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Horizontal Bat Strokes - Part I

- By Ashok Mankad    

Two primary horizontal bat strokes are the sweep and the cut. The sweep is played off spinners, while the cut can be played off pace as well as spin.


The initial movement of the sweep is the same as that for the forward-defensive stroke, but the sweep is played with horizontal movement of the bat.

This stroke is played to good-length balls that pitch in the line with or outside the leg-stump. A right-handed batsman should 'sweep' the bat around his body from right to left to despatch the ball square on the leg-side, or behind the wickets.

How to play the sweep -

(A) Lift the bat straight behind you. Lean forward, towards the line of the ball as it pitches.

(B) Keep your eyes on the ball and try to determine its line and length.

(C) Hold the bat predominantly with your left hand, and use the right hand only for support. Left-handers should do the opposite.

(D) Swing the bat horizontally to make contact with the ball in front of the pad. The ball should hit your pad if it misses the bat.

(E) Your timing must be spot-on. Do not hit the ball too hard because it will not allow you to roll your wrists at the right time.

(F) Bend the front foot to 90 degrees and allow the back leg to trail at the time of contact with the ball. Roll the wrists anti-clockwise, so that the bat does not fly out of your hand.

Pakistani maestro Javed Miandad was one of the best 'sweepers' in the history of the sport.


Sachin Tendulkar is brilliant at playing this stroke. A paddle sweep sends the ball very fine behind the stumps, almost as if the batsman has played a 'reverse-drive'.

This is one of the most prominent unorthodox strokes in cricket. To put it simply, it is a left-hander's sweep played by a right-handed batsman with a right-handed grip, and vice versa. Some right-handers even change their grip to a left-hander's (and vice versa) while playing this shot.

The reverse-sweep can be a very effective and at the same time, embarrassing stroke. Effective, because it can fetch the batsman a lot of runs, embarrassing because if he is unable to 'time' it well, he can get out and make a fool of himself. Hence, it should be attempted only by batsmen who have practised it in the nets and are reasonably confident of connecting properly.

The reverse-sweep is said to have been 'invented' by K.S. Duleepsinhji, who represented England in Test cricket in the late 1920s. In later years, Mushtaq Mohammed of Pakistan and Ian Botham of England essayed it often, as did former English skipper Mike Gatting, with disastrous consequences in the 1987 World Cup final. But the best exponent of this stroke is the Zimbabwean Andy Flower.

The square-cut is a back-foot stroke. It despatches the ball on the off-side at a right angle to the pitch. It is a stroke fraught with risk, and should be practised in the nets before being essayed in a match.

This stroke should be attempted to balls that have pitched wide outside the off-stump.

How to play the square-cut:

(A) Lift the bat and observe the line and length of the ball. Your left shoulder should point towards the ball before making contact for right-handers).

(B) Focus on the ball over your left shoulder while remaining side-on.

(C) Move the right foot across, towards the line of the ball. The foot should be parallel to the stumps with the toes pointing to the off-side. Flex the knees.

(D) Lift the bat straight behind your head.

(E) Turn your front shoulder towards the off-side

(F) Swing the bat downwards, with your arms extended (as if you are using an axe to cut a tree). Roll your wrists to keep the ball down. The right hand should control this shot for right-handers, and the left hand for 'lefties'.

(G) Keep your head steady.

(H) Transfer your weight onto the right foot as you make contact with the ball.

(I) Follow through with the body-weight on the right foot. As you finish the shot, your head should stay still and the hands and bat should 'finish' upwards.


The late cut is literally, played 'late'. If a square-cut sends the ball in the region of point, a late cut sends it in the direction of third-man.

Gundappa Vishwanath, India's batting great of the 1970s, was an outstanding 'cutter'. The late Vijay Merchant was a fine exponent of the late cut.