Thursday, 20 July 2017
IF YOUR CHILD IS A TALENTED CRICKETER
I was listening recently to a discussion between Jonathan Agnew and Simon Hughes on Test Match Special. They were discussing the fact that more and more top batsmen are left-handed. Five of the top ten run-makers in Test cricket of all time are left-handed - Cook, Border, Sangakara, Lara and Chanderpaul – and eight out of the top twenty. Yet only 10% of the general population are left-handed. The percentage of top baseball batters being left-handed is at least as high.
Scientists have discovered that the corpus callosum – the bundle of nerves that connects the two halves of the brain – is thicker in left-handed people than in right-handers. They speculate that because this may allow the two halves of the brain to work faster and more efficiently, left-handers have faster reaction times. Specifically, they have more time to make late adjustments to their bat when playing fast deliveries or deliveries that deviate shortly before arrival.
That’s interesting, because there have been studies which have shown that elite cricketers do not have especially fast reaction times in general, but have more time to play their shots because they are better able to anticipate where the ball is going to be than lesser players. It may be, however, that there is a difference in reaction times when more complicated actions are required, such as playing a cricket shot, than making a simple reaction to a sound, such as pressing a button.
The discovery about the corpus callosum refers to people who are completely left-handed, whereas many of those who bat left-handed are actually right-handed – they bowl, throw and write right-handed. One answer, discussed in the program, is that when they bat left-handed their right hand is at the top of the bat guiding the stroke, and this could lead to cleaner hitting than when the dominant hand is at the bottom of the bat. Sachin Tendulkar, the great Indian batsman, is left-handed but batted as a right-hander, giving him the same advantage.
Another point discussed was about eye dominance. If you are righthanded and right-eye dominant, you need to have a more square-on stance to face the bowler, whereas batting left-handed has your dominant eye with a good view of the bowler even with a side-on position. Apparently, Alastair Cook is left-eye dominant, which may explain his more open stance.
I thought one of the most interesting comments came from the former South African captain Graeme Smith. He is right-handed but was a left-handed opening batsman. He says that normally he feels more comfortable using his right hand, but if he is using the two hands together, such as when batting or playing golf, it feels more comfortable left-handed.
“Aggers” wondered if you have a young batsman, whether you should establish their eye dominance at an eye examination, and I would, of course, say that would be a good idea. But I wouldn’t be too prescriptive. Encourage the child to experiment batting both right-and left-handed so they can discover what feels best for them. And if they can do both, they’ll be great switch-hitters.