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It’s one of the most effective strokes in cricket and, when it’s played correctly, it’s also one of the most elegant. Let’s take a closer look at the cover drive.
What is the Cover Drive in Cricket?
The cover drive is an attacking shot which is intended to hit the ball on the off side. It is played to a full length or half volley which is in the driving ‘slot’.
The ball will pitch outside of the off stump and the bat plays the ball towards the cover region.
How to Play a Cover Drive?
As we’ve seen, the cover drive is a natural shot to a full length delivery which pitches outside of off stump. Here are instructions on how to play it.
A batter’s judgement and instinct will tell them that the delivery is in a good position for the cover drive. The front foot will now take a stride forward towards the point where that ball pitches.
It’s important to get that foot inside of the line of the ball. The front leg will bend slightly and your body’s weight will move onto it.
Head position is important for any stroke and the cover drive is no exception. Firstly, the head needs to move towards the line of the ball. At the point of impact, that ball should be directly under the batter’s eyeline.
When you learn to play the cover drive effectively, the head should follow the front foot as you make that initial movement to where the ball pitches.
The cover drive gets its power and balance from the top hand which grips the bat tightly. The elbow should be high and relatively loose so that timing adds to that power.
If the batter gets the foot and head position right, the elbow position should follow naturally.
Area to Target
When played correctly, the cover drive should send the ball out on the off side. It should travel between the cover fielder and the extra cover position. Shots behind cover are referred to as square drives while those that are straighter are known as off drives.
Therefore, the cover drive is the shot that comes between the square drive and the off drive.
Who is the King of the Cover Drive?
While this question is open to some debate, the majority view is that Virat Kohli is the king of the cover drive. It’s an effective shot for him and the former Indian skipper is very adept at finding gaps in the field.
The statistics do tend to back up this theory. They show that the cover drive makes up for around 18.8% of Kohli’s overall runs and that he averages over 74 when playing this shot.
Some of the Best Cover Drivers
Quinton de Kock
South Africa’s Quinton de Kock scores quick runs and he now focuses solely on white ball cricket. He is known for his power hitting, but he also plays an effective and elegant cover drive.
Placement is a very important factor in this shot. You don’t want to be hitting the fielders and QDK is exceptional at finding the gaps. If he doesn’t hit the ball into space, he can bring out a lofted cover drive that flies in the air, above the fielders in the ring.
Australian left hander David Warner is also known for his power shots, but he’s been much more effective than most players at building big innings in all forms of the game. He’s also capable of playing that lofted cover drive but will also hit the ball along the ground if it is in his slot.
It’s a very effective stroke for him and he averages over 120 in test cricket when playing this shot. The cover drive also makes up for around 20 percent of his total runs. Those are exceptional numbers and they suggest that Warner might just be the best player of the cover drive in the modern game.
Former England skipper Joe Root may not have quite the same stats when it comes to playing this shot, but he has one of the most elegant cover drives around. It’s quite a ‘punchy’ shot with a shorter follow through, but he gets in a great position and likes to hold the pose as the ball travels towards the boundary.
This is a case where the visuals outweigh the stats to an extent. If you want to see a perfect cover drive in action, I’d suggest watching some footage of Joe Root.
Babar Azam is another elegant batter who makes big scores in all forms of the game. The cover drive is a very productive shot for him and the figures bear that out. In test cricket, his average while playing this stroke is relatively low at 49.3%, but he scores more than 21% of his runs with the cover drive.
Maybe the fielders cut the runs down as they know this is a favoured shot. Whatever the reasons may be for that lower average, they can’t take away from the fact that Babar Azam is an exceptional player of the cover drive.
New Zealand’s Kane Williamson is known as one of the most elegant batters on the circuit and his excellent cover drive is one of the reasons for that. Like Joe Root, his statistics may not be as high as some players on this list, but he plays this elegantly and it’s great to watch.
I’d also suggest that Williamson is the best player of the lofted cover drive. Check out some footage and you’ll see how effortlessly he relies on timing to clear the infield and send the ball high in the air to the extra cover region.
There is always going to be some debate as to who is the best player of any shot. If we look at some of those who are recently retired, I would argue that Ian Bell was one of the best. There’s also a suggestion that Wally Hammond was the greatest master of the cover drive, but a relative lack of footage means that it’s difficult to back that theory up.
Of those who are still playing the game, I would say that this is the best possible list. Virat Kohli and David Warner are difficult to split and either could be up there as the greatest but, as a top six of current players, this is the best of the best.