In the first of three articles on sweeping spinners, I look at the hard sweep: The ‘normal’ sweep where the ball is hit out towards the square leg boundary along the ground.
Many commentators are very critical on the shot and its use in any format of the game.
This, in turn causes players and coaches to be very cautious with its use in training sessions and development programmes.
But used correctly it is a simple, effective shot that anyone can play well.
Andy Flower was one of the best sweepers that I have ever watched, played with or against. Andy used sweeps and reverse sweeps to great effect. Andy was very clear on when he used the sweep shot and when it became a viable option.
He always talks about using your straight batted shots first to score runs.
However, the hard sweep is an excellent option when:
- The pitch condition deteriorates and takes the straight batted scoring options out of play
- The match situation dictates the need for a boundary and the hard sweep is a practiced strength
- The field setting of the opposition captain blocks out straight batted scoring options
- You need to move a fielder to open up an easy scoring option/area
Can any of these excellent consideration points help you to make better decisions regarding spin play?
I was working with Michael Vaughan last week for Super Skills Travel in St Vincent. We coached children aged 5 - 15 to sweep and Michael demonstrated the technique which enabled him to dominate Shane Warne in the 2002/3 Ashes Series.
The key points were:
- Head and front shoulder lead the motion to the ball: often players over stride and lead the movement with the front foot causing problems later on in the shot.
- Hands and bat go high and wide to initiate the swing of the bat.
- Michael's head position is low to the ball (more control and power) and in advance of the front pad. This is crucial. It enables the hands and arms to fully extend to the ball and prevents the hands from getting tangled up against the pads. Many players find that they struggle to keep their heads in advance of the front knee. Often this is due to the back knee being in contact with the ground and therefore, pulls the weight and head back. Ask the player to keep the back knee slightly off the ground through the downswing and contact as this will facilitate a more advanced head position in the shot.
- The bat swings from high and wide enabling Michael to hit down on the ball and to counteract any extremes in bounce from the pitch (especially important if the player is sweeping out of rough patches on the pitch).
- The head position remains still way after the ball has been struck. Many players miss the ball as they move their eyes and head to the direction that they intend to hit the ball. Michael’s demonstration and our coaching tips ensured that the players kept their head still through and beyond the contact area.
The upshot was that the young players were able to use the shot to great effect in our games and most importantly in the match against the parents at the end of our coaching week.