Edgbaston Diary: Why left-handers are taking over the world

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The seriously sinister developments in the world of Test batsmanship continue unabated. Everywhere you look there are left-handers. At this rate it may not be robots that take over the world.

The seriously sinister developments in the world of Test batsmanship continue unabated. Everywhere you look there are left-handers. At this rate it may not be robots that take over the world.

Take the Edgbaston Test match. Of the 22 players on parade, no fewer than nine, as at Lord's for the First Test, are left-handed batsmen. England indeed replaced one left-hander, Simon Jones, for another, James Anderson, although that was for bowling reasons. Had Mark Butcher not succumbed to injury there would have been another.

This merely confirms a phenomenon. Of the top 20 batsmen in the PWC world ratings, eight bat left-handed. Of the next 10, eight are left-handers. So, more than half of the present top 30 batsmen in the world are left-handed. This is slightly misleading because most of them are also right-handed in the accepted sense of the word - they bowl and write with their right hands.

But it is still a remarkable growth. One hundred years ago only three of the top 30 batsmen were left-handers. although one of them, Clem Hill of Australia, was top.

It did not change much over the succeeding decades. By 1934 the only significant left-handers were Maurice Leyland and Eddie Paynter. The Fifties saw the first signs of creeping left-handedness, with the advent of Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Bert Sutcliffe and, above all, Garry Sobers.

In the past 10 years the ranks throughout the order have swelled beyond comparison with previous generations. "There is no definitive explanation for this," said Will Taborn, manager of the Anything Left-Handed business, who confessed to be surprised by the burgeoning number of lefties. "But it could be that batsmen or their coaches have worked over the years to give them an advantage, because they are attacking the ball from a different angle and bowlers are used to bowling at right-handed batsmen."

However, there has been no corresponding increase in left-arm bowlers. There are five in the top 20 at present - three seamers and two spinners, including dear old Ashley Giles, who is now 19th. But in 1904 there were six left-armers in the top 20, split evenly between spinners and seamers with Wilfred Rhodes at No 2.

"That would seem to be the answer for the further development of the game," said Taborn. "To counter the left-handed batsmen, more left-handed bowlers coming from a different area are needed."

Age-old problem raises its head

With a fine sense of tradition, the Cricket Writers' Club have rejected a suggestion that they should change the rules governing their prestigious Young Cricketer of the Year award. Some members felt that the ceiling of being aged 23 in May of the season in question was too young.

This is probably because of the present dearth of in-form and eligible players. These things are cyclical. It is certainly not because the under-23s are being held up by what it has become fashionable to call bedblockers (by European Union passport holders perhaps, but that is another story).

Ten years ago in this Diary it was reported that the older professional was threatened. In 1994, there were seven players of over 40 plying their trade, including the current chairman of the England selectors, David Graveney. But in 1954 there had been 22, in 1964 17, and in 1974 a mere 12.

Now there is just one, and when Peter Bowler, the dauntless Somerset batsman, calls it a day in September there will be none.

Russell's glove affair finally over

There would have been two over-40s this summer had Jack Russell's back not finally given out. Having announced his professional retirement two weeks ago, the great wicketkeeper has now formally quit his trade at any level. He donned the scruffy white hat and lovingly repaired gloves for the last time in a benefit match early last week. He will not keep wicket ever again.

"I might play the odd benefit or exhibition match and bat or bowl, but that's it for keeping," he said. "No more." But he will not be burning the equipment, perhaps just in case.

Blofeld does his bit for fairer sex

Channel 4's effervescent Test match coverage has reverted to an all-male cabal. Clare Connor, the England women's captain, who was a regular contributor last summer, is no longer commentating, and has been sidelined to the Saturday magazine show.

Test Match Special is similarly short of women's voices, save for Eleanor Oldroyd as the occasional ground reporter. Given what has happened in all other broadcast sports, this cannot last. The search continues, though our own dear Henry Blofeld maybe went slightly too far in trying to introduce females to the game when he announced on TMS, as the West Indian bowler, Jermaine Lawson came in, that Germaine Greer was on his way.

Ashton a victim of team ambition

The fight to save the job of the popular and alert England team analyst, Malcolm Ashton, has been lost. He was first told last winter of his sacking at the end of this season, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, and representations on his behalf have failed. His job will now be performed by an extra coach. It puts paid to any notion that nothing is too good for England in their bid to become the world's top side by 2007.