And before you know it …

This is how it started. I read somewhere that John Buchanan wanted to develop ambidextrous cricketers. Seriously. Look here and here.

And sometimes you come across something so incredibly out of the ordinary that you wonder if its actually just something you hadn’t thought hard enough about. So i read up cursorily about it.

And as with most things that I do, I lost my way with the first/next funny/bizarre sort of way that I found. And it ended up with the post about potty.

John over at his wonderful blog then saw the post & wrote about it. By then, any hopes of my having discussions on the concept of developing cricketers into honing ambidextrous skills were way out of the window.

Curiously though, from somewhere in the comments on that post on John’s site came a reference to this article by Peter Roebuck.

Elsewhere, I stumbled upon this old interview of Greg Chappell’s – where towards the end is his view on ambidextrous players as well.

Somewhere I’ll try and pull out an extract from the Waugh book on Buchanan’s ideas, but basically, I’m curious.

Once we let the initial cynicism go, is it an even workable concept? What do you think ?

30 thoughts on “And before you know it …

  1. Sfx,

    As a concept, it is wonderful. But is it workable? No.

    As kids, when playing galli cricket, the rule for the “better” players used to be that they bat and bowl the other way.

    Also, while fielding, with the “one bounce one hand” rule, fielders had to catch with their non natural hand.

    The whole premise of this was to level the playing field.

    I have known of people who trained themselves to writing with their other hand. And they did quite well too.

    However, the quality. elegance and flair seen in notes written by their natural hand aren’t quite replicated with their un-natural hand.

    In baseball, the swing of the bat is not the same as in cricket. Also, the duration of the batsman’s “innings” is not the same.

    To sustain a level of play over a significant period of time with something that does not come naturally to you, is difficult.

    Even with ambidextrous people, there are certain tasks that they perform better with one arm versus the other.

    Having said all this, exceptions happen.. But they will remain just that – exceptions.

  2. Homer,

    I see your point but by looking at all round flexibility, maybe we’re aiming too high starting off.

    Reverse sweeps may not be the best example but people employing some form of ambidexterity (?) are pretty useful and not that easy to forget.
    There are more than a few guys out there that throw with more or less equal skill with both arms already. I guess thats the easy part and not called to test that often. I remember Sunny Gavaskar batting left handed in that 96 in that 1987 Bangalore 5th test agst Pak. I think Buchanan’s guinea was Ian Harvey – will try and read up how that went.

    Soccer’s days of exclusively left or right wingers are history.

    Cricket will move on as well but like you say, the skill sets are different. As the games get shorter tho- Twenty20 and the rest of it, innings getting shorter, the baseball analogy may not be so much off base …

  3. sure..

    If the time frame in discussion is a ball or an over, every so often it is possible for the players to display ambidexterity – batting, bowling and fielding.

    However, sustained application of non natural skills is where we get onto a slippery slope.

  4. Yup …

    Issue with that slippery slope is , that the slope must have seemed slippery for a 434 to be chased down in 50 a few years ago when a guy batted 36 not out in 60 …

    or as skills go, there are skills out there today that were unthinkable twenty years ago. Some of them are even considered indispensable…

  5. Sfx,

    But the 434 has to be put in context..Heavy bats, fast outfield, small boundaries, belter of a wicket.

    So, if a context is provided for ambidexterity, sure it will thrive.

    But will that entail a fundamental change in the laws of the game – u bet.

  6. for ambidexterity to become part and parcel (i dont think it will) , a fundamental change in law is a must of course, Homer.

    I just think that Buchanan’s idea of imparting it as an ‘additional’ coaching skill is out-of-the-box maybe, but its clever and shows a guy that tries to maximise.

  7. Sfx,

    It is an idea, and like with all ideas, valuable in a defined context.

    That said, it is not an universal thought, one that will flourish in any context.

    But it is not one that can be dismissed out of hand either.

    ( let me see if I can convince my galli team to try it out during a full on game πŸ™‚ and lets see the response and the rule changes, if any)

  8. Cheers Homer

    Let me know.

    I’ll teach my 5 year old daughter to sign her autograph with right and left hand like that 34 year youngster as well …

    lets compare notes a few sunshines later

  9. Why not try ‘Shaolin cricket’? This is out of box I think..
    For the uninitiated watch the movie ‘Shaolin soccer’

  10. The entire discussion to me seems like “Future Shock”, “The Third Wave” rolled in to one. Are we talking about the same game here?
    As a game, it has already started to become boring. With all the BIG hitters coming down the pitch, mishitting the ball for a six outside the stadium. Well Hayden might be very effective but not very watchable is he?
    Cricket is going the Tennis Way.. and that’s not a good sign for me. The equipment is taking over folks!!!
    Buchanan may be ahead of his times. Toffler was ahead of his time AND STILL IS.

    P.S. Cricket ratings in 2011
    Top 10 Batters
    1. Michael Hayden (L)
    2. Ricky Ponting (R)
    3. Michael Hayden (R)
    4. Ricky Ponting (L)

  11. Sfx,

    What was that about markets and self correction?

    Tennis is getting more and more a power game – true..And that should explain Andy Roddick and Raphael Nadal and all the rest.

    So how does one explain Roger Federer?

    BTW, the “lets plan the wrong handed way” experiment came to naught. If people weren’t convinced already that I was barmy, that particular request sealed the deal. πŸ™‚

    However, and this is the good part, I tried batting the other way and what was interesting was – in addition to a different perspective ( watching the ball), I found that despite my initial impulse remaining the same ( forward or back), my weight transfer was not quite there.

    So, if my initial impulse was forward and across batting naturally, I found myself pinned on the back foot and across when batting the other way.

    So, whereas my initial movement batting the natural way got me parallel to the ball, batting the other way got me more perpendicular.

    In effect, square of the wicket shots ( cutting, hooking, pulling) were now the range instead of front of the wicket (driving).

    Of course, there was no power in the strokes, but funnily enough, I was able to get the bat in a lot more angles and the range was wider than I would have, batting naturally. ( Peter Roebuck was onto something in that article πŸ™‚ )

    eg – square driving in the arc between point and square third man with the bat vertical and the bat face parallel to the ball just before impact.

  12. Mrng folks …

    Anon – Thanks for the comments.
    “Future Shock” and “Toffler” – And Power Hitting…. hmm. I’m not sure the parallels are quite correct but even so, I’m not advocating them. I’m just saying that they MIGHT happen. And when Twenty20 gets boring (they have Britney Spears singing songs on the speakers between overs), and we look for new ways to innovate, ambidextrous cricketers may be just one of those things.


    You’re a superhero. You tested this out already ?!
    Ask your coach to apply for the India job !

  13. Homer,

    Was just going back to your parallel v perpendicular description. I assume you’re right handed naturally?

    You think we cud ask someone to do a stat of the %age of runs that left handers v right handers score in the “V” as opposed to square?

    Don’t ask me where to start or what sample to use . But somehow when I think Lara, Gower, Ganguly -square of the wicket is the image that pops up in the head ..

  14. Sfx,

    A better test would be to identify the scoring areas of naturally right handed batsmen who changed to batting left handed ( Mike Hussey, Saurav Ganguly) and their percentage of runs on the on and off side.

    I would imagine naturally left handed batsmen like Lara and Gower would have a greater balance in their run scoring areas as compared to the “converted” batsmen.

    Of course the skew will be towards the off side, only because a significant portion of the bowlers are right handed and their target areas would be on or around the left handers off stump ( the bowling angle would skew the numbers to the off side).

  15. And thats going to get me back on the tangent about why we dont have a left handed batter at the top of the order unlike every other top team. Including but not limited to Ireland !!!

  16. Homer, there is ONLY one Federer.. Do you really watch Tennis these days? Say a Roddick v/s Nadal match.Sfx, my take was not on power hitting but on ambidexerity. I wanted to make a point that Toffler too spoke of fantastic things to happen in 20 years. Well most of those things are still in the ‘fantastic’ zone. That was where the comparison with Buchanan’s ideas came from.

  17. Anonymous,

    Actually I do πŸ™‚ and it is interesting that an era of power hitters has space for a Federer. And that is the beauty of the whole thing – there will always be some auto correction somewhere that will level the playing field.

  18. Homer,
    Autocorrection is fine but when the BSE rose from 5k to 7 k some autocorrection to 6k did happen.. But where’s the BSE today.. Autocorrections don’t revrse a trend -)

  19. But Anonymous, is the trend sustainable? What if the ICC mandates tomorrow that the ground sizes across the cricket playing world should be 170 metres in diameter?

    The ICC is already pushing for standardizing the pitches, so what stops them from such a move?

    And what if the ICC mandates for the bats to be no thicker than “x” inches and that all bats must be pressed and finished before they can be used on the field of play?

    How sustainable will the current trend be then?

    Also, the ICC Champions Trophy lies in stark contrast to the run fest that was the World Cup.

    Trends can sustain themselves if a conducive environment is available.

  20. Toffler and Future Shock had my antenna up.
    But a BSE sensex reference was the bit that turned the litmus from red to blue – Anon is Rahul !

    Stop being lazy, buddy !!!!!

    And we’re back to the ICC …

    But think about it, John Buchanan says he wants to stay associated with cricket – and he thinks of stuff like this .. the mind boggles ..

    ‘squash balls in gloves’ is all we’ve seen.

    Even if I jumble those words around for a start …..

  21. I hope that the trend can be reversed.. But ICC isn’t exactly very dependable in matters like these. What happened to Ricky Ponting’s (in)famous bat? Never heard of it later. I am pretty sure he still uses it. There was this rare discussion (it actually was a discussion as in exchange of thoughts, opinions, views etc) on extraa innings where Ian and Tony came up with a few suggestions on bringing the balance back to the game.
    Even Ricky Ponting talked about the Power players taking over in the future as against shorter guys like ST, BL and himself.. Talking of modesty, he wins hands down.. but thats digressing from the topic. The only way that countries can neutralise this kind of batting is by encouraging more bowlers to be DIFFERENT -)
    ICC doesn’t have the guts to call anybody a chucker. So be it. This is a bit of a cynic’s view but look at ICC’s inaction. It might take another 10 years for them to come up with anything concrete. Till then, let the natural (?) deficiencies be cultivated

  22. And Homer –

    Sorry, forgot to answer the query on the left hander at the top of the order …

    Think we’ve had this discussion before. Not a left hander for the sake of it, but like I said, we’re teh only one that does not have it. Besides the fact that we keep chopping and changing the opening combination and consider for instance Dinesh K a specialist opener, we’ve tried it all.

    Every country has a decent enough opening combo and it has at least one , and in some cases two left handers. It forces a change in line. (Two left handed batters is still, more often than not, a change a line to most bowlers). We don’t have either a decent opening combo or a decent opening left handed bat at the top the order. In the ODI game we did, and it showed…

  23. Sfx,

    The best two guys equipped to open in the country and fitting into the teams overall game plan should open.

    So, if against BD we want to hurt them and hurt them big, Gautam Gambhir opens with Virender Sehwag.

    Against Oz, where I would like the team to blunt the initial Aussie assault and take the sting off, Akash Chopra opens with Wasim Jaffer.

    And against Pak say, we want a steady opener with a dasher and because Md. Asif and Umar Gul are slightly iffy bowling to left armers ( ditto Kaneria), I would open with Gambhir and Jaffer.

    At the end of the day, it is all about match ups – which of our guys are best equipped to take on your guys.

  24. Homer,

    “Which of our guys is best equipped to take on your guys”. Now how does one argue a statement like that?:)

    Thats the contra of every directive that the working committee gives the selection committee !!

    Anyway, the left handed guy in the top three is a pet theory of mine and since it hasn’t been really put to the test yet, I’ll stick with it πŸ™‚

  25. Sfx,

    Not necessarily.

    What the Working committee directive does is to shrink the pool, but again, the Working committee directive is not binding,

    If our matchups are outside of the WC ( Working Committee) pool, then thats where we must go.

    PS: – Funny that acronyms synonymous with disaster are inevitably the same πŸ™‚

    Happy Monday !

  26. Happy Monday too Homer …

    Its amazing how many acronyms with similar connotations fit that lot now that you say it πŸ™‚

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