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Cricketers are better off batting the ‘wrong’ way

Published: 23 March 2016 at 12:08

Cricketers are better off batting the 'wrong' way

New study highlights technical and visual advantages of using a reversed stance

Cricketers have a significant advantage if they bat with the “wrong” hand, according to new research published in the journal Sports Medicine.

Co-authored by Professor Peter Allen of Anglia Ruskin University, the study found that cricketers adopting a reversed stance (right handers batting left handed, and vice versa) are far more likely to reach first-class and international level.  In fact professional batsmen are seven times more likely to use a reversed stance than amateurs.

Professor Allen, along with colleagues from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and St Mary’s University, Twickenham, tested 136 cricketers (ranging from international and first-class standard to amateur) and examined their hand and eye dominance.

The academics believe that using a reversed stance, which places the player’s dominant hand at the top rather than the bottom of the handle, provides a clear technical advantage.

In cricket batting, the top hand is typically responsible for controlling and guiding the path of the bat to hit the ball, so it is an advantage for the hand with the greatest dexterity to perform this role. 

Secondly, there is a preference to rely on the visual input from one of the two eyes, known as the dominant eye.  As hand and eye dominance are matched in approximately two thirds of cases, using the reversed stance increases the likelihood that the dominant eye is the ‘front’ eye in a side-on activity like batting, allowing an unobstructed view of the ball.

Peter Allen, Professor of Optometry and Visual Science at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 

“The ‘conventional’ way of holding a cricket bat, with the dominant hand on the bottom of the handle, has remained basically unchanged since the invention of the game and is modelled on the stance used for other bimanual hitting tasks. 

“For instance, the first MCC coaching manual instructs batters to pick up a bat in the same manner they would pick up an axe.  While that might be beneficial for beginners, switching to a reversed stance gives elite players a technical and visual benefit.”

The list of batsmen who have used a reversed stance at international level over recent years is striking.  In particular, the batsmen who use a left-handed stance when batting but are actually right-hand dominant includes some of the greatest batsmen of the modern era, such as Brian Lara, Clive Lloyd, David Gower, Adam Gilchrist, Alistair Cook and Justin Langer.

The reversed-stance advantage also extends to people who are left-hand dominant but bat right-handed, with famous examples including Michael Clarke and Inzamam-ul-Haq.  Even Sachin Tendulkar, probably the best batsmen of past 25 years, batted and bowled right-handed, but writes with his left hand.

The over-representation of reversed-stance batsmen can also be seen at the ICC T20 World Cup currently taking place in India, with England’s Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and Liam Dawson all batting the “wrong” way. 

Professor Allen added: 

“We have limited our study to cricket, but the results may apply to other sports.  In golf, three of the four men to have won a major playing left handed were right-hand dominant, while other legendary golfers, such as Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, were left-hand dominant but played right handed.

“In many cases using a reversed stance has happened by chance.  Golfer Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner, is right handed but learned to play left handed to mirror his father’s right-handed swing.  Michael Hussey, one of Australia’s finest cricketers, is right-hand dominant but learned to bat left handed to emulate his childhood idol, Allan Border.   

“In cricket, by adopting the conventional stance, batsmen may have been unintentionally taught to bat ‘back to front’ and might not have maximised their full potential in the game.”