Updated: Jan 31, 2022
We have all had moments where we learn from our experiences and then wish we could go back in time to make a new decision. Graeme Beghin is a professional cricketer who has seen over the years the benefits of batting left handed, “Yes I think being left-handed, or at least batting left handed in cricket is a cheat code and I would reinvent myself to go that way.”
So why is batting left handed such an advantage in cricket? It comes down to:
Some of the rules in cricket naturally favor a left-handed batter.
If you’re right handed, having your dominant hand at the top of the bat allows for more control, which can be a key strategy for controlling where the ball is hit.
There are more right-handers in the world, who therefore face fewer left handers in sport. These players are not used to the differences a left-handed athlete brings to the competition.
How Cricket Rules Favor Left-Handed Batters
Mr. Beghin says there are some rules in the game which benefit a left-handed batter, “Some of the dismissal rules, I guess the LBW rule in particular, make it quite difficult for a right-handed bowler to dismiss a left-handed batsman. In the same sense a left-handed bowler---particularly the left-arm orthodox spin bowler who can bowl the ball from around the wicket, turn the ball away from the right-hand batsman or if the ball doesn't turn, challenge the stumps and the LBW rule---you'll see a lot of those players being very successful.”
It’s technical as to how this rule may make it more difficult to dismiss a lefty batter, but Mr. Beghin says, “It has to do with the line of the ball when a right-handed bowler delivers the ball from over the wicket to a left-handed batter. To dismiss a lefty with LBW, the bowler needs to pitch the ball in line with the stumps. Anything pitching outside leg stump cannot be given LBW as per the rule, and one can see how a ball pitching outside off wouldn't be able to swing enough to bring the stumps into play.”
This video explains the LBW rule:
Reverse Is The Way Forward
While the LBW rule can favor left-handed batters, adopting a reverse stance has also proven beneficial in cricket. If a right-handed person places their non-dominant hand (left) on the bottom when holding a bat in the downward position, and their dominant (right) hand at the top of the handle, their stance will have their right foot closest to the bowler. They would be known as a left-handed batter, despite their right-hand dominance.
In cricket, just as in baseball, one of the ways a defensive team records an “out” is if the defender catches a ball struck by a batter before the ball touches the ground. A reverse stance with the dominant hand at the top of the handle allows for more control of where the ball is placed by the batter, whereas “If you are solely a power player,” says Mr. Beghin, “you do risk bringing fielders into the game a lot more.
“Cricket is unique in that we play the same game, but three different formats. We have Test match cricket, which is over a long period of time, over five days even in the international matches. Then we have the shortest format, 20 over cricket, which is probably the more exciting version people see on TV. It's a little bit more consumer friendly. T20 is developing as a power game, and it is probably similar to baseball whereas the longer format (Test match) is a lot more about control because you have to manage risk all the way through.”
Given the majority of the world’s population is right handed (10.6% are left handed), if most people strategize for the LBW rule as well as a more controlled batting efficiency by learning to play cricket with a reverse stance, you can quickly see how right it is to be left in this sport.
A 2016 study (Hand and Eye Dominance in Sport: Are Cricket Batters Taught to Bat Back-to-Front? published in Sports Medicine) suggests “adopting a reversed stance appears to offer a very significant advantage in becoming a professional batsman.” The study by Mann, D.L., Runswick, O.R. & Allen, P.M. also found “professional batsmen were seven times more likely to adopt a reversed stance than the inexperienced batsmen.”
When Should Players Reverse Their Stance
Mr. Beghin also coaches young athletes at his cricket academy in Auckland. He says, “With young players, a lot of it is just about feel. We do encourage kids in a game like cricket to just pick up a bat and swing what feels natural. We don't necessarily prescribe a certain way. At our academies we probably start to work with young players three or four years into their cricket development. As a six- or seven-year-old playing a sport like this, we're not going to get too technical. They're just developing basic coordination and enjoyment and some basic movement patterns. Only later do we start getting into the real technical side of things.
“Power is a combination of factors. A cricket bat has a sweet spot that you want to hit. So, the control factor never goes away. You must hit the ball in the middle of the bat to get the most efficient strike out of it.
“Their dominant hand is probably stronger, and we see them throw the bat around like an axe without the sort of technique or control. They are far less consistent. So, we have to manage that and teach them control over power at some point.”
Left handers have had to adjust to a right-handed world for many everyday tasks. So, makes sense to assume it may be easier for them to learn a reverse stance in cricket. “I think if I sort of had to put my money where my mouth is I would say it is potentially easier for a left-hand dominant person to learn how to play the game right handed,” says Mr. Beghin. “I say this because right-hand golf clubs, and right-hand (field) hockey sticks are out there a little bit more so they will come into contact with that sort of swing pattern and technique more often making it easier to repeat outside of the cricket season. I'm not sure it's the same the other way, however anyone who spends enough time practicing and becomes proficient in that movement will be fine.”
While Mr. Beghin points out his statements about being a left-handed batter in cricket are simply his opinion based on his years of experience, he does have studies and other facts to back up this theory. He adds left-handed batters are overrepresented in cricket, “Most teams these days will have left-handed batsmen, particularly at the top of the order. History also shows us there's been a huge number of highly successful professional left-handed batsmen.”
Brooks et al. (2004) found teams with approximately 50% of their batsmen being left handed performed better at the 2003 Cricket World Cup.
So, it’s safe to say that cricket is yet another sport where if you want to achieve success, playing left handed can be the correct way to go.
If you're not familiar with cricket, here’s a video from JomBoy Media that is targeted for a North American audience that might be more familiar with baseball: