Technique, training and tracks: Graham Gooch, who swept India off its feet, explains what makes a good sweep


Drooping thick moustache. Beard when the temper seized him. Slightly hunched shoulders. A really heavy SS bat. The ’80s era was aware of the picture of Graham Gooch standing on the crease after dismissing a ball to the boundary — palms locked behind his waist, bat cradled behind him, as he nonchalantly surveyed the harm. Indians of that classic primarily affiliate him with three imperious knocks: a triple hundred at Lord’s, a cracking match-winning ton within the second innings of the identical sport, and above all, for sweeping India out of the 1987 World Cup semifinal. Much earlier than Matthew Hayden, it was Gooch who swept the daylights out of India and made the shot a major weapon for any abroad batsman touring the nation.

Gooch laughs gently when requested if he developed the shot for that sport specifically. “If only a shot as productive and as risky as that can be pulled out in a hurry, like that!” he says. He did maniacally prepare for it within the week main as much as the sport as England known as on native left-arm spinners within the nets. “There were a few matches played at that Wankhede Stadium in that World Cup. So, we knew they were worn-down pitches, ideal for India’s strength. All week, we trained, sweeping away for hours. I knew exactly what I wanted to do against Maninder Singh, who at that time was as good a left-arm spinner as I had seen with his lovely drift and fizz off the track, and the well-respected professional Ravi Shastri. I had to sweep.”

Gooch remembers learning the Indian area positions from earlier video games. “They had two covers, a short extra-cover and a man prowling in the deep. A few on the legside. But essentially, it was a field set for two left-arm spinners around which their game plan revolved. I remember that deep cover fielder probably fielded one ball from me all game.” That mild chuckle once more.

Kapil Dev’s India didn’t alter the sector a lot that day. “That did surprise me. I kept sweeping, they kept hoping I would top-edge, perhaps.” Gooch did as soon as off Shastri however Kris Srikkanth, operating again from brief fine-leg, couldn’t maintain on. That was that. Game over. “Some days, your plan comes off, other days they don’t.”

The sweep has been the principle shot for the centurions within the ongoing India-England sequence as nicely. Joe Root within the first Test, Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin within the second have all kneeled right down to eliminate spin. It additionally claimed each Root and Sharma, however that’s the chance that comes with the highly-productive shot, says Gooch. Even he, in that ’87 sport, was finally out to a sweep, caught by the identical man who had dropped him.

Talking method

Is the shot completely pre-meditated? “Semi-premeditated, I would say,” Gooch explains that prefix, “You are thinking about it before the ball and play it only when the ball meets the right criteria – the right length and line, depending on the field. So, the shot is in my mind as I set up in the crease and as soon as the bowler delivers, I make up my mind to sweep or not. For that, you have to be able to pick the length quickly, the type of turn from the hand – in that semifinal, for example, I had to see if it was the arm-ball or the conventional turner.”

Depending on the road and the flip, the entrance leg ought to transfer. “If it’s outside off and on a length, I would go across, towards the ball. If, as Shastri did a few times, bowl from over the wicket and around leg-stump in the rough, I would place my front leg outside the line, outside leg-stump and sweep it from there.”

However, Gooch believes the sweep shot needs to be utilized in unison with a compact defensive method. “Else, it’s a shot of desperation and ceases to be a percentage shot. The most important thing is to have confidence in your defensive technique. Sweep then becomes the tool to disrupt length, rotate strike, hit boundaries, and frustrate a spin attack. It’s then you see spinners lose it a bit: the pace starts to get erratic, the lengths and lines change frequently, and they tend to lose their dip and loop. But for that, the defence needs to be compact.”

Learning from legends

He discovered it from one other England legend Geoffrey Boycott. “I soaked up a lot enjoying 4 years with Boycs. Not simply my batting towards swing bowling, but additionally spinners. The most vital ingredient is to have the flexibility to play spin off the backfoot. All good gamers try this. You come ahead when you should. Like how Virat Kohli performed in his great second-innings knock. Did you see how he tackled Moeen Ali from an off-stump guard and mixed it along with his backfoot play? To Jack Leach, too, he pressed again typically.

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When spinners began to get it fuller, he stretched ahead to defend. The cause for a strong defence is to be tight technically but it surely’s primarily for the thoughts. Mentally, when you’ve got a good defence, with males catching across the bat, you may consider scoring alternatives with the sweep and utilizing your ft. But if you happen to don’t have a strong defence, you are concerned about survival and then you could have just one choice – to assault – and that’s bother,” Gooch says.

Different forms of standard sweeps

Then there are variations throughout the sweep shot. The bat-parallel-to-the-ground sweep, as performed typically by Root who sweeps the complete arc from extensive mid-on to backward square-leg after crouching actually low with the bat coming from the facet of the ball, virtually.

The bat-smashing-the-top-of-the-ball sweep that Gooch and Hayden would typically play. “You can handle the extra bounce with this movement – swooping down from the top. It helps keep the ball down somewhat and this top-to-bottom sweep also allows a batsman to rotate strike. You can access the areas safely,” Gooch says.

It’s what Root didn’t do when he top-edged Axar Patel within the first innings of the second Test. He had gone for his parallel-to-ground sweep which couldn’t counter the additional bounce from the sandpit.

“If you want to hit the ball for a six, then you go from low to high with the bat flow,” Gooch says. “The bat also comes out differently for a lap or when you want to keep it along the ground and where do you want to hit it – behind square or front of square. So, all these decisions you have to take in the semi-premeditative shot and based on what comes out of the hand. You can’t be lazy with this shot.”

Aussie guidelines

The Australian Hayden used to smash the ball on its head and like Gooch, he additionally reckons it’s vital to have a tight defence first. “I had a solid defensive strategy but what I came prepared to was to have an attacking strategy with that sweep. I prepared hard for that and sweeping was a strategy. It has been copied around the world now really. Most left-handers now look to play that sweep as a go-to shot to scoring,” Hayden had as soon as instructed this correspondent.

Just like Gooch, it wasn’t simply a pre-series prep for Hayden. “The seed was planted in 1993 when I was working with Allan Border and Bob Simpson. Border was a very good sweeper as well and I got the foundation of it from him: understanding when and how, what lines to play, and picked his mind on that,” Hayden stated. Then there was an Indian hand that additional helped him polish the shot.

In 1999, Hayden had come to a spin camp in Chennai the place Bishan Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna have been the coaches. “It [the spin camp] was a very important camp. Based on that experience, I was able to formulate a game plan and batting strategy,” Hayden stated. “Importantly, I came to understand the mindset of a spinner. I practised a variety of shots, tried out lots of options and developed my game against spin.”

READ | How Joe Root honed his most efficient shot, the sweep

Prasanna remembers a younger Hayden, pushing for the ball and not permitting it to come back to him. “We told him, ‘either you take the ball on the full or wait’. And we also talked about his sweep shot,” Prasanna as soon as stated. “Some batsmen usually take the left leg out and expose the middle stump. We asked Hayden to get in line a bit more before he plays that shot forcefully. He was obviously a very keen student.”

Just earlier than he got here to India in 2001, Hayden would ask Ross Harris, then the curator on the Allan Border Field in Queensland, to duplicate Indian situations for his sweep-shot follow.

Starting early

Gooch’s sweep began within the Seventies in First-Class cricket. “We played on uncovered tracks. When rain comes, they would turn into stickies – where the ball would grip and turn very sharply. Every county had a couple of decent spinners then to exploit these conditions.”

He bumped into a number of the perfect. “Derek Underwood, Ray Illingworth – all high-quality spinners. Underwood was a seamer who turned into a spinner. He had a long run-up and would spin it at some pace. He was a seriously good bowler.” Gooch says. Sunil Gavaskar would agree, having been dismissed by Underwood 12 instances – probably the most any bowler has taken him out in Tests.

The younger Gooch needed to discover a method towards such spinners. “I picked the sweep from my county captain Keith Fletcher. Then one of my heroes Allan Knott, the best wicketkeeper- batsman I have ever seen, was a good sweeper too. I picked up a lot of cues from him. I learned the skills of the sweep and lap shot – when it was outside off, they used the lap to the legside. I wouldn’t advise going down the track when the ball is turning too much, especially if it isn’t natural to you. You had to develop the sweep and the lap; else it was quite difficult to score or put pressure on the bowlers. Especially, when the ball is turning away from you,” Gooch says.

READ | A sweeping assertion from Rohit Sharma

“We saw that with Rohit Sharma, didn’t we? He kept sweeping Leach. A superb knock; he even made the sweep shot look so easy, so beautiful! It’s a hard sweaty shot, really, as you have to get really down and focus on hitting the ball cleanly but he made it look simple. A high-quality knock,” Gooch says. “I had to stop sweeping near the end of my career as I had got older and couldn’t get far down and quickly at that.”

Gooch has a size in thoughts to tug out the sweep shot. “My principle was that the ball I tried to sweep is the same I would play a forward defensive to. The kind of ball that can potentially hit the splice of the bat, too, you would want to lap or sweep them. Also, important to mix things up. Not be unidimensional with the sweep. In my career, I have tried to play a mixed game to the turning ball – sweep, occasional use of the feet, backfoot nudges, laps. I didn’t look to attack all the time – barring that ’87 semi-final game.”

The intent was to maintain the bowler guessing. “Better the spinner, slightly more risks you have to take,” Gooch says. Like he did with Shane Warne. “I remember a 1993 game at Old Trafford. I read two of his googlies and managed to send them over long-on. He never bowled a googly again to me. He didn’t need to as he had some other outstanding deliveries – the best spinner and competitor I have played against.”

Passing on the information

Once he retired and took up teaching, Gooch remembers the drill he had the likes of Alastair Cook check out. “I would make the batsmen play off the backfoot, irrespective of the length of the ball. So that they learn to use the feet and soft hands. When you go back to even full deliveries – in training – you have to have soft hands, else trouble! I remember we took a young Alastair and others to a camp in Mumbai where the late Hanumant Singh, a lovely man, was there. We had Prasanna too and they would help the batsmen try to find a way out against spin. When I came to India first in 1981, I was in awe of Gavaskar – his composure, his style, his technique, how he remained unflustered; so much time he had. I took some elements from watching him.”

India’s bugbear

It’s with one other India story that we finish. Not that well-known 333 however the livid hundred that adopted within the second innings. “Well, I remember during Kapil Dev’s whirlwind knock to save the follow-on, I had caught him at second slip. It was very low to the ground and Kaps stood his ground, as he was well within his rights to do, and the umpires turned down the catch. Let me put it this way, I wasn’t a happy person as I ran to the changeroom after the Indian innings. And I took that emotion into my batting.”

Did the Indians ever convey up these thunderous sweeps within the World Cup? “Nah! I don’t think they wanted to be reminded of that.” That mild laughter descends once more.


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