David Gower's perspective on left-handers

G. VISWANATH

"IT'S something of an illusion," said David Gower, to a question why left-handers seem to be more graceful. Gower was a successful and elegant left-hand batsman of the modern era. His batting gave joy to the fans and he was also a charming personality. He played strokes with such ease that even the bowler would not know that he had got the treatment. He is regarded now as one of the top commentators on television. He uses minimum words but makes his point.

Elaborating further on the above question Gower added. "The fact is that both (the right-handers and the left-handers) have been horribly misnamed because the left-hander is really a right-hander and the right-hander is really a left-hander, if you work out which hand is doing most of the work. So from my point of view, my right arm is my strongest and therefore it's the right hand, right eye and generally the right side which is doing all the work. So, if there is anything about this, then the left-handers, as such, should be called right-handers."

Furthermore he said: "It's the top hand which is doing all the work. It appears there's an illusion about this aspect too... they talk about left-handers having grace. Not all of them do. Though Allan Border was a wonderful player, he was short on grace.

"There are good left-handers, but not particularly graceful. But that's massive. The grace is an optional extra. If you look good while you are getting the runs, so much the better. If you look good, while you are getting out, well then it's a minor consolation. But at the end of it all, what you want is a good player because if you look at the history of the game there have been all sorts of world class right-handers and also left-handers.

"My heroes, when I was young were, Gary Sobers and Graeme Pollock... two very different styles, two mightily good batsmen to watch and two very effective batsmen and two of the world's greats in the history of the game," said Gower.

Here are Gower's comments on some of the left-handers: Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, the late Roy Fredericks, Brian Lara, Mark Taylor, Allan Border, Saeed Anwar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sourav Ganguly. He also talks about himself.

CLIVE LLOYD: The major image of him was the 1975 World Cup final. He's all power and timing. He's a big tall man and with big arms and the arc of the bat finished with a big follow through. And that loping gait of his! In a way he was an ungainly looking figure, because while batting those days he wore glasses. He pressed his glasses on his nose, put his cap on and destroyed the bowling. When he was playing then it was early days of one-day cricket.

But then, when we played against him over the next few years, for instance when we went to the Caribbean in 1981, he was captain and senior statesman. He scaled himself down the batting order, batting at No. 6 and he never got less than a 50. Whatever time we thought that we would get the West Indians out - it was really the Golden period of West Indies cricket of modern times - he (Lloyd) would come in and get a 50 or a hundred.

He had changed his style a bit then - six years after the 1975 Cup final - he wasn't hooking so much. Like all of us, when you get a bit older, you hook less. But he was still a good player. It took a lot to get him out.

He was a great fielder, too. In his early days, if you got anywhere within five yards of Clive Lloyd in the covers, the correct call was 'wait.' He had long legs, long reach and long arms. He was very athletic. One of the images I have of him is, when you did get it past him, there was a loping sprint after it, the pick up and throw, all in one go and in the air. Lloyd set standards as a batsman and Lloyd set standards as a fielder.

ALVIN KALLICHARRAN: Kalli was a smaller man, very nimble of feet. He was a beautiful timer of the ball. Kalli, like a lot of short men, was good on the hook, good on the cut and he was very well balanced. In a way it's an advantage being short, the centre of gravity is slightly lower, for what it's worth. He was an allround player and he made his runs in boundaries.

ROY FREDERICKS: Fredo, again... we have to go to Australia vs West Indies at Perth, where he took on the two of the quickest bowlers in the world, and also on one of the quickest pitches in the world, if not THE quickest pitches in the world. He cut and carved, he hooked them, drove them...and at the start of a Test match it would have been just exhilarating stuff. Fredo was one of the best hookers of all time. He was fearless. I think he had quite a hard head actually!

During his times, there was quick bowling in the Caribbean. And there was Lillee and Thomson in Australia. It was a period when there was a lot of genuine pace bowling. And at the moment I would not say that there is an awful lot of genuinely quick bowling around. There are slippery customers, but in that era there were lots of them. Fredo was brought up with that, both at home in the Caribbean and away and hence he was the best at fighting fire with fire.

BRIAN LARA: He is supremely talented. One of the naturally gifted players I have ever seen. He's awesome at a young age. I watched him getting 277 in Sydney. I was commentating there for Channel 9 at that time. It was just one of those games, you just watched... it was difficult to get your eye off the game. It was great stuff. Lara played superbly. Whatever they offered at him, he dealt with it by smashing them to the boundary.

Lara has the great ability to destroy attacks. He has got all the right things there... the high backlift allows him to start from the point of view that every ball could be a run scoring ball. Once you start with that backlift, you can play pretty much every shot, including the defensive shot, when necessary to defend.

I also saw the 375 in Antigua. It was a very good pitch. I had a sense, when he was 200 odd, that actually suggested he was going for it and that he was going to get it. It was extraordinary watching that final morning, when he needed another 30 or so. And there was a little bit of tension, because obviously it was a question of being so near, or will it be so far? Even the ball that he hit for four off a short delivery from Chris Lewis, he got so close to the stumps, that he very nearly trod on it as he was stroking it away to get to the record. It was an extraordinary scene to have Sobers there to congratulate him. It made a very poignant moment.

The only sad thing about Brian is that his form has been up and down. He has not been able to sustain that performance throughout his career. Any one who gets big scores like that must have a very special quality. That's what puts him among the top of the ranking, because he has gone to make those huge scores. In Sri Lanka (recently when he made 688 in three Tests) he was one batsmen out of the eleven who could make all those runs. That takes extraordinary mental strength. If your team is weak and everyone at the other end is getting out, to carry on almost in isolation, shows a lot of mental strength. All credit to him. I would put Lara above everyone, it's a close contest (with Tendulkar), but I will put Lara up there.

You can look at the best in the world and find faults, if you want to. I would not worry too much about it to be honest. Every one including Brian will have poor times. He had a poor time in Australia last winter when McGrath got him all the times pretty much. There are little weaknesses which as a bowler you would try and exploit, but if we have got a batsman like that, there will be times he will be good enough to cope with it and make a double hundred. What ever vulnerability there might be, it's only relatively minor.

The trick is to let the ball come to you. You will find that the best players hit the ball underneath their eyes. They watch the ball all the way. When you are playing well that little bit of extra confidence allows you to let the ball come the extra yard. By the time it comes to you, when you are in the right position, it's just pure timing and the ball does the work.

And from my own humble point of view when things were going well that's what I did, tucking it away to leg side and off side, being behind the ball, allowing the ball to come to you, see it all the way... it therefore gives you a better chance of hitting it of the middle of the bat. When you start to stretch for it, then it's not a good sign.

ALLAN BORDER: He was a very good batsman and a fine and wonderful player. He did not have much grace, he was the toughest among all and difficult to get out.

MARK TAYLOR: He played very well. Mark, without being rude to him at all, was less talented, than some of the people talked about. He had a very good attitude. He got himself in good positions. He concentrated hard to get the bat straight and proved to be a mighty fine player. There were tough times for him. When he came to England he could not get runs to start with.

Then he got a hundred at Birmingham and it got him going again. A few months later he was getting a triple century in Pakistan. It was interesting decision to declare when he was on 334 not out. He won a lot of friends by doing that. The current set of Australians appear to have a keen sense of history. That was a selfless thing to do. Full credit to him.

SAEED ANWAR & SANATH JAYASURIYA: Both are fluent players. They play some extraordinary shots. Saeed has a great eye, but he has a certain looseness to his technique. But he has such a good eye that on his day he times it perfectly and hits it so hard, especially through the off side... on the up through the off side. Technique-wise Saeed is vulnerable. But he has the capacity to score runs when it is his day. He is a vastly talented player, but I think he struggles to reproduce the form all the time. But as I said if it is his day, he is very hard to bowl at.

SOURAV GANGULY: He is not in the same class (compared to the above list). Sourav is a nice timer of the ball, but he is going through a bat patch now and he knows he has got some work to do. I would judge myself by my performances in Test match cricket. I judge all these players by Test cricket. Sourav has got something to prove now. You look at people over a period of time. You can have your ups and downs. So he can definitely come back to form in the next year. There is a lot of Test cricket next year in the West Indies and England. If he returns to form, then you can say. " Fine... he is a player... ups and downs here and there". We will have to wait and see.

GOWER ON GOWER: Well, the runs are good (He has scored over 8000 runs in Test cricket). I am happy with it. I look back with a mixture of pride and with a little feeling, that there were certainly days when I would say..no...no...that's bad. I enjoyed my career. If there is any regret, it could have been better. But that's me. So you are, what you are.