Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The graceful left-hander

And speaking of left-handers, it has also been long said that they are so naturally graceful that it is rare to find an inelegant left-hander. But that, thanks to the all-seeing eye of television, has proved to be a myth. More on that in the next post perhaps.

Thus ended my previous post. Here’s the next one.

When I grew up listening to radio commentary and reading cricket magazines, left-handers were always a pleasure to watch at the batting crease. Neil Harvey was described as somewhat of a ballet dancer in flannels, David Gower was grace personified, and even Clive Lloyd, while characterized as strong, was referred to as Big Cat, and the feline reference connoted its own image. And while the odd right-hander was described as elegant (Gundappa Vishwanath was right up there in this department), most of them were either technically correct (like Sunil Gavaskar) or brutally powerful (like Sir Vivian Richards).

So has the demands of the modern game made left-handers more utilitarian and less elegant? Or is it thanks to (or may be not) the ruthless eye of television technology, the scales are coming off our eyes? We seem to have become Gulliver to the televised world of Brobdingnag, conscious of every little detail and deficiency in the players. And no one has suffered more than the left-hander.

The Dravids continue to me “immaculate in defence,” and the Pietersens march on, murdering opposition fast bowlers with their brute power. So who is the most elegant left-hander in the world today? Saurav Ganguly? Ever watched him handle a short ball aimed at the ribs? You still call him elegant? Matthew Hayden? As elegant as a pugilist in leotards. Sanath Jayasuriya? With a nickname like the Matara Marauder, what would you expect? Name anybody else, and chances are your lasting image is an ugly swipe or an ungainly poke. So is the elegant left-hander an urban myth? A creation of primitive cameras and imaginative radio commentators?

On what turned out to be a related note, I had this conversation with a fellow cricket-fan at my office late last week, and we were trying to identify the most inelegant batsmen we have seen in action. The top three names that came out were Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams, and Ejaz Ahmed – two left-handers in three. And Allan Border wasn’t far behind.

How television kills those pictures in our mind.

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