Cricketers who bat the “wrong” way – with their dominant hand at the top instead of the bottom of the handle – have a winning advantage, research has shown.
Batsmen who overcome their right or left-handed preference and adopt a reversed stance are far more likely to reach the top level of their sport, it is claimed.
In fact, professionals are seven times more likely to play this way than amateurs.
Professor Peter Allen, from Anglia Ruskin University, who led the study of 136 cricketers with a wide range of abilities, said: “The ‘conventional’ way of holding a cricket bat, with the dominant hand on the bottom of the handle, has remained basically unchanged since the invention of the game and is modelled on the stance used for other bi-manual hitting tasks.
“For instance, the first MCC coaching manual instructs batters to pick up a bat in the same manner they would pick up an axe.
“While that might be beneficial for beginners, switching to a reversed stance gives elite players a technical and visual benefit.”
He explained that the top hand is typically responsible for controlling and guiding the path of the bat when striking out at the ball – so ideally the most dexterous hand should be assigned this role.
Secondly, a reversed stance increased the chances of the dominant eye being the “front” eye in a side-on activity such as batting, said Prof Allen. People tended to rely on input from their dominant eye.
Right-handed international cricketers who have used a left-handed stance when batting include Brian Lara, Clive Lloyd, David Gower, Adam Gilchrist, Alistair Cook and Justin Langer.
The over-representation of top-level reverse-stance batsmen can be seen in the ICC T20 World Cup currently taking place in India, said the professor. England’s Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and Liam Dawson all batted the “wrong” way.
Prof Allen added: “We have limited our study to cricket, but the results may apply to other sports. In golf, three of the four men to have won a major playing left handed were right-hand dominant, while other legendary golfers, such as Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, were left-hand dominant but played right handed.
“In many cases using a reversed stance has happened by chance. Golfer Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner, is right handed but learned to play left handed to mirror his father’s right-handed swing.
“Michael Hussey, one of Australia’s finest cricketers, is right-hand dominant but learned to bat left handed to emulate his childhood idol, Allan Border.
“In cricket, by adopting the conventional stance, batsmen may have been unintentionally taught to bat ‘back-to-front’ and might not have maximised their full potential in the game.”
The research is reported in the journal Sports Medicine.