Mahela Jayawardene fanzone

'Let your natural instinct guide you'

I play for my local team. I enjoy watching people play the sweep shot. I try to do it, but I never do it well. Could you please give me some tips to develop the shot?

First things first, work out the right length for sweeping. The line is not as important as the length. If the ball is pitched full you'll be cramped and there is a high chance you'll miss the ball and be out lbw. Too short and you'll have a greater risk of a top edge. The right length allows you to lean towards the ball with an extended front leg and sweep with semi-extended arms - essentially this is a good length. This is why it is such a useful shot for the spinners because it gives you run-scoring options when you cannot drive or cut/pull. The next important factor is making sure your head is over the ball with your pad in line as a second line of defense. This gives you balance and ensures you are in control of the stroke. Finally, swing from up to down and aim to hit the ball just after it pitches. As with all strokes, practice really hard in the nets. This is a useful stroke but not an easy one to play. Take care when sweeping out of the rough or on pitches of variable bounce.

How do I learn to play the correct shot for the correct ball before going to bat?

You can't learn that before you go in to bat. You have to step out to the crease and play each ball on its merits. Let your natural instinct guide you. It's all about reactions.

Right-handed players are not so attractive when playing shots. Left-anders play drives and flicks so easily and beautifully. The only right-handed players I have seen playing those shots beautifully are you and Ponting. How do you play so much better than other right-handers?

Well there's no real secret. I just practice my shots till I get it right. Left-handers generally are more elegant in their strokeplay but also different people see it in different ways. Just remember that the main thing is to score runs, whichever way you get them.

I tend to have a very strong grip with my bottom hand when I bat, any suggestions to correct this?

The easiest way is to make sure your bottom hand grips the bat very loosely between your thumb and first two fingers. Then practice with a friend in the nets. You can even practice with just the one hand driving underarm throws from a friend. Gilchrist, of course, famously used a squash ball in his bottom hand glove for exactly the same reason. You can try this too. But the key is practicing a lot and getting used to the new grip - firm top hand, loose bottom hand.

How do you know when to come down the wicket to a spinner?

This can be premeditated, but don't come down the track and play it too early. Wait until the ball is released and then judge the line and flight of the ball and get to the pitch of it. Make sure that your first step is longer than the second one because if your second step is longer you may tend to lose balance. Make sure your head is well balanced during the shot.

When I bowl an inswinger it never swings.

Swing bowling is not an easy art form to perfect. Don't expect to just be able to bowl it. You will need to practice hard and work with your friends and coaches. The general rule is that outswing requires your wrist to be cocked right behind the ball, the seam pointing toward the slips. At the point of release your wrist pushes out the ball with the fingers always behind the ball - think of throwing a dart. A strong wrist position is essential for outswing. Inswing, on the other hand, requires a looser wrist with a seam position pointing towards leg slip. If you are a natural outswing bowler with a strong wrist and sideways on action, it may be difficult to swing the ball in. But keep working on the seam position and be patient.

Mahela, what worries you most - quick genuine pace or accuracy?

Good question. Both are a challenge. Facing a really quick bowler gets the adrenaline going and it can be fun. I have always enjoyed facing fast bowlers and I like playing the pull and hook stroke so that helps. Facing a really accurate bowler is a different challenge that requires patience and good shot selection. In the past, perhaps, I was vulnerable if I was not scoring as I like to see the runs ticking along. But now I am more patient so it is not such a weakness. One thing I would say is that from a bowlers' perspective, being quick is rarely enough. If you are not consistent in your line and length you will get punished by good players on good pitches.