Let’s start by answering few common question around cover drives.
Why is cover drive one of the best shot in cricket?
Well! If executed properly, it is the greatest weapon to punish the slightest error made by the bowlers in the offside length.
What makes the cover drive so special?
The very fact that cover drive is not among those shots that any Tom, Dick, and Harry can play makes it a special shot. It requires a knack of execution and errorless technique.
Who can play a perfect cover drive?
A batsman with proper conventional cover drive skills can be recognized as a better batter. So it is evident that only the technically-sounded batsmen could manage to produce this gracious shot of the book.
Who is the best cover driver in cricket?
To answer this with reasons, we have shortlisted the best cover drive players, including Sachin Tendulkar, Babar Azam, Alastair Cook and more. For your information, this list is entirely based on the techniques and not on statistics.
So let’s dig into some techniques involved in the greatest cover drivers.
(Note: I have not ranked them from 1 to 10 or reverse. This is a list of 10 of the best cover drivers I have seen playing)
1. Sourav Ganguly
Cover drives required nothing more than sheer timing when the Bengal tiger played it. Ganguly’s restricted bat flow, limited front foot, and collapsed back foot, added more elegance to this particular art. More than anything, it was his stance that favored his Godly off side driven shots. Consequently, cover driving was indeed a natural shot for which Dada hadn’t needed to premeditate.
“On the offside, first there is God, then Sourav Ganguly,” said Rahul Dravid. Especially the magnificent cover drives that he produced against the world-class bowlers had its own fan base.
2. Kane Williamson
The word ‘Class’ in batting defines this skillful Kiwi batter. Infact, the New Zealand skipper’s batting technique has become a guide for many youngsters. Besides, his cover drive stands high among his wide range of shots. I think this is the most challenging style of the cover drive to imitate because it consists of so much character.
Williamson’s classical cover drive has this fluent process of his head coming in the line of the legs, and the sweet spot of the bat rhythmically connecting the face of the ball. Not only the front foot drives, but Kane’s technical ability has also produced many elegant backfoot cover drives with ease.
3. Yuvraj Singh
The aggressive Yuvraj Singh, who was known for his unbelievable six-hitting ability, was also a pure batter of cover drives. The time between the ball hitting his bat and the rope would be very less because of his hefty bat swing.
Besides, Yuvi bolstered this shot with his exquisite timing. The way he comes down to his knees to connect with the ball adds more beauty to this shot. Furthermore, by opening his back foot at the end, the Indian batsman sets feast to the spectators’ eyes.
4. Damien Martyn
The legendary Aussie batsman plays the cover drive with a push. Damien Martyn likes to let the ball come in and play the shot at the last second, thanks to his exceptional hand-eye coordination that makes it look so easy. Not only for cover drives, but Marto also had this kind of approach for every shot he played. But his cover drive seemed unique because of the natural beauty involved in the shot. Especially those lofted cover drives he made along with the rise of the ball did require more cameras to capture the beauty on those days.
5. Kumar Sangakkara
Without a doubt, one can assure that Kumar Sangakkara plays the most graceful left-handed cover drives. The best wicketkeeper-batsman waits for the full-length delivery to showcase the aesthetics of cover drive. That is to say, a perfect body balance that was fully reliable on the steady base and the typical Sri Lankan bat swing added the best ingredients for the gracious stroke. Sanga differs from others by connecting the ball right after the ball comes past his front foot.
6. Brian Lara
The power-packed West Indian legend executes this shot effectively with his own style of back lifting. The shuffle that he usually made for the pace bowlers had always placed him in the opportune spot to play the best shot from the book. Moreover, the left-hander had never hesitated on opening up on the cover region when it was bowled on the slot. Like sweep shot in the leg side, Brian’s lofted cover drives in the offside had left many spinners cut off bowling in the offside region.
7. Virat Kohli
Cover drives of Virat Kohli are like free-kicks of Christiano Ronaldo. Virat Kohli reinvented the cover drive’s art by showcasing the beauty of this shot in a repeat mode. His head and toe move together to execute this drive through covers. But what adds more divinity to Virat’s cover drive is his body balance. Like Damien Martyn, Virat has improved a push while negotiating with the ball. Eventually, the combo of the push and the transfer of weight creates the blistering cover drives out of the sweet spot. Furthermore, It has reached a phase where it is uncommon to find a Virat Kohli’s innings without a cover drive.
8. Babar Azam
Another high standard cover driver who does it with minimal effort. This Pakistanian bloke empowers his bat swing for making this stroke. In addition, a particular knack to be considered is his flexible wrist that can place the ball in whichever gaps he wants to fill in the cover region. However, It was the quick bat swing that set his’ apart from others’ cover drives. To be frank, the Pakistanis boast over the way the bloke executes the stroke.
9. Sachin Tendulkar
If there were no Sachin, cover drives wouldn’t have been the highly celebrated shot in cricket. To be honest, there were many batters before Sachin who played this great stroke, but Sachin was the one who showed us what body balance has got to do while making this shot. If you want to take notes on cover drives, watch God’s way of cover driving.
An unimaginable force comes into play when Sachin cover drives. The control that he had on this shot had never let the ball in the air when he intended to play down. Speaking of different dimensions of cover drives like back foot cover drive, lofted cover drive, square drive, and cover drive against the spinners, the Master Blaster, is the real boss of all of it. In short, Sachin is a dictionary of shot-making.
10. Alastair Cook
‘Textbook cover drive’ is how you can explain this. Whenever Alastair Cook played this shot, it was supposed to indicate that he was in the right mindset. The tall English batsman used his well-stretched front foot stance to cover drive fervently. Furthermore, the Stubborn England batsman plays it gingerly only if he gets the ball too full and off. The sound from the bat of this technically-correct batsman had always left the spectators to go awestruck. It is fair enough to say that the former English skipper always doted on this shot, mainly when he played in the red ball.
To wrap up
Here is what’s common among those batsmen on the list: Magnificent timing and ethical body balance.
The cover drive gets added beauty when different styles of players play it.
Now the legacy of cover driving has passed to the next generation. To mention the best among the current crop (apart from those in the article) who does the cover drive better are Aiden Markram, BJ Watling, Azhar Ali, Tom Latham, and Shakib Al Hasan.
Looking from the other side, improper execution of cover drive from a batter will end up in walking back to the Pavillion. It is truly because of the line and length that associates in the delivery they choose to play this drive.
Nonetheless, the legends have pulled off this glorious drive for more than the umpteenth times by taking risks.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk.