How do you play the perfect cover drive? The easiest time to hit a cover drive is when the ball is over pitched and you are perfectly aligned with your shoulders to swing the bat with the full face of the bat. Playing it as late as possible under your eyes will keep the ball along the floor.
There’s not many greater feeling as a batsman than when you time an exquisite cover drive and watch it sail along the floor to the boundary. But, when you see the likes of Kumar Sangakarra and Virat Kohli hitting these, they make it look so effortless and easy.
I know full well the amount of times I have tried to hit a flamboyant cover drive to see it catch the edge of my bat and fly towards first or second slip. However, after years and years of practice, I like to think that my cover drive is one of my strongest shots along with the on drive.
Now that I have been doing a bit of coaching and analysing various techniques in different age groups, you begin to see common faults and mistakes popping up with young cricketers.
In this article, I hope to share some of these common faults that you could be making or at least to avoid when executing a cover drive. Obviously not everyone will necessarily agree with them but hopefully they might open your eyes a little and may find something that you hadn’t spotted before.
1. Alignment – Not aligning yourself towards cover
This one is more technical and I will try not to geek out too with this. However, it was a massive fault of mine until my coach realised what I was doing.
The best way to think about alignment is in straight lines. The earlier you put yourself in a position where you are able to swing in a straight line to where you would like to hit the ball, the easier you will make it for yourself.
A lot of the time with young cricketers, you will see that a ball outside off stump end up being hit through mid-off or sometimes even mid-on.
Here is a great demonstration by Head Coach Mr Irfan Sait over at KOIC Cricket where he demonstrates this alignment and how to set up to play through the covers. I love the part about once you have set up correctly, you are simply just playing a straight drive, all the mechanics are the same but you have to set up correctly first to be able to play the shot.
The way I like to think about it is my back shoulder, when I wasn’t hitting my cover drives cleanly, most often my back shoulder wasn’t turning correctly towards over leg stump.
2. Not presenting the full face of the bat
We have all seen the classic pose for the cameras after the batsmen smashes a cover drive to the boundary. If you haven’t then here is an example below from the great Sachin Tendulkar and you will see that beautiful full face off his cricket bat.
One of the pleasing aspects in this photo is how Sachin presents his full face of the bat. Just from a simple physics point of you, this is absolutely vital because it gives you the best opportunity of striking the ball cleanly. Once you start turning the bat face, you begin to exposure yourself especially if there is any unexpected movements off the pitch.
The difficulty with a cover drive is that naturally the bat will be at a slight angle pointing towards cover and hence why there is slightly more risk in playing the shot. However, presenting a full face of the bat towards the ball will help minimize this risk.
Here is some great drills shown by Ben Williams over at My Cricket Coach which helps cricketers get a feel of swinging the bat in a nice straight line. The one I like to use with my batsmen is simply placing a cone (like this one on Amazon) and letting them groove the shot.
3. Not staying side on
For me staying side on is something I have worked on a lot over my career and relates to point number one which is alignment. I love playing tennis and golf which means I tend to rotate my hips quite explosively. Without knowing, I tend to turn my shoulders quite a lot and I will end up opening myself up too much.
It’s important to stay side on because it’s similar to point one in that you want to be perfectly aligned towards the target of where you are hitting the ball.
The way I think about it in my head is to have your chest facing towards point as much as you can. It’s difficult to think about but I also find that this gives me more power in my shots because it helps you with the shoulder/hip separation which is a coiling type movement to unleash your power.
4. Weight not forward over your front foot
You will probably see this mentioned on any Youtube video or Skysports masterclass videos on tele, it’s all about getting your head and weight towards the ball.
I often find that early on in my innings, I sometimes become a little tentative about the bowler I am about to face and then end up being stuck in my crease. When I do this, I end up with my weight back and even worse, playing out at the ball in front of my body.
Golden tip: Speaking on Skysports masterclass videos, there was one great tip that Kevin Pietersen mentions in one of his batting tutorials which I think is great. You always want to be thinking “kiss the ball” in your head and personally, this has helped me a lot. It will get your head out to the ball and when I lead with my head, my feet follow suit. You can also make sure of this by having the top of your cricket helmet facing towards the bowler so you are playing it right under your eyes.
If you haven’t seen any of the masterclass videos, here is one from Kevin where he talks about head position and the importance of getting your head towards the ball. I have skipped forward to the part about the golden tip above but the full video is definitely worth a watch.
5. Holding the bat with the wrong grip
They say that without a solid foundation, you will have trouble creating anything. When it comes to batting, something as simple as the way you hold the bat can make a huge difference in terms of how you present the bat face on contact which will affect whether you slice the ball.
There’s not a single correct way to hold the bat and if you were to analyse the top 50 batsmen in the world right now, I can assure you, you would find some very unorthodox grips. The most important thing is that your grip allows you to swing the cricket bat in a straight line with the full face of the bat which you will find is very important.
Here is a great video of AB De Villiers explaining the grip positions which is similar to the way I myself hold the bat. The most important aspect is the V placement for your top-hand. I’m left-handed so my top-hand V would be slightly to the right of the bat. The opposite is true for right-handers.
6. Collapsing the top hand elbow
This is one area where I have always been quite good with and one I think comes quite naturally for left handers for some reason. I find that having a high elbow really helps me with presenting the full face off the bat to the target.
As soon as you drop your elbow, you start bringing in your bottom hand too much which gets you playing across the ball and playing too early.
When I see this happening with my students, 90% of the time is because of the top-hand grip on the bat. Typically, the way they hold the bat with the top-hand does not allow them to have that high elbow and already restricts their movement before the shot is even played. If you are having issues with this then it is definitely worth watching the video above.
It is so important you keep that high elbow because of what we are trying to achieve in the next point which is the Diamond shape.
7. Not keeping the diamond shape
Quite a confusing one to begin with and I remember my coach explaining this to me for the first time. It’s quite technical but one that has helped me out so much with playing full face of the bat. Essentially, you are trying to keep the shape of a diamond between your two arms during your back lift between the elbows.
I find that once you are set in this position with the diamond, it’s quite simply just a straight forward bat swing towards the target area.
Here is a great example of the position I am talking about shown by Sangakarra who arguably played some of the best cover drives. As you can see outlined by the red lines, you want to maintain that diamond shape from the beginning of your stance through to completion of the shot.
8. Not having stable feet
Again, not one a lot of people take too much care of and naturally tend to move especially if they are swinging too hard. I was doing this a lot when I’m trying to hit the ball too hard or anything that I played on the leg side, I would move my back foot behind my front leg.
It’s important to keep this back foot stable to make sure you are not wasting any energy and transferring all your weight through to the ball.
All the power comes from the ground up, it’s a chain of energy that work’s it way up your body and finally into the cricket ball. When I see the back foot moving now with younger kids and even adult crickets, it is usually a sign of the batsmen being unbalanced.
So, it’s important to have a stable base that you can work from.
9. Having a strong bottom hand grip
This is one that’s massively overlooked in my opinion and one you see in a lot of young kids who are just starting to play in the sport. The drive is a top-hand dominant shot that doesn’t require you to muscle the ball like a pull shot or a slog.
One of the biggest faults I see with driving is the bottom hand coming in too early causing batsmen to close the bat face too early or play out in front of them.
One thing that really helped me here is the idea that you want a loose grip. I only have two fingers on the bat for the bottom hand which is my thumb and index finger.
Here you will see the great Brian Lara talk about this point in his masterclass on Sky Sports:
Like he mentions, the cover drive is a top-hand dominant shot and the bottom hand is purely for direction or guiding the ball to where you would like it to go.
10. Not leaning your head and front shoulder towards the ball
This one is quite similar to being aligned in that you want your hips and shoulders aligned towards the target. However, this is a little bit more technical in that you want to dip your front shoulder down towards the ball. I didn’t think about this too much and wasn’t until my coach made me aware that I wasn’t leaning my should either did I begin to take notice.
I find that when I lean into the ball especially with the shoulder, I’m able to play the ball right under my eyes and really watch the ball onto the bat which is key when you are playing a shot like the cover drive.
Here is a great demonstration from Kumar Sangakarra who I believe played some of the best cover drives I have seen. You will see the importance of moving your head and shoulders into the correct position.