickets from just 7 List A games. He caught the eye of spectators as he kept altering his arm to adjust to different handed batsmen.
Yet the reason that Jan is grabbing the limelight is because he is able to bowl at pace with both arms, which takes a great deal of co-ordination. He says that it all came about when he was watching Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram play in 2003. Like most youngsters he decided to copy them in his games, and suddenly he found that he was able to bowl in both styles. Which once again proves how strong the influence top flight sports stars can have on youngsters.
It will be interesting to see in Jan can go all the way to the International level. It would certainly be great to watch.