Sunday, August 12, 2007

In search of the perfect cover drive!

Few would disagree that the cover drive is one of cricket’s trademark, most elegant strokes. The joy in watching a perfectly executed cover drive is unmatchable. Having played professional cricket for a while, I place immense pride in trying to play the cover drive to perfection. The minimum effort required by the ‘greats’ to execute this stroke lends the classical look to the cover drive.

Yet, essentially what is a cover drive? Typically it is driving an over pitched ball anywhere between the arc between the cover and point region. Foot to the pitch of the ball, head over the ball, elbow straight and a flourish of a follow through, picture perfect! The skill required to play this stroke on the up is notched up, especially when the ball is just short off a good length but slightly wider of the off stump and swing away. Probably an even better version of the cover drive, if one can say such a thing, is the back foot cover drive. Rocking on to the back foot, head aligned with the line of the ball, bat coming down from fine leg area and meeting the ball in front of the eyes, sending the ball crashing through to the boundary. Sinful pleasure?

In my opinion, the search for the perfect cover drive begins and ends with that god among god in the pantheon of Indian Cricket; Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The little master’s magic wand of a bat, evoke emotions that galvanize one billion people. Among his vast array of strokes essayed with impetuous ease, it is the cover drive that oozes the maestro’s class. The exalting feeling when ‘Tendlya’ essays a sublime shot piercing the inner ring of fielders generates goose pimples on many an arm. There have been others and some better too! The Don of cricket, Sir Donald Bradman was had played cover drives right from the top draw. Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting have equally classy cover drives in their arsenal. Indian legends such as Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and come back kid Ganguly play this stroke with nonchalant ease. Rahul Dravid probably has the best looking cover drive of all times, straight out of the coaching manual.

But why Tendulkar? The difference between Tendulkar and other batsmen in my opinion, is beyond the realms of the cricket field. The emotion associated with a Tendulkar cover driver is something to be felt. For a nation starved of leaders and sporting icons, the little master stands head and shoulders above all. The wielder of the willow is constantly looked upon as the saviour of Bharath on the Kurukshetra that is the cricket field. His Brahmastra being the cover drive. No other player can stop an entire nation in its tracks. In this context, the pure joy associated with his cover drive literally brings tears to the eyes culminating in a collective sigh. Is this not the perfect cover drive? The demigod has the opportunity to script Indian cricket’s most glorious chapter when if he essays The Perfect Cover Drive in the quest for the World Cup . Now that would be Moksha, wouldn’t it!

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