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Who Does it Best?

The sweep: Harmanpreet Kaur

Raw power meets technique and instinct in a shot the batter has made uniquely her own

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
01-Mar-2022
Harmanpreet Kaur sweeps, Melbourne Renegades vs Sydney Sixers, WBBL, Lilac Hill, October 30, 2021

Kaur strength: Harmanpreet has perfected the beauty and brutality of the sweep  •  Getty Images

She's been called "Harmanpreet Thor" and when she's raining hammer blows on the opposition, it's rather apt. And yet to put the word "slog" in front of Harmanpreet's glorious sweep sounds so unrefined, and not entirely accurate, for her version is more nuanced. Sure, the aggression, power - and result - are there, but the effortlessness of her action makes it a thing of beauty as well as brutality. Dropping to her back knee, head over the front one to form a perfectly balanced base as she brings her bat down and lets her levers do their devastating work - pow!
Slog, conventional, paddle, reverse. Watch Harmanpreet and you forget momentarily that her way is not the only way. Her action looks infinitely repeatable, from the set-up through the swing to the sight of the ball sailing over the fence, often several times in an innings. Brisbane Heat witnessed it during her 23-ball fifty for Sydney Thunder. And again as she slugged their attack for six sixes en route to 65 off 32 for Melbourne Renegades last November.
India are no strangers to Harmanpreet's impressive array of strokes, in which that sublime sweep features heavily, like during her unbeaten 171 in the 2017 World Cup semi-final.
Biju George was India Women's fielding coach at the time before going on to join Sunrisers Hyderabad and now the Sports Authority of India, and he reckons Harmanpreet's sweep is as much about instinct as technique. "Normally, what the batter will hear taught right from the beginning is, if the spinner flights the ball, you come out and play the ball. The sweep is like a secondary shot, not your main shot," he says. "But for Harmanpreet it's an expression of her identity, her individuality."
While many players sweep late and fine, Harmanpreet takes the ball early and hits it square of the wicket or ahead of square - and hard. Once set, she's not afraid to play the shot against medium-pacers either. A combination of coordination and bat speed enable her to generate huge power.
"She hits it like a rocket," says George. "She is there to dominate, make no mistake about that. When she goes out to bat, in my mind I see a big flag waving over her: 'Here I am.'
"She has thought out her game really well. People might think she's an impulsive player [but] she's an instinctive player. She reacts to the ball, she reacts to the situation."
Like Harmanpreet, England captain Heather Knight has a wonderful collection of strokes, her reverse sweep particularly effective. And while her vice-captain, Nat Sciver, has the inventive "Natmeg" in her bag - threading a full delivery between her feet and fine to the leg side - she can also produce a powerful conventional sweep.
Sophie Devine admits there's little more satisfying as a batter than punching a straight drive back past the bowler, but she values the rewards the sweep - or slog sweep as she is quick to clarify - has brought her. It is a shot players often learn later, after coaches teach the "safer" strokes, but Devine has advice for those wanting to add it to their game: "I just say, hit the ball hard. That's the great thing about cricket, you've got to commit fully, whatever shot it is."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo