Sport

Why Test cricket great Steve Waugh has learnt to play the reverse sweep at 50

It was a sight that would have made a cricket traditionalist cringe, former Australia captain Steve Waugh at a suburban oval in Sydney's south-east teaching young players the nuances of the reverse sweep before extolling it's virtues as an attacking shot.

Regarded as the skipper who not only ensured Australia's baggy green Test cap enjoyed a renewed respect from the nation's cricketers but one who actively encouraged his player to learn about the history of their tradition-steeped sport, Waugh was at ease teaching the shot Pakistani batsman Mushtaq Mohammad introduced to the game in the 1970s before coming into it's own amid the crash 'n' smash of the Big Bash League.

While purists bemoan the reverse sweep as something that symbolises the bastardisation of the noble game by the Twenty20 tournaments that are flourishing around the world, Waugh is happy to teach it - as he will the 'ramp' once he masters that -  at the Steve Waugh Cricket coaching clinics being conducted throughout city and regional areas.

If the Big Bash League needed yet another endorsement to add to the record crowds that have flocked to grounds this summer and the massive television ratings the broadcaster has enjoyed, it came from Waugh, who, at 50, admitted he would've loved to have played in a format where the unorthodox is becoming the norm.

"At one of the first clinics we ran a young coach was showing the kids how to play the reverse sweep and I said 'mate, do you mind teaching me first? I haven't played one' and I ended up playing the reverse sweep and found I really enjoyed it," he said. 

"I would've loved to have played Twenty20. It's exciting watching the game develop and it seems there's a new shot being played in every game. I think it's a format that really tests a batsman out but if you're good enough you can play all the shots. I think as long as you practise it, a reverse sweep is no more dangerous than a cut shot."

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Waugh, who scored 32 Test centuries, said that thinking was why he defended Sydney Sixers stand-in skipper Nic Maddinson who was savaged by critics when he was dismissed for a first-ball duck while attempting to reverse sweep Adelaide Sixers' spin bowler Adil Rashid.

"It's old school thinking," said Waugh of such criticism. "These guys practise and if you practise any shot you can play it well. At the end of the day it's about getting your technique right and you need technique to play the reverse sweep - you can't just pull it out of the cupboard and expect to hit it if you don't know what you're doing. If you know what you're doing - because you've practised - I'm all for it, do it."  

Waugh said he and his team have a plan to offer specialised clinics that will focus on T20 cricket because he said it was quite obvious that the demand is there.

"It makes sense to me to offer that," he said. "[To play T20's ramp and reverse sweep and other shots] you need to have the basic skills of cricket to start with. You need to learn how to defend properly - front and back foot defence - and from there you can play any shots.

"We've talked about developing some of these clinics specifically for Twenty20. The game has changed so much you need to be up-to-date; you need to teach kids how to play the shots that they're seeing and to also do things like bowl slower-ball bumpers and how to think differently at the end of a game [during the 'death' overs]."

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