London - Cricketers who face up the 'wrong way round' are seven times more likely to become professional batsmen, according to a new study published in the journal Sports Medicine on Wednesday.
Young players have traditionally been told to place their dominant hand lower down the blade, with the result that natural right-handers have their weaker left hand on top.
But given that in batting the top hand should guide and control the path of the bat to hit the ball, there has long been an anecdotal belief that it is an advantage for the hand with the greatest dexterity to perform this role.
The study found that cricketers adopting a reversed stance (right-handers batting left-handed, and vice versa) are far more likely to reach first-class and international level.
Indeed, the study said "professional batsmen are seven times more likely to use a reversed stance than amateurs".
The study tested 136 cricketers, ranging from international and first-class standard to amateur, and examined their hand and eye dominance.
As well as the technical advantage of having the dominant hand on top, there was a visual benefit, too.
The study found that as hand and eye dominance are matched in approximately two thirds of cases, using the reversed stance increases the likelihood that the dominant eye is the 'front' eye in a side-on activity like batting, allowing an unobstructed view of the ball.
Co-author Peter Allen, Professor of Optometry and Visual Science at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, eastern England, said: "The 'conventional' way of holding a cricket bat, with the dominant hand on the bottom of the handle, has remained basically unchanged since the invention of the game and is modelled on the stance used for other bimanual (two-handed) hitting tasks.
"For instance, the first MCC coaching manual instructs batters to pick up a bat in the same manner they would pick up an axe.
"While that might be beneficial for beginners, switching to a reversed stance gives elite players a technical and visual benefit."
He added: "By adopting the conventional stance, batsmen may have been unintentionally taught to bat 'back to front' and might not have maximised their full potential in the game."
Some of the world's leading batsmen of recent times have used a reversed stance, including Clive Lloyd, David Gower, Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden and current England pair Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes.
In a telephone interview with AFP, Professor Allen said the research had come about by chance.
"David Mann, one of the other co-authors, was doing some separate work with Cricket Australia when he noticed that players who batted one way were throwing the ball another," he explained.
There has long been anecdotal speculation that left-handed batsmen have a 'natural' advantage over their right-handed counterparts.
"But the advantage of being a left-hander who bats left-handed is significantly outweighed by that gained by a batsman who adopts a reversed stance," said Professor Allen.
An example cited by the study was that of Australia's Michael Hussey, a right-hander who learnt to bat left-handed so he could emulate childhood hero Allan Border.
Professor Allen added: "We have limited our study to cricket, but the results may apply to other sports.
"In golf, three of the four men to have won a major playing left-handed were right-hand dominant, while other legendary golfers, such as Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, were left-hand dominant but played, right-handed."