Blake Dean is a cricketer with a special ability — and he thinks there are more out there with it, that do not even know it.
He has trained himself to bat, bowl, catch and throw almost equally well with both his left and right hand.
But that is not the unusual part.
What has opposing teams and umpires perplexed is when Dean swaps hands mid-game, or even mid-over.
The former Big Bash cricketer has introduced his unique style in Canberra’s first-grade cricket competition — and admits the reception was not all positive.
“I don’t think the reaction was great at the start, I think everyone thought I was taking the mickey a little bit,” he said.
Dean has set out to prove the ambidextrous style can work in top-level cricket and even wants to take it all the way to the Big Bash.
From a broken shoulder comes a new passion
Dean cracked the Big Bash as a right-handed all-rounder — a player who bats and bowls — in 2013, but suffered a potentially career-ending broken shoulder.
He decided to turn the injury into opportunity.
“The idea was to start playing left-handed from scratch, and sort of see how far I’d get with cricket,” he said.
He got stuck into retraining himself as a cricketer and started at the very bottom in lower-grade cricket in Canberra.
“Last year was a bit rough, having to start all over again and work my way up through the grades,” he said.
“I’ve been playing cricket in Canberra for about 10 years now, and to go back to second grade, third grade and work my way back — that was an interesting feeling.”
As his shoulder recovered, he began experimenting — bowling left or right-handed, or batting left or right-handed, wherever and whenever it suited him during a match.
His aim is to eventually get it into the cricketing mainstream.
“Like baseball — where you can choose which side you can bat on, choose which side you want to bowl on which best suits you in the game,” he said.
This season Dean has helped guide his club, Weston Creek Molonglo, to a Twenty20 grand final.
His team’s captain, John Rogers, said it had caused opposition sides plenty of confusion.
“I feel for the captain that’s trying to set fields and determine where to bowl,” he said.
“It adds another element of confusion, in a game that is confusing at the best of times.
“It’s good to be on his side.”
A campaign to change and relaunch a career
Dean’s great hope is to break back into the Big Bash and demonstrate the ambidextrous style on a national stage.
“It takes hard work, and just because it’s a different style, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a success,” he said.
“But I think over time, I like to think I can get close.”
Documentary makers are capturing his progress and success for The Southpaw Project.
Dean said that either with or without him, change was coming to cricket.
“Whether it’s me, or whether it’s five years down the track with someone else, I think somewhere along the line there’s going to be bit of this ambidextrous cricket floating around,” he said.