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Why leading with the 'wrong' hand could be the 'right' way to bat

Ben Stokes, one of a number of players who throws and bowls with his right hand...
Ben Stokes, one of a number of players who throws and bowls with his right hand...
©REUTERS / Action Images
Ben Stokes batting
...and bats left-handed
©REUTERS / Action Images

New research published in the Sports Medicine journal concludes that batsmen are at an advantage if they bat with their "wrong", or weaker, hand.

Three England players in action at the ICC World T20 throw right-handed and bat left-handed - Liam Dawson, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes, and they are far from unusual - India's Suresh Raina, Australia's David Warner and West Indian Chris Gayle are among others.

The study, co-authored by Professor Peter Allen of Anglia Ruskin University, found that cricketers using a reversed stance (right-handers batting left-handed, and vice versa), had a greater chance of gaining first-class and international honours.

It found that professional cricketers are seven times more likely to adopt a reversed stance than amateur players.

Allen, with help from colleagues at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and St Mary's University, Twickenham, tested 136 cricketers, who play at a range of levels from amateur to international, examining their hand-eye dominance.

The academics take the view that because a reversed stance puts the player's dominant hand at the top of the bat it gives them a distinct advantage, due to this hand's control over the path the bat takes to hit the ball.

There is also a preference for players to rely on the visual input from one of the two eyes, known as the dominant eye. Hand and eye dominance are matched in around two thirds of cases, meaning that a reversed stance increases the likelihood of the dominant eye being in front of the other when facing the bowler.

"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," Allen explained.

"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 performance of players such as Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist, Alastair Cook, David Gower, Clive Lloyd and Justin Langer, all of whom used a reversed stance, would lend credence to the findings.

Left-handed players who have excelled while batting right-handed include Michael Clarke and Inzamam-ul-Haq; Sachin Tendulkar batted and bowled with his right hand but writes with his left.

Allen concludes: "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."

© Cricket World 2016