'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Elegant Left-Hander

One often hears how just being left-handed makes a batsman more elegant and pleasing to watch. The Laras, the Gowers, the Gangulys... the list of elegant southpaws goes on and on (Shiv Chanderpaul is often mentioned as an exception). This association between being left handed and being stylish is often extended to other games as well, although not to the same extent.

An explanation I have heard is: "As one watches a left handed batsman play, we naturally get to see more of the sweep of the bat, giving the strokes a fuller visual flourish." To be honest, I do not understand this argument at all; I have never quite felt I could see *more* of a leftie's coverdrive!

I have some thoughts on this matter though: Whenever I write something in English (a rather rare event these days), I hold the paper up against a source of light and see what I have written from the other (blank) side of the paper. My cursive handwriting is strictly mediocre but after 'left-inversion', it looks graceful and even beautiful. Of course, the inverted script is *not* really readable but it looks distinctly more attractive. For example, the tilts of letters is hardly consistent in my normal running hand, but from the other side, the slight mismatches in their angular orientation do not show up as much.

It appears that lack of parallelism in a group of (nearly parallel) lines is more apparent to (right handed?) human perception when they are rising lines (going from left bottom to right top, as the normal cursive English script) than when they are falling lines - and the falling angle is 'natural' to a left-hander (when a right-handed artist shades a pencil drawing, the shading lines rise whereas for a left-handed artist, they fall). My guess is: some related feature/limitation of our visual perception might have made us *less sensitive* to possible aesthetic drawbacks in a left-handed batsman's strokes, especially the cover-drive.

Well the above was just some speculation. Let me conclude with a 'left handed' quote, an amazingly lyrical bit of imagery from Omar Khaiyam's Rubaiyat in the Fitzgerald translation:

"Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry.""

Note: Watched the video recording of an old Ganguly innings on the box. He kept feathering boundaries thru the offside cordon. The ball, after it would neatly thread the inner ring, actually would seem to *accelerate* in the outfield - and accelerate just enough to stay out of the chasing fieldsmen's reach (while keeping the fieldsman interested all the way to the fence).

As for other sports, I do think Roger Federer's tennis would have looked even more smooth and languid if he were left handed. And yes, even as things are, his game is a far more pleasing spectacle then (left handed) Nadal's crunching, muscle and bustle show.


  • At 7:16 AM, Blogger Ottayan said…

    Left handed batsmen were a rarity and hence their batting was graceful. Now even India has quiet a few.Thats why we dont have the same sense of grace.

    For example, Saurav's offside strokes are divine whereas his onside strokes are crass.

  • At 8:30 PM, Blogger Karthik said…

    Do you have any explanation as to why some people are left-handed while batting, writing etc? Is there any specific reason? I heard that the Australian Cricket Academy is thinking on the next skill level at cricket..ambidexterity..Nice Post! :-)

  • At 2:10 AM, Blogger enu said…

    That brings the question -- Would right handed batsmen look good , watching them a mirror? Or would Ganguly look good watching him play his strokes in a mirror? Not sure.

    But I definitely find myself looking better in my mirror image. My sense of my own ugliness disappears in the mirror.

  • At 5:56 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks ottayan for visiting. i am not sure if the apparent elegance of the lefthander is only (or even primarily) due to their being a minority. of course, i fully agree, sourav's offside play is divine.

    thanks karthik. given the professionalism and thoroughness with which the aussies approach any sport, guess we will soon have a team from there full of who can bat and bowl with either hand! that could take the game to the next level.

    thanks enu. i just got this vague feeling that one key ingredient in the sourav cover drive is the top left to bottom right sweep of his bat (as it appears on the tv) - the dravids and sachins of the world can keep waving the `wrong' way for aeons and they cannot look half as good, although they may well score more runs! and guess you ought to give yourself better scores for physical appearance - given your tough, sinewy constitution - something half the world would probably kill for!


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