When executed perfectly, the on drive, cover drive, or straight drive are cricket shots that are sometimes compared to works of art. Now, no commentator or cricket writer would ever describe the square-cut shot in those words.
In that way, the square-cut shot is in a league of its own because it has a touch of brutality to it and, more often than not, it can demoralise the opposition. If done correctly, identifying the length early and then hitting the ball on the top of its bounce is a thrilling sight.
Many batsmen have played the stroke with varied degrees of success throughout cricket history, but this list focuses on the ten best exponents of the square-cut shot.
10. Tillakaratne Dilshan
Tillakaratne Dilshan, a Sri Lankan batsman, has been a stalwart of the national side for a long time and is particularly well-recognised for his performances as a limited-overs batter.
Although the ‘Dilscoop’ is what made him famous, he was also a ferocious cutter of the ball, and his delivery did not always have to be very short.
9. Adam Gilchrist
The brilliant use of the square-cut shot throughout Australian great Adam Gilchrist’s career greatly enhanced his sparkling strokeplay as an opening batsman in limited overs and as a number 7 in Tests.
His backfoot play and ability to swiftly pick up the ball made him an effective cut-shot player. Furthermore, his quick hands caused the ball to zoom away from the fence most of the time, and if not, it undoubtedly stung the unfortunate fielder’s hands.
8. Sanath Jayasuriya
One of Sri Lanka’s best-ever batters was a bowler’s nightmare, especially in limited-overs cricket, and one of his defining shots was the vicious cut. The hit, which could either fly past the point fielder or settle on the roof for six, became one of Jayasuriya’s weapons of destruction during his time as an opening batsman.
The shot was normally played against anything remotely short and wide, but Jayasuriya’s quick hands, powerful forearms, and gift for timing made it a nightmare for most bowlers, especially on smaller subcontinent grounds.
7. Chris Gayle
If any batter can lay claim to being one of the most vicious cutters of the ball, it has to be West Indian great Chris Gayle. Over the years, he has faced the world’s quickest bowlers on all surfaces, and the square-cut shot has been one of his go-to shots against anything short outside off.
When he gets it right, the ball almost always ends up in the stands. However, it is also important to note that he can do it against the fastest bowlers, not only pacers. His hand speed and reach are unquestionably important factors in his mastery of the attacking cut stroke.
6. Brian Lara
Brian Lara of the West Indies could play practically any cricketing stroke imaginable, and while the cut shot was not his greatest shot, he was clearly one of the best exponents of the shot.
Lara was better renowned for his punishing cover drives throughout his career, but he used the cut shot to great success whenever he saw an opportunity, and the square cut was arguably his favourite shot. He was the best batsman in the world at the square cut.
5. Alastair Cook
England opening batsman Alastair Cook will go down in history as one of the finest opening batters to have ever played Test cricket. At the same time, he is one of the top exponents of the cut shot, which he has used to great effect all around the world over the years.
Bowling short and wide to Cook is the worst mistake a bowler can make, and he is quick to take advantage of those deliveries with one of his favourite strokes.
4. Virender Sehwag
As a cricketer, Virender Sehwag was in a league of his own, and one of the shots that distinguished his batting as an opener in both Tests and limited overs was his near-perfect cut shot. He was so skilled that he could play many types of square-cut shots.
The traditional cut was to anything short and wide, while the higher cut was to bouncers over third men. The latter became Sehwag’s signature stroke, which he used with impunity against the world’s greatest bowlers in both Tests and ODIs.
3. Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar is best renowned for his on-drive, but the cut shot was not far behind, and he was without a doubt one of the best exponents of the game to have ever played.
Tendulkar could play the square-cut shot against a fast bowler or a spinner whenever the opportunity arose, and he did so to great advantage at the age of 18 when batting on lightning-fast surfaces like the one in Perth. The shot had always been one of his most lethal in his arsenal.
2. Geoffrey Boycott
Former England great Geoffrey Boycott was one of the game’s most technically perfect batsmen, and while he was known as a ‘defence first’ player, one of his trademark attacking skills was the square-cut shot.
It was one of Boycott’s most fruitful shots, and his technical prowess ensured that he executed the shot flawlessly every time. Furthermore, he never played it in the air, and the point or gully had little chance of catching him out.
1. Gordon Greenidge
Former West Indian batting star Gordon Greenidge is claimed to have struck the ball harder than even Viv Richards, with one of the best examples being his square-cut shots.
Greenidge, unlike many other West Indian players of his period, had a textbook technique and nearly faultless execution of the cut shot. He used to keep his head still at all times, and as soon as he picked up the length, he’d get on the backfoot before bringing down the bat with a powerful chop on the top of the ball’s bounce.
Although there have been many better batters in the game’s history, no one has had the same level of command over the square-cut shot as Greenidge.