December 10, 2001

Oh! To watch a left-hander bat

Left-handed batsmen are considered to be very elegant and over the years lot of them have provided enormous pleasure to cricket fans all over the world. Some consider watching a left-handed batsman caress a ball to the ropes the ultimate spectacle. I would not disagree with that sentiment for obvious reasons.

David Gower
David Gower
© Stamp Publicity Ltd
I have been tongue-tied when asked why left-handers look more elegant than the right-handers. It has to be mentioned that not all left-handers are elegant as a rule, but the ones who are, become the people's favourite. David Gower, for one, made people throng to the grounds to watch him bat for he was elegance personified.

Any side would like to have a left-hander in its ranks and it would be a bonus if he happens to perform a dual role for his side a la Adam Gilchrist. A left-right combination at the crease upsets a lot of bowlers and frustrates captains too. Incidentally, the highest rungetter in Test cricket happens to be a southpaw in Allan Border.

There is a concept that left-handers are at an advantage in relation to right-handers. Like everything else being a left-hander has its positives and negatives. One advantage is that the bowlers are used to bowling to right-handers more often than not and hence may give scoring opportunities off the pads.

Talking of the disadvantages, left-handers have to play at bowlers bowling more on their blind side. It is something similar to a bowler bowling from round the wicket to a right-hander. Not many right-handers are comfortable when this ploy, starting right from the days of the infamous Bodyline series, is employed.

There are some exciting left-handed batsmen in world cricket these days and they play a very important and indispensable role for their respective sides. Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist and Sanath Jayasuriya, to name a few, are batsmen who give nightmares to bowlers. All three of them play their shots and try to dominate the attack most of the time. I am not suggesting that they lack the discipline or the technique to grind the attack. It is just that their extraordinary talent makes them that much more positive and successful.

Gilchrist performs the role of an all-rounder for his side and thereby gives enough options to his captain. His versatility is tremendous as he can open the innings in the one-dayers and bat in the lower order in Tests. Such is his capability that he has produced innumerable matchwinning knocks in both positions.

Brian Lara
Brian Lara
© CricInfo
Lara, the champion batsman that he is, has been in indifferent form in the last couple of years. One got the impression that he was fighting with himself rather than suffering a slump because of the issues widely publicised all over the world. At one stage there was even a danger of the cricketing world losing this enigmatic champion. But the way he batted in the recent series against Sri Lankans allayed all those fears and he showed that he has what it takes to be a real class act. His hunger was back and he became one of those rare batsmen who had the satisfaction of taming Muttiah Muralitharan on the latter's home tracks.

The one remarkable aspect about Lara is that once he gets going, he gets big hundreds and double hundreds. He is the only batsman capable of winning a Test match on his own as he did against the Australians a few seasons ago. It is a pity that he is not getting enough support from his colleagues in the top order.

Graham Thorpe
Graham Thorpe
© CricInfo
The current series between England and India will be a real challenge for the two seasoned elegant left-handers, Sourav Ganguly and Graham Thorpe. Both have their share of problems to contend with and it is imperative they get into top gear. While Ganguly has been off-colour in Tests the whole of this year, Thorpe has not been consistent either.

Ganguly, at the moment, has to be decisive about how he is going to tackle the short-pitched deliveries. He is in a dilemma as to whether to play the pull shot or not. He is capable of playing that shot well and has scored enough runs in international cricket to allow himself to be bullied like a rookie.

Thorpe, for his part, has not done full justice to his talent. He will be a key player for England on the turning tracks in India. Both Thorpe and Ganguly have to get big scores - one has to do more for his side's sake and the other for his own sake. Only time will tell how these elegant left-handers handle the pressure but one thing is for sure - left-handers can really frustrate their fans if they are not in their best of form.