Who Does It Best – The Cover Reader

Who does it best?

It’s a blow that will make you weak on your knees and then propose marriage to you

In February 2021, the ICC published a poll on Twitter asking cricket fans to vote for the best cover player in the game. Their nominees were Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Joe Root (Babar won with a 0.1% lead over Kohli, in case you wonder would ask) but Australian Megan Schutt had another candidate: Laura Wolvaardt, and she posted a picture of South Africa in full swing.

In it, Wolvaardt’s back knee was bent and she leaned forward in the shot, her head on her hips to distribute the weight evenly, her top elbow high as she held the pose. The ball was out of sight, but it’s fair to assume it had found its way through or over a fence somewhere. If there was a prize for the most aesthetically pleasing finish in a cricket shot, Wolvaardt would win it too.

His coverage training is classic in its approach and execution, and he was nurtured by his childhood coach Laurie Ward, who focused on the basics: bringing the front foot forward enough, rolling the wrists, angle of batting (down, of course), and timing. In an interview during the WBBL last season, Wolvaardt explained that Ward believed the right cover practice would lay the foundation for her to become a successful opening hitter. “Something that I’ve focused on a lot is getting the coverage practice right and getting my drives and my base and just like an opening hitter. A lot of bowlers are bowling outside of the strain, so cover training is always important.” And in Wolvaardt’s case, it’s also an art form.
To be fair to the ICC, the governing body is as enamored with Wolvaardt’s cover campaign as anyone else. Eleven months before the tweet that crowned Babar, the ICC released a YouTube video titled: Is it possible to marry a cricket shot? with Wolvaardt’s cover in the 2020 T20 World Cup semi-final. Facing Nicola Carey’s average pace, Wolvaardt moved to the outside of the leg stump to make room to drive what would have been a wide leg stump through the covers for four. He was a cover reader, but not as you know. Wolvaardt demonstrated a degree of innovation that allowed him to turn a traditional shot into a T20 weapon.
“I think it was hard for me to find the balance to keep playing good cricket and scoring runs in T20 cricket. I’m slowly starting to understand that you can still play good cricket and score a lot shopping” she said Sporting News at the last WBBL.

She is the fastest South African woman at 1000 and 2000 ODI races and her T20 game is catching up, thanks in large part to the cover drive. Former South Africa women’s assistant coach Salieg Nackerdien, who worked with Wolvaardt in Western Province, saw her develop the cover drive into a more aggressive stroke. “What was nice to see was how quickly she learned,” he says.

So while Smriti Mandhana called Mithali Raj’s cover the best in the world and the India captain would rightly feel unlucky to miss out on that title, as would Heather Knight, Suzie Bates and Mandhana herself, the technique of Wolvaardt’s textbook, clean execution and stellar statistics. make her a worthy winner.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent in South Africa

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