The evolving skills of batting
The much-maligned and occasionally arcane current Director of Cricket for New Zealand, John Buchanan, made an observation years ago that has been gyrating around my brain since I returned from Australia.
The reason being is that in my travels I witnessed many younger players adopting a similar mindset to his earlier thinking while training. The majority of the time these players were merely experimenting but the thought process is definitely expanding and a seed has been sown.
Buchanan made an observation back in 2003 while coaching Australia. “One of the things on the drawing board back home is a think-tank about how the game is played and how we can play it differently. I believe we'll have players, hopefully by the next World Cup, who can use both sides of their body, so if they're a left-hander hopefully they'll be able to use the right side of their body and vice versa," explained Buchanan.
There is no doubt that Kevin Pietersen has expanded this debate with his successful implementation of the switch-hit but the premier exponent is one of the guys I saw training diligently at the art. The pureness and power that David Warner exhibits when employing his switch-hit is quite extraordinary, but upon closer investigation it should not be such a surprise. Warner has a rare gift in the fact that he is basically ambidextrous. He can bat both sides and also bowl both left and right-armed. Obviously his left-sided style is the more proficient but it sure adds an interesting dynamic that clearly explains his brutality when switching body position.
As a youngster, at the behest of a coach, he actually batted the entire season successfully as a right-handed junior cricketer, only to revert to his more acclaimed style due to what he felt was a power void. He plays golf right-handed and has publicly claimed that it is easier now for him to hit the ball longer when adopting a right-handed stance than left. His skill is a mini sporting marvel but he is not alone.
Switch-hitting in baseball is an efficient adopted practice and in 2012 seventy five players on major league rosters were listed as switch-hitters which represented ten per cent of the MLB player roster. Michael Hussey swapped as a youngster to bat left-handed to emulate his hero, Allan Border. At age four Rafael Nadal changed from a right-handed tennis player to a leftie on his coach’s instructions. Closer to home the other Peterson, Robin, has always practiced throwing right-handed and these days is fairly proficient. Golfers obviously need to possess some aptitude for switching stance and footballers and rugby players are left behind if they are only one-sided players.
Almost ten years ago Buchanan stunned countless with his comments and many wrote him off as a bit of a loony.
Where will his suggestion be in the world of cricket in another ten years?