A 10-year old boy in a cricket coaching camp in Bangalore screams at his teammate who has just finished his batting stint at the nets: "Abe! Bottom hand loose rakh ... ball girega!" [which is Hindi for: "keep your bottom hand loose the next time and the ball will drop right down"].
It might help, at this point, to remind ourselves that for a right-handed batsman, the bottom hand is his (her) right hand).
It is no secret, at least since moving images of cricket matches moved into people's living rooms, which hand plays what role in executing what kind of shot. We still hear (or read) experts rave about the top-handed treat from Dravid or a bottom-handed bombardment by Tendulkar.
But, in a unique case of noise-pollution, the question seems to be relevant: what is it that really makes a batsman top-handed or bottom-handed? Or better still, what is it that makes a shot top-handed or bottom-handed?
It seems logical that the top hand should be the dominant one in a cover drive or a straight drive or an on drive. It also seems to be acceptable to assume that the pulls and cuts and hooks and flicks depend more on the bottom hand. So does it follow then that Rahul Dravid can be termed a top-handed batsman? Does it also mean that Adam Gilchrist is a bottom-handed batsman?
Are you thinking ... yes, of course!
How about we toss in another variable ... the position of the batsman's hands on the bat handle (or grip)? If Sachin Tendulkar holds the bat way down and close to the blade on handle, does that make him a bottom-handed batsman? Also, if Adam Gilchrist holds the bat near the top edge of his handle [and hence, grip] should he be called a top-handed batsman?
You have the likes of Virender Sehwag who is as easy on the brain in this regard as he is on the eye when he bats. Simplicity seems to permeate through all aspects of his batting because he holds the bat towards the bottom of the handle and prefers to play strokes which also primarily use the bottom hand.
But then, you also have a batsman who loves to play cuts and pulls which are bottom-handed strokes but whose grip on his bat is top-handed, namely Adam Gilchrist. In fact, he went so far as to use a squash ball inside the glove of his bottom hand to motor his World Cup Final winning knock in Barbados in 2007.
Sachin Tendulkar, who executes flawless drives which are top-handed shots does so while his grip itself is bottom-handed, as agreed on by.
- Viru: outright bottom-handed batsman.
- Gilly: ??
- Paaji: ??
Is there a case for brevity here?
Well, let us see. What are the facts of the case?
- Certain strokes use the top hand more and certain use the bottom hand.
- Certain players hold the bat at the top or the handle and yet others at the bottom.
Of these, the one fact that actually warrants the classification of batsmen as top- or bottom-handed is where they hold the bat. Using the type of strokes to do so requires an additional step: the assumption that a batsman "prefers" or "enjoys" certain types of strokes and that makes it ambiguous at best.
And then there's David Gower who thinks what we widely considered to be a right-handed should really be called left-handed!
It is one thing to try and be an ambidextrous batsman ... quite another to be an ambiguous one!
Other oft-used cricket terms whose excessive usage has led to more confusion than clarity include:
a good length delivery and reverse swing.
One of these days ...