Coaching the Sweep: The Hard Sweep | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Coaching the Sweep: The Hard Sweep

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?

Sweep technique

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.

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Very helpful article, thanks! I always seem to play this shot badly, perhaps over-worrying about putting my head in line with the ball.

I was always taught that you only sweep balls that you can't get out lbw to: either balls going pitching outside legstump, or else missing the stumps. NEVER sweep a full ball, NEVER sweep a straight ball.

We were always told that to get out lbw when sweeping was the sign of a thoughtless batsman and we would be dropped. Even now, I only ever sweep if the ball is outside legstump.

So... what's with England's batsmen? Is this a deliberate tactic to ignore basic batting common sense? How many wickets have we lost due to sweeping straight balls? It feels like 50% of our dismissals.

I feel reasonably certain that 3 out of the last 4 (including today) defeats could have been averted with some better coaching as to which balls to sweep and which not to sweep. I could bowl the England team out at the moment.

Sweeping off the stumps is risky. That's fine if you are taking a calculated risk because the circumstances dictate it (as the article outlines).

But I agree, in England's situation there was no need to do it. As to why they are, well you will have to ask them!

In a one day match I can understand taking a calculated risk. But in a Test Match?

I could also understand it if it happened in one game, didn't work, and they said "hey boys, these sweeps to straight balls clearly aren't working, lets do something different".

But four test defeats on the trot later -all precipitated by obsessively sweeping at full straight deliveries - and we STILL haven't figured out what the problem is? The coaching staff need sacking.

Do you think Andy Flower has anything to do with it? I remember him being fond of the sweep shot when he played. Quite often coaches don't realise that just because something worked for them doesn't mean it will work for everyone else.

Hard to say, the modern way with International coaches is really just to manage players rather than "coach" them. I'm sure he has an influence, but also he is not daft, with all that statistical analysis he must be passing on the failure of the tactic to the players.

This is all conjecture of course. I don't know him personally to ask. It would be interesting to get Mark Garaway's more insider knowledge.

I'm so glad the England team came onto pitchvision academy and read our advice David. If only they had done so before the debacle in the UAE, what a different winter it might have been!

We can only arrogantly assume that is the case!

Excellent Article On How And When To Play The Sweep Shot.

Most People Have The Misconception That The Back KneE Needs To Be On The Ground When Playing The Shot, This Is Not So. Rather Try To Keep That Knee Off The Ground And Let It Collapse Naturally After Hitting The Ball. Watch Younis Khan Play The Sweep, I Think He Is One Of The Best At The Shot.