I’m sitting here by the boundary watching our youth team play when I started thinking about how to hit the perfect drive through the covers.
Some of the greatest pictures of top level batsmen is them performing a textbook cover drive so I did a little research. However, it’s not even funny how often I have attempted a flamboyant cover drive to see the ball being pouched by second slip. So, lets take a look at what that means and what you need to do about it.
What is a cover drive?
The cover drive is an attacking shot that is played to a full, wide of off stumpy delivery. It can be played on the front or back foot depending on the length of the delivery.
I have demonstrated the cover area in the image below for a right-handed batsman. I am left-handed so it would be on the opposite side for me.
When do you hit it?
Line: Off-Stump/ Outside Off-Stump
Length: Good length/ Half Volley/ Full Length/ Yorker
How do I hit a Cover Drive?
To play a cover drive, you want to stay nice and relaxed in your balanced stance. Once you have picked up the line and length of the delivery, you want step forward, leaning into your shot with a bent front knee and the front shoulder dipped towards the ball.
Once you are set in this position, you simply bring your bat down through the line of the ball targeting the cover area.
One of the things I do well is my shots tend to be along the ground and I do this by playing the shot under my head as late as possible with a straight bat.
Why is it easy to get out when playing this shot?
For me watching Sachin Tendulkar growing up, I always felt like his cover and on drive were the most elegant shots in his tools. As a left hander, there is no better feeling then smashing a cover drive through extra cover and watching it roll along the floor all the way to the boundary.
However, like I mentioned earlier, it is not an easy shot to play as it is a scoring shot that requires some intent and carries more risk than other dismissals. How often have we seen the batsman attempt a big flamboyant cover drive only to edge the ball behind to the wicket keeper or slips.
It is a shot that can easily be mishit during difficult conditions. If the ball is swinging, it is very easy to misjudge the line of the ball as the bowler is typically bowling these in the corridor of uncertainty which is an area on off or outside off stump.
I find that if you don’t play these as late as possible with good footwork, I end up reaching for the ball and edging behind for the keeper.
Similarly, with a spin bowler, you can misjudge the turn and end up in a heap of mess if you don’t get right down to the pitch of the ball.
How do I stop getting out playing the cover drive?
Now the cover drive might be one of the most pleasing shots to the eye but it is definitely not easy to play.
Below are some tips that will help you master the cover drive – and may also prevent you from the dreaded walk back to the pavilion.
- You need to watch the ball – you want to be watching as closely as possible almost to the point that you are looking for the seam
- You want to keep your head as still as possible – its easy to lean over causing you to lose balance and shape. Keep relaxed with your head and eyes level
- Lean forward over your front foot. The key point here is to remain balanced as you can end up falling over.
- Judge the line and length of the delivery as early possible. This will let you decide if the ball is there to be hit on the front foot or whether I have to go back and punch it through the covers.
- Don’t play the ball too early – this is probably my biggest mistake and one I have been working on for many years. You don’t want to reach out at the ball away from your body as the ball will end up going up in the air. You want to play the ball under your head so I let the ball come to me which is how you keep control of your shot.
- Point your front foot towards where you want the ball to go. (ideally the gaps in between the fielders)
- Firm top hand grip with a high elbow while lose grip with your bottom hand. This is a great one if you are prone to swinging too hard at the ball. The lose grip on the bottom hand has helped me make sure I don’t bring in my bottom hand too early and hit straight through the line with a straight bat.
Drills to help you improve your cover drive
There is a couple of drills that have really helped me practice the shot which mainly focus on getting into a good balanced position with great head position.
My favourite one is simply throw downs with the ball and focusing on getting into really good head and shoulder positions when striking the ball late. The main thing here is grooving the muscle memory and good habits so you can play the shot naturally out in the square.
Another really good drill which I use quite a lot is the stationary drive from the stance position as shown below in the video. This helps me groove the feeling of playing the ball under my eyes and making sure I lean over and dip my front shoulder.
For me as a left hander, punching a cover drive along the floor to the boundary is one of my favourite shots. However it is a shot that does carry more risk than other shots so judging the line and length correctly is vital. The best tip I can give from my experience so far is to play the ball as late as possible under your eyes and to make sure you dip your front shoulder so you are not out reaching for the ball. In this way, you can play a Sachin Tendulkar style cover drive!