A cover drive in cricket is one of the most appealing shots in the game. It is a combination of great judgement, skill and timing. A batter is said to have played the cover drive when he or she strokes the ball through the covers with the front foot moving towards the pitch of the delivery.
When executed perfectly with exquisite timing, the cover drive seems like an effortless wielding of the bat, with the ball gliding through the covers region like a tracer bullet towards the boundary. Hitting the ball aerially for a six through the same region has been a modern-day aggressive, yet elegant, version of the cover drive.
Sachin Tendulkar, Ian Bell, Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara and Kumar Sangakkara are revered as some of the best players with cover drives in cricketing history. Meanwhile, in the women’s game, Meg Lanning, Smriti Mandhana and Laura Wolvaardt are among the batters who have mastered the stroke.
However, Indian cricket team’s Virat Kohli and Pakistan’s Babar Azam are competing for the best cover drive in cricket at the moment.
Best cover drive in cricket
The former Indian captain Virat Kohli is arguably the player with the best cover drive in cricket. The Delhi batter’s control, timing and ability to consistently find gaps between the fielders with the cover drive makes him the king of the cover drive.
Kohli has employed different techniques to execute the cover drive against pacers and spinners.
His elaborate method against the pacers starts with a shuffle towards the middle-off stump, followed by the alignment of his head towards the ball. Kohli, then, takes his front foot towards the ball, with his toes facing the covers. While the top hand controls his downswing and helps keep the ball on the ground with nifty wrist work, the bottom hand helps guide the ball in the gap.
Meanwhile, against spinners, he takes a longer stride towards the ball. The top hand, similar to his technique against pacers, dominates the stroke execution, helping it control the direction and elevation.
Virat Kohli also plays an extremely mesmerising lofted cover drive, which is among the best cover drives in cricket.
Babar Azam, similar to Kohli, has a wonderful cover-driving technique. However, Babar plays the shot more on the up, compared to his Indian counterpart. The clean swing of his bat towards the ball, the upright standing position and the mesmeric execution of the stroke contribute towards Babar’s elegant cover drive.
In fact, Babar’s cover drive is so good that it is a part of physics textbooks in Pakistan, which help study kinetic energy. The concept of his cover drive is currently studied by ninth-grade students in his country.
A look at Babar Azam’s ICC Masterclass on the cover drive is a perfect example of his prowess while playing the stroke.
Virat Kohli and Babar Azam, both, use the cover drive efficiently, converting good deliveries into run-scoring options. The cover drives not only add to their team’s totals, but also demoralise opposition bowlers.
Photo credits: Alamy