Roar reader Margaret Ward wanted to learn about cricketers who score runs right-handed but deliver the ball left-arm, or vice-versa.
I would request that Roarers add to the list, as research on such a complex subject spanning three centuries cannot be flawless.
During the Twenty20 International against India at the Sydney Olympic Park in February, Australia’s dashing left-hand opening batsman David Warner switch-hit spinner Ravi Ashwin for a six. The ferocity of the right-hand smash took the Indian fielders and the 60,000 spectators by surprise.
Is Warner ambidextrous – someone who can bat both left and right-handed? He is not. But there have been at least 316 ambidextrous cricketers in the 135 year history of Test cricket.
Let me start with Australian captain Michael Clarke, a right-hand bat and left-arm spinner.
What a super Test baptism for him against India! In his Test debut at Bangalore in October 2004, he scored a blazing 151, adding 167 runs with Adam Gilchrist. Then in the Mumbai Test, a month later, he used his left-arm spin to devastating effect to capture 6 for 9.
It’s not always black and white nor left or right when it comes to cricketers’ dexterity.
Champion Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar bats and bowls right-handed but signs autographs left-handed and plays table tennis both right and left-handed. Master bats Brian Lara of the West Indies and Australia’s Mark Taylor bat left-handed but bowl and write with the right hand. Taylor also plays golf right-handed.
The West Indies greats Clive Lloyd and Alvin Kallicharran and England’s elegant David Gower batted left-hand but write with their right-hand. And Australia’s left-hand legend Adam Gilchrist plays tennis right-handed.
As an occasional spin bowler, Pakistan’s prolific right-handed batsman Hanif Mohammad could bowl right-arm and left-arm. Against Somerset at Taunton in 1954, he reverted to left-arm spin to claim his maiden first-class wicket, clean bowling Roy Smith.
And for sheer inconsistency, have a look at Zimbabwe’s Flower brothers. Grant batted right-hand and bowled right arm, Andy batted left-hand but bowled right-arm when he did not keep wickets.
By my research, there have been 316 ambidextrous Test cricketers (143 right-hand batsmen, left-arm bowlers and 173 left-hand bats, right-arm bowlers). Of these England and Australia have produced the most; England 79 (41 and 38) and Australia 52 (18 and 34).
No, Clarke does not make the list, having scored 5909 runs but taken only 24 wickets in 80 Tests.
One can make a strong Test XI from the above. In batting order you might have Gayle, Mankad, Mackay, Worrell (captain), Shastri, Hadlee, Klusener, Gregory, Matthews, Rhodes and Ambrose. This does leave us with the problem of who would be wicket-keeper. The reserves would be: Zaheer, Raja and Giles.
Ambrose and Gregory would open the attack, then Hadlee, Worrell and spinners Rhodes, Mankad, Matthews and Shastri.
“What makes cricketers ambidextrous?” Margaret Ward asks. I have no answer. Perhaps Roarers can help!