Of the many exciting things about Shikhar Dhawan's debut Test century against Australia, his reverse sweeping was a fascinating study of modern batting.
What can we learn from the Delhi Daredevil?
On the surface, it appears arrogant to reverse sweep in a Test. Coaches will tell you that cricket is supposed to be played with a straight bat. Youngsters playing it in nets are told to play "properly".
But Dhawan, and many of his peers, have made the reverse sweep a proper shot in all formats and at all levels.
The naysayers will argue that players like Dhawan and Pietersen are rare talents. They can pull of this kind of shot because they can hit the ball even when the shot is tricky to pull off.
And that's why you should be careful about the shot. The reverse sweep is tricky and is more likely to get you a single than a boundary.
If you don't do it well you look a lot more foolish getting bowled than if you nick off driving the spinner.
All about timing
The fact is that Dhawan is not able to reverse sweep because of a God-given skill. He has worked hard and knows the shot is all about the two types of timing:
- When to play a reverse sweep
- Making contact through a lot of practice
The reverse sweep is a very specific shot for a very specific situation. The spinner is on and bowling accurately. You need to rotate. There is a gap behind square on the off side.
If there is no gap, why would you play it?
If the bowler is feeding you 2 bad balls an over to drive or pull or cut, why would you play it?
But - most importantly - you are as confident as Dharwan you have the better of the spinner. Maybe he is not turning it much, maybe his pace is comfortable for you. Only you can know when it feels right to embarrass him.
Embarrassing the spinner
For the spinner will be mortified if you reverse sweep him. Look how little respect the Australian spinners had during that Test; in no small part down to Dharwan impudence.
Now translate that to your level. People would be up in arms!
It's certainly tempting.
Yet you also know how much practice the shot needs to make regular contact. And with limited practice time available at your level, is your time better spent on shots that get you more runs at a lower risk?
The answer to that is that; it depends.
Maybe you have an impetuous personality combined with an aggressive style that means you will probably end up trying it one way or another.
Then you need to spend some time on it in the nets. You also must love destroying spinners!
Maybe you often find yourself in a situation where the shot is handy tactically (see above). In which case, it's a legitimate shot for strike rotation, and therefore should be tried in nets.
What I'm saying it simple; work out if you need it or not. It's legitimate these days, but that doesn't mean it's essential.
For Dhawan, it defined his play against spin. It could well do the same for you. If you are mindful.
And speaking of being mindful, one way to work out if the shot is for you, or something else would be better, is to work through the online coaching course Shot Selection from ODI hero Michael Bevan.
Reverse sweep technique
OK so let's say you have decided to give it a try.
Then you need to get to nets and give it a go. See how good you are naturally, then work it into your technical practice.
It's also worth grooving the shot if you find it needs a lot of technical work. And remember, wear a helmet, the sweep is a risk shot for the face.