Women's Cricket

Meet Bangladesh's Shaila Sharmin – international women's cricket's first ambidextrous bowler

Sharmin's display of skills during her side's World Cup qualifying match against Pakistan created ripples on social media.

In the ongoing ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 qualifiers, Bangladesh’s Shaila Sharmin was thrust into the spotlight during her side’s match against Pakistan. The 27-year-old bowler transitioned using one hand to the other with little fuss.

However, it is not Sharmin’s bowling that caught the attention of her cricket-mad country when she first burst onto the scene.

Former England Women cricketer and currently a popular broadcaster Ebony Rainford-Brent also paid her tributes to Sharmin. Most players struggle to bowl with one hand. After all, how many can even land a ball on the first bounce, accurately, while bowling with their weaker hand?

It was Sri Lanka and their penchant for out-of-the-box bowlers who opened the doors for the possibility of countering the lopsided bat versus ball contests. Sri Lankan Hashan Tillakaratne who first managed to bowl with both arms: It was during the 1996 World Cup between the Lankans and Kenya at Kandy.

Twenty years later, in the U-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, Kamindu Mendis repeated the feat. While facing left-handed batsmen, Mendis would bowl left-arm orthodox and would seamlessly switch to off-spin while facing right-handers.

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It didn’t take long for India to come up with an answer as Vidarbha’s Akshay Karnewar showed that he, too, is adept at tweaking the ball with both hands in last year’s Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. Karnewar’s skills didn’t go unnoticed, as he was picked up by Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

In Yasir Jan, Pakistan might have unearthed the first ambidextrous pacer in the world. Folklore has it that batting great Hanif Mohammad was the first exponent of the double-handed variety when he tried his luck way back in 1958 against West Indies, when Sir Garfield Sobers was plundering Pakistan.

Sharmin is not the only woman who can pull off the feat 9, as Australian Jemma Barsby rose to prominence during her teens for her switch-bowling abilities. Barsby, now 21, hasn’t earned her first Australian cap yet but isn’t far away after putting up plenty of good displays with her medium-pacers for Brisbane Heat in the recently concluded Big Bash League.

The list is neverending. India coach Anil Kumble was spotted bowling left-arm spin to the Indian batsmen ahead of their Test against Bangladesh in Hyderabad. It made sense keeping in mind what Shakib Al Hasan can do whe he is on song. India’s highest Test wicket taker, despite hanging up his boots close to a decade ago, was spot on with his weaker hand.

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