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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014
The hands that rock the hapless bowlers
Nilankur Das, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 25, 2013
First Published: 00:20 IST(25/4/2013)
Last Updated: 01:29 IST(25/4/2013)

Ever thought why batsmen, especially in the T20 era, sometimes shadow with two bats together using only their top hand? The idea is to make the bat feel lighter once they walk into the middle when the team is in need of quick runs.

Batsmen hold the bat with the top hand which is generally the weaker hand - a right-handed batsman holds the bat with his left and vice-versa - and the bottom hand provides the power. Now what if a batsman has power in both hands? Research in baseball shows that with both strong hands, a batter stood to generate at least 15-20% more bat speed than a regular one.

Think of say Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly, or even Rafael Nadal. The common factor is that all of them have made a switch so that they have two 'strong' hands gripping the bat.

Switching Hands
Tendulkar, a left-hander when signing autographs, bats right-handed. Sourav is a right-hander but bats left-handed. Nadal is a right-hander but was told by his coach uncle Toni to learn tennis left-handed as he thought it would give his nephew more power in his two-handed backhands and allow him to exploit the weaker (backhand) side of most opponents.

And guess what? Chris Gayle falls in this category too. He bowls and throws right-handed, but becomes a left-hander when batting.

The power in shots comes from bat speed and timing. So when these players who go out in the middle and use their stronger arm as the top hand, along with bat speed, the timing also becomes a lot more precise. This happens because the strong top hand makes the bat feel lighter and they can manoeuvre it till the last moment making adjustments look easy. No wonder they called Sourav the "God of the off-side".

Gayle is 6'3" and weighs 98kgs. He looks intimidating on a good day. And the switch is not the only thing that makes him the powerhouse he is. He uses his height well.

Forcing Changes
Most other batsmen would have to stand outside the crease to get underneath the slightly short of length deliveries that bowlers prefer in the slam bang format. Just planting his right foot out Gayle gets under deliveries others would have to step out to reach. So bowlers switch to bowling either short or full. And that is when he unleashes his horizontal bat shots – pulls and hoicks over the on and lightning cuts through the off.

On top of that, ever since Gayle left Kolkata Knight Riders to join the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he consolidates as well. It's not just about hitting every ball hurled at him. He patiently waits for the loose ones. He is astute while picking the weakest bowler among the opposition and rips him apart, making up for his slow running between the wickets and the dot balls.

Pune Warriors tasted his rum punch. With devastation like this, teams will one day refuse to travel to Bangalore, the same ground where Brendon McCullum sparked off the inaugural domestic T20 league. Will the Board now ask curators to provide square turners at the Chinnaswamy to provide a level playing field?


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