March 9, 2009

The myth of the elegant left-hander

Why does the world insist that left-hand batsmen are naturally elegant and graceful?
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Elegance is as elegance does: Gower was genuinely graceful himself, but he thought the idea of the left-hander's innate grace was an illusion © AFP
 

As batsmen discover new strokes, new ways to get to the boundary (or into the stands), some of the old ones seem to have fallen off the charts, taking with them the words used to describe these. We no longer read of the elegant late cut or the stylish leg glance; instead we have the effective upper cut or the productive reverse sweep. It is not that grace has deserted the game and batsmen have put efficiency before charm, but in recent years a Mahela Jayawardene has become the exception, a visually pleasing batsman incapable of playing an ugly stroke.

Yet one kind of batsman continues to get a good press. If you are a left-hander, it is automatically assumed that you are graceful, artistic, delicate and all those wonderful things that romantics like to burden cricket with. This is one of the game's most common myths - that left-handedness is by itself the reason for grace and elegance.

In Right Hand, Left Hand, winner of the Aventis Prize foe Science Books in 2003, Chris McManus says that around 10% of the population and perhaps 20% of top sportsmen are left-handed. He makes the point that left-handers have the advantage in asymmetric sports like baseball, where the right-handed batter has to run anti-clockwise towards first base after swinging and facing to his left. Sometimes the asymmetries, he says, are subtle, as in badminton, where the feathers of the shuttlecock are arranged clockwise, making it go to the right, so smashes are not equally easy from left and right of the court. Sometimes, of course, the left-hander is at a total disadvantage, as in polo, where the mallet has to be held in the right hand on the right side of the horse, or in hockey, where the sticks are held right handed. No natural grace here.

It is the comparative rarity of the left-hander that gives the illusion of grace. David Gower, most graceful of batsmen, used that very word, "illusion", to describe the left-hander's apparent grace.

"The fact is," he once told an interviewer, "both (the right-handers and the left-handers) have been horribly misnamed because the left-hander is really a right-hander and the right-hander is really a left-hander, if you work out which hand is doing most of the work. So from my point of view, my right arm is my strongest and therefore it's the right hand, right eye and generally the right side which is doing all the work. So if there is anything about this, then the left-handers, as such, should be called right-handers."

"It's the top hand which is doing all the work. It appears there's an illusion about this aspect too... they talk about left-handers having grace. Not all of them do. Though Allan Border was a wonderful player, he was short on grace."

 
 
Brian Lara was thrilling to watch, though not quite pleasing in the Gower sense. But even if we include him among graceful left-handers since Woolley, the list is still rather limited: Pollock, Sobers, Gower, Lara, perhaps Alvin Kallicharran
 

When I met Graeme Pollock in South Africa, many years ago, he explained to me that he played tennis right-handed, but golf left-handed (he signed an autograph with his right hand). Garry Sobers, on the other hand, was left-handed in everything he did. I don't know what conclusions can be drawn from this. Perhaps the left-hander whose right hand is the stronger hand plays the top-hand shots like the drive better than most. And the one with the stronger left as bottom hand plays the shots square of the wicket, the cut and pull, better. And since there is no more beautiful stroke in the game than the cover-drive, left-handers who play this well look most attractive.

It was probably Neville Cardus who first placed left-handers in a different aesthetic category when he wrote thus of Frank Woolley: "His cricket is compounded of soft airs and fresh flavours. The bloom of the year is on it, making for sweetness. And the very brevity of summer is in it too, making for loveliness." In the same essay Cardus went on to say, "I can think of cricket by Woolley which has inexplicably found me murmuring to myself (that I might get the best out of it): 'Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping/ Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star'."

And then, perhaps embarrassed by his own purple prose, he added, "I admit, O reader, that an innings by Woolley has nothing to do with owls and dusk and starlight. I am trying to describe an experience of the fancy; I am talking of cadences, of dying falls common to all the beauty of the world." Ah well. It's all right then.

Between Woolley and Gower, the two greatest left-handers, Sobers and Pollock were natural timers of the ball and capable of both delicacy and savagery. Even a still photograph of Sobers driving communicates power and balance; genius was never far removed from anything he did. Pollock didn't have a great stance, as many have pointed out, but I will always remember Sunil Gavaskar's story about batting with him for the World XI. Pollock played what looked like a forward-defensive shot, and Gavaskar, the non-striker, alert to a single, called out "Wait". Pollock waited, but that was only because the ball had sped to the boundary! Pollock too was compared to Woolley when he made two Test centuries against Australia as a 19-year-old.


The effective left-hander is much more a common breed than the elegant one © PA Photos
 

Four of the five highest individual scores in Tests have been made by left-handers, two by Brian Lara who was thrilling to watch, though not quite pleasing in the Gower sense. But even if we include him among graceful left-handers since Woolley, the list is still rather limited: Pollock, Sobers, Gower, Lara, perhaps Alvin Kallicharran, who, if he had played tennis, would have been known as a touch player. India's Salim Durani batted with an apparent lack of effort - an important ingredient of elegance - and Sourav Ganguly has been described as having a lazy elegance, but again, these players were not in the Gower class.

But look at the left-handers, some of them great players, who were and are innocent of elegance - Border, Matthew Hayden, Clive Lloyd, Arjuna Ranatunga, Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Sanath Jayasuriya, Justin Langer, Graeme Smith, Mark Taylor, Gary Kirsten, Bill Lawry, Marcus Trescothick, Aamer Sohail, Lance Klusener.

Left-handers play shots that right-handers do not play quite as easily, because more left-handers play right-arm medium-pacers bowling across their bodies from round the wicket than right-handers play left-arm bowlers. The not-quite-glance, not-really-a-hook that left-handers play fine off their hips is unique to them. Both Gower and Lara played it exceptionally well.

Ganguly didn't - but then he was a converted left-hander, someone who began that way so he could use his left-handed older brother's equipment. Sadiq Mohammad was a converted left-hander, whose older brother Hanif understood that as a left-hander Sadiq had a better chance of getting picked.

Too much has been made of the left-hander, and his alleged grace. A Gower was graceful because he was graceful, not because he was a left-hander. A Javed Miandad lacked grace not because he was a right-hander but because that was how he batted. One doesn't automatically presuppose the other.

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CricFan24 on March 11, 2009, 6:03 GMT

    Drsuso.Sorry bro,but even the most ardent lara fan will admit lara was woeful against raw pace.with tendulkar you actually remember the times he was hit because they are so few. with lara it was almost like he got hit every time he faced donald,akram and the genuine fast bowlers.i think akhtar bowled to lara just one ball in his career,in an ODI and almost killed lara in the process.And lara certainly wasnt at all "graceful or elegant against genuine pace(he always looked uncomfortable) as he was against medium pace and spin.As regards long innings the sydney double(wet outfield ,warne and co could hardly hold the ball) and the antigua big ones there was almost zero pressure with some 5 wickets falling in 3 days of the wi innings. But the main point is as the author mentions; and he has given several examples: It is a pure myth that left handers are elegant. The Hoopers,Azhars,Vishys,Laxmans,Mark waughs etc are FAR more elegant and graceful.

  • Rohan1 on March 11, 2009, 5:21 GMT

    @drsuso.Of course Tendulkar has been hit,but so have Richards and Bradman.But very infrequently. With Lara,Ganguly and co.it was almost a regular occurence and not a rare occasion. What i meant was that lara,ganguly etc are far from graceful against extreme fast hostile bowling.Whereas Tendulkar at his peak in the '90s almost never got touched. Lara,Ganguly even in the '90s against say Donald and co.were distinctly weak and ungainly against real fast bowling(not the medium pace of say mcgrath or spin).Lara,ganguly used to keep trying to hook because their ducking/swaying abilities were extremely poor coupled with jumping around at the crease with poor balance.And certainly as far as "grace" and ability is concerned against Extreme pace bowling Tendulkar comes out way on top.

  • neeskins on March 11, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    Its all in the numbers, there are more righties than lefties, so there will be more elegant righties than lefties. This is not to say the elegant left-hander is a myth. In the right dominated world they are fewer and far in-between, when one comes along he stands out, people take note. Especially if he is a run machine like Lara. Being a patron of elegant batting in the classical mold, I think that Lara, Gower, Kallicharran, Anwar, Neil Harvey do fit the bill. In recent years there has been a spate of lefties, the more elegant ones seem to be right handers that bat left, like Lara. I dont know what it is, this is something for the physiologists. With the onset of the one day game and 20/20 elegance is already on its way out. Most of the names called in the commentaries, left or right handed, to me are not really elegant. When I think elegant, I think Tom Graveney, Lawrence Rowe. Not even Gower and Lara can match these guys for grace. True elegance comes around only once in a blue moon

  • drsuso on March 10, 2009, 16:51 GMT

    @Rohan1. Not completely agreed. Tendulkar has been also hit by Akhtari bouncer and has been hit several times and even in thebody in front of the stumps of a short pitched delivery(LBW incident). Most of the times Lara tried to pull or to get a bat to the bouncer whereas Tendulkar in most of the times try to duck. Lara is one of the all time greatest puller of the ball. Don't compare him with a novice puller like Ganguly. If we sum up elegance with grace with ability to play long innings under pressure, Lara will top the list.

  • Rohan1 on March 10, 2009, 13:05 GMT

    @drsuso. Agreed.The point is that "grace under pressure" is where it really counts. Seen Lara ,Ganguly etc against hostile,super fast short pitched bowling? Really sad. Hopping around at the crease like a cat on a hot tin roof,getting hit all the time(I've literally lost count of how many times Lara and Ganguly have been hit),extremely poor ducking/weaving abilities...generally extremely ungainly and totally lacking in any modicum of grace whatsoever.Although both used to murder spin. But like You said compactness does not necessarily mean grace. But surely getting the same result with the minimum of relative effort is an essential part of grace?

  • Punter_28 on March 10, 2009, 12:50 GMT

    A very good article, lefthanders appear to be more graceful, in any game for that matter. There were some clumsiest lefthanders like Graeme Fowler to Chanderpaul..and even Mathew Hayden who lacked the grace that is normally the epitome of a Southpaw. Being hard hitting Southpaw does not mean you lack the elegance as in the case of the Big Cat, Graeme Pollock or Yuvi.

    Yet, being a right hander does not mean that you cannot be elegant. Some examples are Zaheer Abbas, Greg Chappell, Mark Waugh and above all our own Sachin and the Mozart of the Willow, Gundappa Vishvanath... I used to watch Vishy and even Sachin in the mirror and wondered if only they had wielded the willow the other way would have been absolute joy to behold

  • drsuso on March 10, 2009, 8:12 GMT

    Besides the elegant and graceful lefties here are some boring(not elegant) lefties, this list is also not short: Strauss, Chanderpaul, Kirsten, Cook, Adams and there are many.. so it does not mean that lefties have the advantage of becoming more graceful. Amla is more graceful than Tendulkar but Tendulkar has more compact technique that necessarily does not mean that he has to be the most graceful player.

  • jokerbala on March 10, 2009, 6:29 GMT

    @dar268 , excellent comment dude. Lefties' legside shots don't please the eye as much as their offside shots.I hated watching Ganguly playing leg side shots like flicks and glances,it was like the ugliest stroke ever.

  • SRT_Jammy_Dada_VVS_and_Anil_legends on March 10, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    Completely wrong about Ganguly, who is behind only God on the off-side, and whose silken strokes enthralled a nation. Also very harsh on Sangakkara, I suggest you watch his 192 v Australia at Hobart.

  • bivu on March 10, 2009, 5:57 GMT

    -now,then,comes the most unfathomable unwitting and enigmatic question,that is why then tendulkar and lara are the best of the best of batsmen of this generation?-just bcoz of elegance???you think that is the prime factor???never ever !!!!-it is about producing strokes that others simply can not imagine of,for that matter guys !!!

  • CricFan24 on March 11, 2009, 6:03 GMT

    Drsuso.Sorry bro,but even the most ardent lara fan will admit lara was woeful against raw pace.with tendulkar you actually remember the times he was hit because they are so few. with lara it was almost like he got hit every time he faced donald,akram and the genuine fast bowlers.i think akhtar bowled to lara just one ball in his career,in an ODI and almost killed lara in the process.And lara certainly wasnt at all "graceful or elegant against genuine pace(he always looked uncomfortable) as he was against medium pace and spin.As regards long innings the sydney double(wet outfield ,warne and co could hardly hold the ball) and the antigua big ones there was almost zero pressure with some 5 wickets falling in 3 days of the wi innings. But the main point is as the author mentions; and he has given several examples: It is a pure myth that left handers are elegant. The Hoopers,Azhars,Vishys,Laxmans,Mark waughs etc are FAR more elegant and graceful.

  • Rohan1 on March 11, 2009, 5:21 GMT

    @drsuso.Of course Tendulkar has been hit,but so have Richards and Bradman.But very infrequently. With Lara,Ganguly and co.it was almost a regular occurence and not a rare occasion. What i meant was that lara,ganguly etc are far from graceful against extreme fast hostile bowling.Whereas Tendulkar at his peak in the '90s almost never got touched. Lara,Ganguly even in the '90s against say Donald and co.were distinctly weak and ungainly against real fast bowling(not the medium pace of say mcgrath or spin).Lara,ganguly used to keep trying to hook because their ducking/swaying abilities were extremely poor coupled with jumping around at the crease with poor balance.And certainly as far as "grace" and ability is concerned against Extreme pace bowling Tendulkar comes out way on top.

  • neeskins on March 11, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    Its all in the numbers, there are more righties than lefties, so there will be more elegant righties than lefties. This is not to say the elegant left-hander is a myth. In the right dominated world they are fewer and far in-between, when one comes along he stands out, people take note. Especially if he is a run machine like Lara. Being a patron of elegant batting in the classical mold, I think that Lara, Gower, Kallicharran, Anwar, Neil Harvey do fit the bill. In recent years there has been a spate of lefties, the more elegant ones seem to be right handers that bat left, like Lara. I dont know what it is, this is something for the physiologists. With the onset of the one day game and 20/20 elegance is already on its way out. Most of the names called in the commentaries, left or right handed, to me are not really elegant. When I think elegant, I think Tom Graveney, Lawrence Rowe. Not even Gower and Lara can match these guys for grace. True elegance comes around only once in a blue moon

  • drsuso on March 10, 2009, 16:51 GMT

    @Rohan1. Not completely agreed. Tendulkar has been also hit by Akhtari bouncer and has been hit several times and even in thebody in front of the stumps of a short pitched delivery(LBW incident). Most of the times Lara tried to pull or to get a bat to the bouncer whereas Tendulkar in most of the times try to duck. Lara is one of the all time greatest puller of the ball. Don't compare him with a novice puller like Ganguly. If we sum up elegance with grace with ability to play long innings under pressure, Lara will top the list.

  • Rohan1 on March 10, 2009, 13:05 GMT

    @drsuso. Agreed.The point is that "grace under pressure" is where it really counts. Seen Lara ,Ganguly etc against hostile,super fast short pitched bowling? Really sad. Hopping around at the crease like a cat on a hot tin roof,getting hit all the time(I've literally lost count of how many times Lara and Ganguly have been hit),extremely poor ducking/weaving abilities...generally extremely ungainly and totally lacking in any modicum of grace whatsoever.Although both used to murder spin. But like You said compactness does not necessarily mean grace. But surely getting the same result with the minimum of relative effort is an essential part of grace?

  • Punter_28 on March 10, 2009, 12:50 GMT

    A very good article, lefthanders appear to be more graceful, in any game for that matter. There were some clumsiest lefthanders like Graeme Fowler to Chanderpaul..and even Mathew Hayden who lacked the grace that is normally the epitome of a Southpaw. Being hard hitting Southpaw does not mean you lack the elegance as in the case of the Big Cat, Graeme Pollock or Yuvi.

    Yet, being a right hander does not mean that you cannot be elegant. Some examples are Zaheer Abbas, Greg Chappell, Mark Waugh and above all our own Sachin and the Mozart of the Willow, Gundappa Vishvanath... I used to watch Vishy and even Sachin in the mirror and wondered if only they had wielded the willow the other way would have been absolute joy to behold

  • drsuso on March 10, 2009, 8:12 GMT

    Besides the elegant and graceful lefties here are some boring(not elegant) lefties, this list is also not short: Strauss, Chanderpaul, Kirsten, Cook, Adams and there are many.. so it does not mean that lefties have the advantage of becoming more graceful. Amla is more graceful than Tendulkar but Tendulkar has more compact technique that necessarily does not mean that he has to be the most graceful player.

  • jokerbala on March 10, 2009, 6:29 GMT

    @dar268 , excellent comment dude. Lefties' legside shots don't please the eye as much as their offside shots.I hated watching Ganguly playing leg side shots like flicks and glances,it was like the ugliest stroke ever.

  • SRT_Jammy_Dada_VVS_and_Anil_legends on March 10, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    Completely wrong about Ganguly, who is behind only God on the off-side, and whose silken strokes enthralled a nation. Also very harsh on Sangakkara, I suggest you watch his 192 v Australia at Hobart.

  • bivu on March 10, 2009, 5:57 GMT

    -now,then,comes the most unfathomable unwitting and enigmatic question,that is why then tendulkar and lara are the best of the best of batsmen of this generation?-just bcoz of elegance???you think that is the prime factor???never ever !!!!-it is about producing strokes that others simply can not imagine of,for that matter guys !!!

  • ssjumbo on March 10, 2009, 5:46 GMT

    Don't keep harping about Gower. He couldn't play Genuine quick or spin. Can't play the windies... Indians would remember how L.Sivaramakrishnan embarrassed him.

  • Rohan1 on March 10, 2009, 5:44 GMT

    Only under extreme pressure can true elegance and grace be considered. A lot of people can look languid ,graceful etc when playing spin or medium pace when there is time on hand. It is when facing extreme pace that the "inner" grace comes to the fore. For those claiming Lara is "graceful" and "elegant" i suggest they get some tapes of Lara playing Donald at his peak in the midnineties. Never mind "graceful" ,it was embarrasing. To me, Sachin Tendulkar,is the most graceful and classy. All the time in the world,absolute economy of motion...the simple punches,the flicks with right wrist over left (ala laxman,azhar)..The only batsman who can do it all and effortlessly at that.

  • henchart on March 10, 2009, 5:08 GMT

    Roshan Mahanama was also stylish RHB of his times.Border,Gomes Larry and in recent times Strauss and Chanderpaul are examples of not so elegant but very dogged and effective LHBs.

  • Chanaka on March 10, 2009, 3:59 GMT

    A very entertaining analysis. One point I would disagree with. Kumar Sangakkara surely is not innocent of elegance.

  • backyardchamp on March 10, 2009, 3:18 GMT

    Here are my picks for the most elegant: India: Laxman, Dravid, Azharuddin. Pakistan: Zaheer, Anwar, Inzamam. Sri Lanka: Sangakara, Jayawardene, Gunawardana. NZ: Martin Crowe, Fleming. WI: Lara, Sobers, Richards. England: Gower, Vaughn. Australia: Bradman, M. Waugh, Martyn. SA: G. Pollock, JP Duminy, AB DeVilliers. Out of this list, top 3: 1. Gower. 2. M. Waugh 3. Laxman. Not the people with the highest averages but the shots they played left you gasping in admiration and they were invariably effortless.

  • Ozbuck on March 10, 2009, 3:03 GMT

    When judging elegance (which one shouldn't) the build of the batsman is usually important. Most elegant batsmaen are tall and of slim build. It is very difficult for a short batsman to play an elegant cover drive or that sweet on drive of Mark Waugh or Greg Chappell because he has shorter arms so have to whack the ball rather than the fluid flow that longer arms can make.

  • Ozbuck on March 10, 2009, 2:43 GMT

    A cricketer's heaven is an unending partnership between David Gower and Mark Waugh facing Michael Holding and Dennis Lillee with Shane Warne providing the variety.

  • Sunil.Barve on March 10, 2009, 2:37 GMT

    Good theory believed by masters of the game who want their off-springs to be left handed - regardless of whether they are naturally left-handed or not.

  • henchart on March 10, 2009, 2:02 GMT

    Why not mention a left hander who flattered to deceive-Vinod Kambli.

  • MrKricket on March 9, 2009, 23:32 GMT

    I find most left handers difficult to empathise with, being a right hander. As kid you know how you model your strokes on your favourite players? In the 70s there weren't many lefties anyway and with Greg Chappell who else would you model yourself on? Alan Border was the first great left hander of my era (Aus that is) but I wouldn't have said he was elegant.

    Peter Roebuck wrote an article on how left handers batting right handed (and vice versa) may be actually batting the right way for strength as David Gower intimates in the article.

  • Nerk on March 9, 2009, 21:46 GMT

    what about good old Don Bradman? The picture or film of his cover drive spells brilliance and he was no lefty.

  • nafzak on March 9, 2009, 20:54 GMT

    Lawrence Rowe (RHB)Nuff said.

  • nyallj on March 9, 2009, 19:40 GMT

    Strange that everybody taking about elegant right handers and nobody remembering Carl Hooper. Nobody ever saw him bat? Lara remains the best looking batsman I have ever seen. To see him bat was to witness pure magic. Thanks to him I say.

  • Faruqui on March 9, 2009, 18:59 GMT

    I think the the point wasnt made very well, as some of the most eligent batsmen have been overlooked. How can someone miss Saeed Anwer and Stephen fleeming from the list of elegent left handers.Whole article is based upon david Gower's observations. What about other greats of the game.Sorry, not well researched.

  • Imran882 on March 9, 2009, 18:48 GMT

    In my school days i figured out that myth by doing a simple experiment. Keeping mirror infront of the TV and then watching the left handed batsman batting as right handed in the mirror and vice versa. It turned out to be that the most of the stylish left handed are just ordinay if you realise them as right handed and many ordinary right handed turned out to be stylish left handed if realised in mirror. just try it and figure it out by yourself.

  • vparisa on March 9, 2009, 18:13 GMT

    An elegant right hander looks much better than an elegant left hander. You always want to look like M Waugh, Laxman, Zaheer Abbas , Azharuddin or Mahela when you bat. They are few in number but they are visually so pleasing to watch.

  • sanj307 on March 9, 2009, 17:52 GMT

    Have you ever heard of a right handed batsman named Marvan Attapattu? That's a guy i always enojoy batting long innings. He's a righty, but very elegant.

  • endofageofaquarius on March 9, 2009, 17:33 GMT

    And yes Zaheer Abbas as one of the most graceful righthanded batsmen also warranted a mention in your article.

  • Doug the bookie on March 9, 2009, 16:40 GMT

    Can not agree with the Sangakkara comment. The man is one of the most elegant players currently playing the game. His cover driving is a joy to watch. A better example would have been chaderpaul. But I also agree with overall point, I have always struggled with the idea that lefties are automatically more elegant simply cos they are lefties. Vaughan at his best was as smooth as silk. As is Ian Bell (although not quite in the same class).

  • mahmoon_85 on March 9, 2009, 16:35 GMT

    good article but some great names are missing from the list. saeed anver, kumar sangakkara,lara, greame smith,andrew flower,etc. emerging players like gautam gambir, andrew strauss, mike hussey, etc all have to be credited. All left handers have shown great batsmenship from early days. but now everything is changing quick and fast as game of cricket is getting quicker and quicker. At one time most of the records are set by left handers. but afterwards right handers too started to dominate the game.

  • GeraldCalt on March 9, 2009, 16:33 GMT

    I thought this was the case - basically the 'elegant' left hander is one who is a right-handed person normally and so their top hand is their strongest, rather than their bottom? Right? That makes their shots slightly different to someone who is naturally left-handed and thus has their strongest hand on the bottom (as most right-handers do). Stephen Fleming was such a left-hander too (and elegant), while Richard Hadlee also was (although his success was as a right-armed bowler). Wasim Akram was also in that category.

    Curiously, the similarly 'elegant' right handers? Are they naturally left-handed?

  • satyagorthy on March 9, 2009, 16:03 GMT

    Mohd Azharuddin and Zaheer Abbas. They are not left handers but they are very very elegant...

  • akadiri on March 9, 2009, 15:36 GMT

    I agree with the points made in the article and also with dar268's analysis of the left hander's ability to make the cover drive look even better when a right hander plays it. I do think that it is wrong, though to pigeon hole players too tightly as either graceful or belligerent, although I think that grace apart, left handers bring a sense of difference to the crease that makes the game look just a bit more interesting. In fact I find even some of the so called "non-graceful" left handers to be the most thrilling to watch. Mention has already been made of Lara, Sobers and Hayden, but there is of course probably the most destructive of modern batsmen - Adam Gilchrist. On the other hand, however, there is Graham Smith!

  • Waseem-Raja on March 9, 2009, 15:02 GMT

    Dear Sir, Please mention Wasim Raja's name as well among the great left-handers as well as the great courageous batsman of all times. He was the one who single-handedly stand against the best fast bowling attack in the history. If one analyze the batting averages of all the batsmen in the 70s and 80s against Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel garner, Selvert Clark,Collin Craft, Malcom Marshall, and co, then Wasim Raja had the highest average, even more than great Sunil Gavaskar. In those days, I used to watch him playing against those fearful 90+ mph four-prong attack. Many great batsmen of that era were fearful of the WI fast bowlers, but Raja always came on top. I have not seen anyone playing with such courage till today.

  • prashant1 on March 9, 2009, 14:30 GMT

    @dar268 Superb observation! I think you've hit the nail on the HEAD!!! Such a relief reading comments such as yours instead of the incessant whining such as "Oh my,I can't believe our dear Anwar isn't on the list"!! Cheers

  • Robsh on March 9, 2009, 14:03 GMT

    I dont think that this article is composed with deeper thoughts. How could one write about left-handed batsmen of modern times and miss Saeed Anwar.

  • heph on March 9, 2009, 13:50 GMT

    Elegance is attributed to left handers by default and a right hander has to do do a lot more, on the elegance front, to be aesthetically pleasing. I found the two Australians M Waugh, Damien Martin to be graceful. Others on my list are Lara (combination of strength and grace), Yousaf, Zaheer abbas, Laxman, Amla and Jayawardene. For some reason I do not remember any graceful modern english batsman (other than Gower ofcourse), except M Vaughan, who used to get bowled too ugly too often.

  • dar268 on March 9, 2009, 13:42 GMT

    I would argue that a cover drive is often more elegant when played left-handed all else being equal. The majority of bowlers are right handers bowling over the wicket so the ball naturally slants away from a left-hander. It seems more natural for a left-hander to caress this delivery through the covers rather than forcing it back from the direction it came. Conversely, a leg-glance is often more elegant when played by a right-hander (Mark Waugh springs to mind) again all else being equal. I would add the name of Aravinda de Silva (rhb) to the other elegant batsmen already mentioned.

  • Percy_Fender on March 9, 2009, 13:41 GMT

    Left handed batsmen look very special and elegant (if they actually are)because we are generally used to seeing right handers. But after having seen Hayden, Hussey and now Phil Hughes, I know that this belief is not always true. The most graceful left handers like Gower and Sobers may have given us that impression in the days gone by. But I would much rather see a Mark Waugh or a Damien Martyn or a Laxman or even a Rohit Sharma in the forseeable future than any of the left handed batsmen of today. They look crude and are more akin to executioners than sportsmen engaged in a civilised game.

  • rayhaanali on March 9, 2009, 13:38 GMT

    I think another elegant right hander people seem to forget is Mohammad Yousaf..his shots ar often described by the commentators as 'Lazy elegance'. In full flow he is a treat to watch!

  • AbrarAhmed on March 9, 2009, 13:13 GMT

    1. Gower 2. Anwar 3. Waugh. M 4. Ganguly 5. Fleming

    Elegance personified. All touch players. A lazy,languid cover drive from any of the above was a treat. It could have been an illusion but they seemed to have all the time in the world to play their shots.

  • worldaudience on March 9, 2009, 12:52 GMT

    Good article.But the author forgot to mention the name of Saeed Anwar in the list,what a shame.Of the current bunch of cricketers i would say Yuvraj Singh is the most elegant.

  • cantwaittosee on March 9, 2009, 12:41 GMT

    how can the writer mention kumar sangakkara as unelegant?? i think he is right up there with the most gracious to have ever graced the game....very smooth and effortless swing of the bat with very clean contact with the ball. other modern names i would like to mention for left handers would be yuvraj and suresh raina. raina has one of the classiest of cover drives ever. i think the classiest batsmen of all time would be mr. elegance sunil gavaskar and then sachin tendulkar, the mr. coaching manual batting technique.

  • kooldudee on March 9, 2009, 12:40 GMT

    i agree with gower's comments that left handers being graceful is just an illusion.i have been watching cricket for the past 2 decades and in this period mahela jayawardena is the most graceful batsman.Even a forward defensive is a pleasure to watch when he's batting, let alone his drives and flicks. Mohamed Yousuf is another treat to the eyes, his lazy elegance never ceases to amaze. Even AB Devilliers is great to watch. Out of the retired lot, mark waugh and carl hooper were elegant. There are enough and more graceful right handed batsman, probably equal to the number of left handed but through my eyes mahela jayawardena is the most graceful batsman ever to play the game.

  • Anamitro on March 9, 2009, 12:03 GMT

    When you think of elegance, you have to think of Azhar. Yet he was a right hander.

  • NeilCameron on March 9, 2009, 11:42 GMT

    Anyone convinced by the myth of Left handed "elegance" never saw Kepler Wessels bat. Ugly? Yes. But very, very effective.

  • Dinker-cktlover on March 9, 2009, 11:26 GMT

    Its not a coincidence that the writer, or for that matter many of the readers, have not even mentioned Graeme Smith, who is a left-hander, among the highest run-getters this season and above all has led a successful 400-plus chase against Australia in Australia. He has to keep recollecting from 70s and 80s for elegance.It is a sign of changed times in cricket especially in batting. Modern run feasts do not give much respect for elegance and grace. Its the quantity of runs scored and not quality which matters. Well, I am not in favour of this "fall from grace"

  • captainnibbles on March 9, 2009, 11:02 GMT

    I think an elegant player is elegant in all they do, incapable of playing an ugly shot. Therefore someone like Ganguly who also played strong, bludgeoning shots wouldn't qualify. In the original article it states that Jayawardene is the exception in recent years, I'd add Michael Vaughan to this, surely the most elegant Englishman since Gower, I doubt any other modern player could have the term caressed used about his shots as many times.

  • Nayaksai on March 9, 2009, 10:36 GMT

    One important difference between all these was the use of wrist. Pollock was solid power and timing and his technique was simple but tight. Right forward or back. The head and body very still till it moved to meet the ball with precision . His placement was incredible and as Cowdrey said he hit good length balls to the boundary better than half volleys!!! David Gower's technique was a li'l loose (a tad tooloose limbed as well) though his use of wrist made him most elegant.Gower did'nt play the short ball as well as Pollock (who did'nt have the best hook shot either) or Sobers(who had every stroke..). The best postwar(grace or otherwise) left handers would be : 1. Pollock(Unbelievably solid and Powerful scoring run a ball in Tests!!). No known weaknesses atall 2. Sobers (best all round batsman) 3.Lara(Li'l dynamo with excellent wrist work..). Li'l vulnerable early on. 4. Lloyd . Powerful and very timely in crisis. Hit a tad too much in the air.5.Kallicharran.Lara without as much power

  • LozzaG on March 9, 2009, 10:35 GMT

    While I agree in terms of elegance with the like of M Waugh, G Chappell, VVS Laxman and Zaheer Abbas as elegant batsman I don't think you could beat Bishen Bedi bowling to Gower as the height of aesthetic cricket. Cunning almost hypnotic parabolic bowling versus effortless strokeplay. Both left handers of course, don't know why but was always transfixed by their skills.

  • first_slip on March 9, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    Most elegant left handed bats man i ever seen was "Vinod Kambli" and Unfortunatly he didnt play loang enough for India, most Elegant batsmen in the world is Kumar Sangakkara and i don't see any other at the moment to challenge him

  • Smayan on March 9, 2009, 10:07 GMT

    Suresh forgot about to mention the most elegant and effective right handers of the recent era , VVS Laxman , Mark Waugh to name a few.

    There is myth about left handers to be elegant. Just because they few in numbers and not often seen , makes them seeing a pleasure.

  • coolcarl on March 9, 2009, 10:02 GMT

    I personally do feel that by nature left handers are more aesthetically pleasing to watch than right handers. I don't know why, its's just how I feel. There have been and are many elegant left handers in recent times...Gower, Lara, Anwar, Sangakkara, Ganguly ( when he started ) etc...I have watched a lot of cricket over the last year and for sheer elegance Yuvraj's 2 hundreds against England are unsurpassed. Shots played with an ease that right handers just can't replicate. However despite the fact I like watching left handers and without contradicting myself....in my mind the most elegant batsman to ever pick up a cricket bat was Carl Hooper. I am a Kent fan and had the pleasure of watching him over a number of years and no one comes close. Many people talk about Mark Waugh.....but to watch he just wasn't in the same class, no one was!

  • deevan on March 9, 2009, 9:57 GMT

    The author has for some reasons failed to mention the name of Saeed Anwar. For me he was the most elegant player to watch post David Gower era. He scored nearly 40 centuries in both form of the games. Though he was slightly built, his timings and placements were a real treat to eyes. The great Barry Richsrds while commenting in one of the Sharjah one dayers had rightly said about Anwar as "one of the most elegant players of all times" So, I would place Saeed Anwar along with David Gower and Gary Sobers as the most graceful left handers of mordern era.

  • rayhaanali on March 9, 2009, 9:39 GMT

    What has Suresh been drinking? How has he forgotten the great Saeed Anwar, amazing timing and elegance personified...and ofcourse Ganguly who many consider as the greatest offside player..the way he threaded the ball through packed offside fields was nothing short of pure elegance!

  • cardshark08 on March 9, 2009, 9:14 GMT

    I think it's a bit odd to call Sangakkara effective instead of elegant: he bats very effectively in tough conditions, and is sometimes more effective than elegant in this regard. However, his centuries in NZ in 2007 were incredibly elegant in trying conditions, as was his 192 in Australia. I certainly think he's the most elegant left handed batsmen at the moment, and not far off Mahela/VVS. (Stephen Fleming was a recent leftie who was often more elegant than effective.) The article is correct in that it is a myth of the game, and is an interesting topic. Just think of Australia's recent openers: Langer, Hayden, Katich, Jaques (briefly) and now Hughes. All lefties and a complete lack of elegance!

  • drinks.break on March 9, 2009, 9:08 GMT

    Gower's comment about left-handers being right-handers is even more appropriate to hockey ... far from hockey discriminating against left-handers, it is the most left-hander friendly game in existence, because the left hand does all the work (a player will often play with the right hand off the stick, but never vice versa).

  • ArkaDada on March 9, 2009, 8:58 GMT

    I have been watching the game from the 80s. So I have not seen Pollock or Sobers and I cannot comment about them. But surely Gower has to be the Mr. Elegance personified. No one ever came close to him, not even Anwar or Ganguly in the 90s. Your opinion about Ganguly being a converted leftie is a perfect one, his top hand governed his elegant cover drives and other shots in the off side, and also the same factor attributed to his weakness against short pitched deliveries. Anwar was very elegant no doubt, but somehow once anybody has watched Gower in full flow will never dare to compare Gower with Anwar. Gilchrist can never be classified as an elegant batsman - he may be a treat to watch but the elegance tag cannot be attributed to him - that lazy elegance was never there in his batting.

    Among the righties, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Jayawardena, Laxman and Azharuddin can be the best examples of right handed elegant batsmen.

  • nicolai on March 9, 2009, 8:58 GMT

    Yes I believe left handers look more elegant simply because there are fewer of them. Yes an illusion. One person that I would add the elegant list is Yuvraj Singh. He plays many of his shots off his toes, just like Gower, Sobers and Lara. I also agree that many of the current crop of left-handers are in fact quite 'blue collar' and workmanlike in their batting approach and definitely far from elegant.

  • kharkov on March 9, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Vroøom is right,løøk them into mirror they are more than a legend.

  • omairhameed on March 9, 2009, 8:32 GMT

    the moment i saw the heading ,first person that struck my head was saeed anwar, because i use to love watching him bat. beside that his records ,his achievements speak alot more,than my likings for him.fair enough ,most of us did point out.as of that ,i would rate it as a 'c' category,missing out stephan fleming ,saeed anwar, gilchrist,& a few other.

  • ryder_man on March 9, 2009, 8:01 GMT

    Gower is correct, ur opposite hand does more work, except he is wrong about the eye, the left eye sends info to the right side fo the brain. This is why i think left hander have alot more time, the eye that favors there opposite hand is foward, and steadyer in a normal stance.

  • Charith on March 9, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    Surely your mistaken in indicating that Sangakkara is innocent of elegance. Come on that's ridiculous. He is the classiest left hander that's in the current crop.. And of course you've forgotten Saeed Anwar as mentioned in previous posts...

  • rnarayan on March 9, 2009, 6:47 GMT

    Nice article. You're right about the "elegant left hander" bit probably starting with Cardus. For some reason, right-handers are "stylish", (except it would seem Woolley, Hammond and Mark Waugh, who were "elegant"). Actually the majority of left handers around are of the singularly inelegant punch-and-dab variety, with Chanderpaul in a class of his own. Everyone has their favourites but the only batsman (right- or left-handed) I have seen who came close to the peerless Gower for elegance was ML Jaisimha.

  • ZA77 on March 9, 2009, 6:30 GMT

    Nice article about myth of elegant left-hander. Yes this is right that Sobers and Pollock are two greatest natural timers. In my opinion that Lara is the best among all as he scored 34 centuries which is more than any other left hand batsman then 150 or more 19 times then 9 double hundred and then two triple centuries. Gobers never scored any double hundred at opponents' home while Lara scored five double hundreds at opponents. Gobers scored two double hundred totally and Lara scored nine in test. At one moment Lara was highest runs gutter with highest individual scores in test and first class as well as highest 150 or plus scores that is 19 times and five times 1000 or more runs in calender year in test. No one achieve five records at a time before him. He was also best player against the history best off-spinner Murlitharan. His 153 not out, 213, 226 and also 277 aganinst strongest Australia is enough to show his calibre. In think he is matchless among all.

  • Marcio on March 9, 2009, 6:22 GMT

    David Gower was the most elegant of all batsman I ever saw, and Michael Holding the most elegant of bowlers (but that's another topic).

    Phil Hughes bats ugly, but he bats real good. He's exciting to watch. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

  • Vroooom on March 9, 2009, 6:19 GMT

    One thing which has not been considered here is the visual effect of watching a left hander's strokes to an eye which is used to watching left handers. Try watching a Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting or Rahul Dravid innings in a mirror in front of the TV and you will know what I mean. Each one of them will look as elegant as a Lara.

  • deekay1 on March 9, 2009, 6:07 GMT

    South Africa and Australia are currently playing a great series, the Indian team is in solid form, England are on the verge of an official humiliation and all of this has been overshadowed by the fiasco in Pakistan.

    Yet all you can come up with is a mediocre piece opinion on left handers.

    I am an Indian living in the US and if there is one thing that makes me slightly envious of my American friends, it is that are able to avidly follow several sports all year round. What with dead pitches, alienated nations and shortened formats, there is hardly any quality cricket being played.

    When there is cricket being played why don't you write about it?

  • Brent_ONeill on March 9, 2009, 6:06 GMT

    Who would be considered elegant right-handers? The first that comes to mind would be Mark Waugh.

  • cricket4shafiq on March 9, 2009, 5:48 GMT

    Saeed Anwar & Dada were the best i saw between 1986 till now. How can you forget Saeed anwar?

  • riteshjsr on March 9, 2009, 5:22 GMT

    Agree with the article completely. "It's the comparative rarity of the left-hander, which gives that illusion of grace." I mean, right handers can be equally elegant if not more. Mohd. Azharuddin, VVS Laxman, Mark Waugh, Jayawardene, Dravid, Mohd. Yousuf are as visually pleasing as Gower or Lara. And as you have correctly pointed out, a lot of left handers don't look elegant at all but are extremely effective (Hayden, Taylor). I would add Australia's latest sensation Phillip Hughes to this list. He sometimes plays shots that look ugly, but who cares, he scores centuries at will. So, yes, elegance has nothing to do with left-handedness.

  • aneeshk on March 9, 2009, 5:20 GMT

    Who says lefties are always elegant? I enjoy watching him score, but Yuvraj is a pretty ungainly batsman. Hayden too was effective, barbaric even, but hardly classy. But you raise a good point about lefties having some advantages because right handed bowlers & batsmen are the norm. Perhaps a similar effect is at play when the left-handed Nadal trips up Federer.

  • viswajithkn on March 9, 2009, 5:13 GMT

    i do not totally agree. First of all there is no mention of players like Saeed Anwar and Gilchrist who for my money are and were better than an Aamir Sohail or a trescothick.

  • sushantsingh on March 9, 2009, 5:09 GMT

    yes, I think that mark waugh & jayawardene are two most elegant & classic right handed but very sorry suresh you should mention andy flower & saeed anwar in the list. woolley,sobers,pollock greame,gower,lara are above the rest in the list.

  • BrianCharlesVivek on March 9, 2009, 5:07 GMT

    I would like to add Andrew Strauss to the list. To me elegance is nothing but forcing your way to runs powerlessly.Strauss is a master of that.His 17 hundreds in 60 matches are pure elegance and examples of a bloodless coup. He may nudge , nudge and nudge singles for a lifetime but his cuts, powerless pulls, straight drives and even letting the ball go to the keeper are symbols of his elegance.

  • statshank on March 9, 2009, 5:06 GMT

    There were quite a few graceful right handers in the current time. Starting from G R Vishwanath, Greg Chappell, Zaheer Abbas, Abbas Ali Baig, Roy Dais, Mohammed Azharuddin, Mark Waugh and finally, VVS Laxman.

    The other possible reason for the demise or falling levels of grace also could possibly be because of the increased quantum of T20 and ODI's. In both instances, runs have to be gained and effect matters the most.

  • satifhasan on March 9, 2009, 5:00 GMT

    hi , you also missed the ODI record holder, Saeed Anwar

  • jokerbala on March 9, 2009, 4:36 GMT

    You got the non-elegant lefties list almost right but a class act like Sangakara does not belong there.Also,would Andy Flower make that list?He had tremendous touch and timing but I guess graceful would be too strong a word for him.

  • KiwiRocker- on March 9, 2009, 4:29 GMT

    It is strange that there is no mention of Stephen Flemming and Saeed Anwar who happen to hold a world record for highest ODI score. I do agree thought that being left hander does not make you any more graceful however Lara just was a better batsman who won more matches and played with more grace and flow than Tendulkars of this world. What is use of grace and elegance anyway if you can not score runs. The most graceful batsman of all times was Zaheer Abbas, a real under rated legend who could square drive with amazing ability.

  • US_Indian on March 9, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    you are missing two stylists from the list, Saeed Anwar and Wasim Raja from Pakistan, and Rohan Kanhai, Lawrence Rowe.

  • akafen1985 on March 9, 2009, 4:19 GMT

    I'm surprised you mentioned Aamir Sohail in this article. Aamir Sohail was a good player but no where near Saeed Anwar who had the chance to be legendary. He wasn't a legendary player but from 1994 all the way up to 2000 he was way better than Aamir Sohail and he was elegant. After Mohammad Yousuf he had the best cover drive.

  • perfectstranger on March 9, 2009, 4:19 GMT

    i agree with richierichie, Saeed Anwar was on of the classy left handed openers. He was elegant and fluent at the same time. What a shame Suresh that you dint even consider him. useless article really!

  • HundredPercentBarcelonista on March 9, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    Can't believe you think Sangakkara is innocent of elegance. He's the most elegant left-hand batsman in the world right now.

  • sid619 on March 9, 2009, 3:53 GMT

    You have completely forgotten about Stephen Fleming,one of the most elegant lefthanders of his generation.

  • richierichie on March 9, 2009, 3:52 GMT

    When one talks of an elegant left-hander it would be blasphemy to not laud the magic of the stylish Saeed Anwar. In my opinion he was as elegant if not more elegant than David Gower. It has been his batting which has made believe this myth of the elegant left-hander

    And what does one have to say about Chanderpaul :P

  • promal on March 9, 2009, 3:41 GMT

    I think Sangakkara is very classy. Not like Gower or Lara, but surely if Jayawardene is considered a classy righty, then Sangakkara is a classy lefty. Guys like Yuvraj in flow also ooze class although he's not yet a proven test customer to be a great player. But by and large you are right that you can have classy and stodgy righties and lefties! But one has to agree, the classiest of all batsmen all-time has got to be Mark Waugh, even Bradman called him the most elegant post-war player, and he was a righty!

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  • promal on March 9, 2009, 3:41 GMT

    I think Sangakkara is very classy. Not like Gower or Lara, but surely if Jayawardene is considered a classy righty, then Sangakkara is a classy lefty. Guys like Yuvraj in flow also ooze class although he's not yet a proven test customer to be a great player. But by and large you are right that you can have classy and stodgy righties and lefties! But one has to agree, the classiest of all batsmen all-time has got to be Mark Waugh, even Bradman called him the most elegant post-war player, and he was a righty!

  • richierichie on March 9, 2009, 3:52 GMT

    When one talks of an elegant left-hander it would be blasphemy to not laud the magic of the stylish Saeed Anwar. In my opinion he was as elegant if not more elegant than David Gower. It has been his batting which has made believe this myth of the elegant left-hander

    And what does one have to say about Chanderpaul :P

  • sid619 on March 9, 2009, 3:53 GMT

    You have completely forgotten about Stephen Fleming,one of the most elegant lefthanders of his generation.

  • HundredPercentBarcelonista on March 9, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    Can't believe you think Sangakkara is innocent of elegance. He's the most elegant left-hand batsman in the world right now.

  • perfectstranger on March 9, 2009, 4:19 GMT

    i agree with richierichie, Saeed Anwar was on of the classy left handed openers. He was elegant and fluent at the same time. What a shame Suresh that you dint even consider him. useless article really!

  • akafen1985 on March 9, 2009, 4:19 GMT

    I'm surprised you mentioned Aamir Sohail in this article. Aamir Sohail was a good player but no where near Saeed Anwar who had the chance to be legendary. He wasn't a legendary player but from 1994 all the way up to 2000 he was way better than Aamir Sohail and he was elegant. After Mohammad Yousuf he had the best cover drive.

  • US_Indian on March 9, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    you are missing two stylists from the list, Saeed Anwar and Wasim Raja from Pakistan, and Rohan Kanhai, Lawrence Rowe.

  • KiwiRocker- on March 9, 2009, 4:29 GMT

    It is strange that there is no mention of Stephen Flemming and Saeed Anwar who happen to hold a world record for highest ODI score. I do agree thought that being left hander does not make you any more graceful however Lara just was a better batsman who won more matches and played with more grace and flow than Tendulkars of this world. What is use of grace and elegance anyway if you can not score runs. The most graceful batsman of all times was Zaheer Abbas, a real under rated legend who could square drive with amazing ability.

  • jokerbala on March 9, 2009, 4:36 GMT

    You got the non-elegant lefties list almost right but a class act like Sangakara does not belong there.Also,would Andy Flower make that list?He had tremendous touch and timing but I guess graceful would be too strong a word for him.

  • satifhasan on March 9, 2009, 5:00 GMT

    hi , you also missed the ODI record holder, Saeed Anwar