The left-handed advantage in cricket

Garfield Robinson Roar Rookie

By Garfield Robinson, Garfield Robinson is a Roar Rookie


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    In November last year, New Zealand and Zimbabwe played a Test match at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo and of the 22 players on show, Daniel Vettori was the only left-handed batsman.

    This is quite unusual as there is normally an oversupply of left-handers in international cricket.

    In the recently concluded series in the Caribbean, there were seven left-handers in the combined top six of both teams for the last two tests. The West Indies had Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Narsingh Deonarine, while Australia had David Warner, Ed Cowan, and Michael Hussey.

    A look at the first eight teams in the Test rankings reveal that there are 15 left-handers in the 48 batsmen that make up their top six. And when you consider that only between 10 and 13 percent of the general population is left-handed, it is clear that they are overrepresented, running at more than 30% in that small sample.

    The question is: why? Is there some quality inherent in left-handers that allow them to progress to the highest level of the game in relatively greater numbers than their right-handed brethren? Do the laws of the game favour them? Or is it just that bowlers are more adept at bowling to right-handers?

    Maybe it is some combination of all three. Scientists say that the left-handers’ possession of right brain to left-side wiring gives them increased spatial awareness and the capacity to think and react quickly to objects in three dimensions. Skills, I am sure, that serve batsmen well when negotiating a cricket ball approaching them at high pace.

    Also, the fact that a batsman cannot be given out LBW – the third most common form of dismissal – once the ball lands outside the leg stump, provides a disproportionate benefit to left-handed batsmen. A right-hander bowling over the wicket, which is the most common type of delivery faced, has to land his delivery in line with the stumps in order to gain an LBW verdict. Very few deliveries of this type will go on to hit the stumps because of the angle of the delivery and there often has to be deviation back towards the stumps for there to be any chance of LBW.

    The right-handed batsman facing a left-hander bowling over the wicket will benefit similarly, but the prevalence of right arm bowlers means that he will face many more deliveries that place him at risk of being out LBW than his left-handed counterpart.

    Furthermore, bowlers are not as comfortable, nor as proficient bowling left-handers. Getting out caught is the most common form of dismissal in cricket, and I would wager that batsmen are caught behind or in the slips more often than elsewhere in the field. Opening bowlers, especially, facilitate this type of dismissal by swinging the new ball away from the batsman.

    Left-handers, however, do not face this type of delivery as often as other batsmen. This, I believe, is one reason there is such a proliferation of left-handed opening batsmen in Test cricket. England has two, as does Australia, while most other test nations have one.

    Dale Steyn, the most lethal new-ball bowler going around, is considerably less effective against lefties. Experts say that the slight change of action that often occurs when bowling to left-handers is often enough to diminish or even eliminate the swing that the fast bowler coming over the wicket would normally generate. Bowling round the wicket – a tactic sometimes used against the left-hander – also results in a change of action and most bowlers are not as comfortable doing it.

    Yet there are hazards that are particular to the left-handed batsman as well. The rough created outside the off-stump by the follow-through of the right arm bowler readily comes to mind. This can be a nightmare to southpaws if the opposition has bowlers capable of exploiting the vagaries that it can provide.

    There is also a theory that lefties are disadvantaged by the ball slanting across them, a delivery the right-hander does not face as often. But I tend to disagree. A good player is not overly concerned about the angle of a delivery, rather it is when it deviates from its original path, especially when it does so late, that it poses particular danger.

    On the whole, it is abundantly clear that the cricketing gods have bestowed greater blessings on the left-handed batsmen. It is in recognition of this fact that former Zimbabwean batsman Alistair Campbell, originally a right-hander, was induced by his father to bat the other way round.

    When it is considered that batsmen like Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Alistair Cook and Michael Hussey are all natural right-handers who bat left-handed, then coaches may want to contemplate encouraging their young right-handed charges to improve their chances of success by becoming southpaws.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • May 15th 2012 @ 9:58am
      Bayman said | May 15th 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      Curiously, a season or two ago I seem to recall that NSW had seven left-handers in the first seven batting slots. Throw in the fact that the world record top score in Test cricket has been held by a lefthander for more than half a century and you can see why I’m disappointed that I write left-handed – but bat right-handed!

      • May 16th 2012 @ 2:28am
        Garfield Robinson said | May 16th 2012 @ 2:28am | ! Report

        I wonder if thats some kind of record. Never heard of left-handers occupying the first seven spots in a line-up before. How did they do?

        Of the top 30 batsmen with the most runs in tests I think 11 are left-handers too. That’s almost 37%. Amazing.

    • May 15th 2012 @ 10:11am
      Fivehole said | May 15th 2012 @ 10:11am | ! Report

      I think batting lefties have more of an advantage than bowling lefties – LH bowlers have the same lbw problem to RH’s that RH bowlers have to LH batsmen.

      Having said that, i wouldn’t change the rules to lessen any LH advantage. Variety is good.

    • May 15th 2012 @ 10:35am
      Captain Kickass said | May 15th 2012 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      I bat left handed, but bowl right handed.

      Regarding the point about left-right brain hemispheric wiring, and increased spatial awareness : It’s a valid point worth considering, but I’m not so sure that applies to all left handed batters.

      Although I bat left handed, my right arm remains my dominant limb … think Hayden, Gilchrist, Langer, Warner.

      Then there are genuine left handers you speak of like Bevan, and Mitch Johnson (who has a lovely batting technique).

      And what do we make of Michael Clarke ?
      A genuine lefty who bats right handed !!!

      Gah … it’s all too confusing.
      All I know is, as a lifelong “mollydooker”, I’ve enjoyed frustrating otherwise good bowlers over the years.

      • May 15th 2012 @ 11:12am
        Garfield Robinson said | May 15th 2012 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        You are right. It would not apply to Brian Lara, for example, because he is a natural right-hander, but he would still have benefitted from the other advantages that all those who bat left-handed enjoy.

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2012 @ 12:27pm
        Brett McKay said | May 15th 2012 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

        Captain, I am (was) in the same boat, and there’s plenty of junior coaches around the traps now who actively push young natural right-handers into batting left-handed for this reason: the dominant hand is the top hand..

        • May 15th 2012 @ 12:43pm
          Garfield Robinson said | May 15th 2012 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          Brett, Peter Roebuck wrote an excellent article some time ago making that very point about the top hand. He mentioned too that Tendulkar plays tennis left-handed and so his left hand was his dominant hand. Still, I think the right-hander who bats left-handed derives more benefit than the left-hander who bats right-handed because of the LBW law etc. What do you think?

          • Columnist

            May 15th 2012 @ 1:50pm
            Brett McKay said | May 15th 2012 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

            completely agree. I batted on middle & leg, or leg stump for most of my ‘career’ for that very reason…

    • May 15th 2012 @ 6:20pm
      Captain Kickass said | May 15th 2012 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

      Ahhh, good input there chaps. For the record, I take guard on leg stump too.

      I don’t know if this helps as I’m a terrible golfer …. but I do feel more comfortable swinging right handed !

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2012 @ 7:13pm
        Brett McKay said | May 15th 2012 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

        Snap Captain, I too play golf right-handed – though I still putt left-handed! Often around the fourth or fifth green, a confused playing partner will ask “were you putting left-handed before??” Cracks me up..

        Just on the guard, I moved back to middle in my last few years, and by the end, to RA ‘over’ bowlers, I’d often bat on off so as to really get at the ball going across me. It also made straighter and leg side balls easier to play as I got older too, to the point where I re-discovered my pull shot..

    • May 16th 2012 @ 11:58am
      Pope Paul VII said | May 16th 2012 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      As a lad in the bush I was my lots only left hander. One of our opponents had eight left handers.

    • October 13th 2012 @ 8:51pm
      Adrian Horne said | October 13th 2012 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

      I think there are more advantages that us lefties have, that have not been mentioned:

      1. Most lefties tend to bat with right hand partners, (if you can rotate the strike – bowlers struggle for consistency)
      2. Lefties that are top-hand dominant i.e Gilchrist, Hayden, Lara, Sobers, Sengakarra etc…,
      tend to have their ‘strong- side’ leading into the cricket-shot (think of baseballers), meaning more power and
      better timing of the hands when driving through the ball and especially square of the wicket on both leg-side and off-side.

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