If you could take one county cricketer's best shot and add it to your own game, whose would it be? That is among the questions that were posed to every professional player in England and Wales ahead of this season, as part of the 2021 edition of the Cricketers' Who's Who. Players are sent forms to fill in during pre-season featuring questions ranging from the insightful to the trivial, and their responses are compiled annually in the anthology.
For the question at hand, there were a range of predictable answers, with the stylists and their textbook strokes - James Vince's cover drive, in particular - featuring heavily. But Benj Moorehead, the book's editor, said that one name came up time and time again, but for a range of different shots: Wayne Madsen's sweep, Wayne Madsen's reverse-sweep, Wayne Madsen's ramp, Wayne Madsen's upper-cut.
"It makes me pretty proud of the way I've developed my game," Madsen told ESPNcricinfo. "I'm flattered for the guys to have nominated some of my shots. My game has had to evolve with how the game has gone more generally, and when you're trying to work out how to score 360 [degrees], you try different things."
Madsen, a former international hockey player who represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in 2006, said that the sport helped him bring innovative shots into his game. "The sweep definitely came from hockey. The tomahawk - the reverse-hit hockey shot - is almost an exact copy of the reverse-sweep. You just have to adapt to the bounce of the ball.
"The sweep is just a natural hockey hit, and the deflection side of things also helps with the ramp and the upper-cut - trying to score goals with deflections. The upper-cut is something that's just evolved from trying to get the short ball into an area that's not protected: straight over keeper's head is not protected very often.
"Just like Jos Buttler gets inside and plays his ramp, I was trying to work out how I could get the ball there when it was short, instead of having to hook or pull. I'll play a paddle-scoop against the quicker bowlers when they go full. Some teams have started to put a fielder there against me, but that then opens up another scoring area for me."
In the immediate term, Madsen is unlikely to be delving into his bag of tricks. Instead, after returning to the UK soon enough to avoid hotel quarantine following six weeks back home over Christmas with his family, he has been trying to get back into the red-ball groove in the build-up to the County Championship season.
"The way I play with my wrists and my hands in white-ball cricket, I have to work on really engaging my left side and front side when it gets to the red-ball stuff," he explained. "When the white-ball comps start, the flair of my hands will take over a little bit more, but for now, I've been trying to engage that front side and get my body in a good position to defend and attack."
A pre-season innings of 78 at Old Trafford helped build confidence, but after scores of 15 and 20 in the draw at Edgbaston, Madsen will hope to contribute something more substantial this week, when Derbyshire play their first home game since September 2019 against Worcestershire. Their successful run in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer - they narrowly missed out on topping the North Group - came on the road, with the ECB turning the County Ground into a bio-secure venue for England Women, and home comforts will make a welcome change.
"We know our wicket pretty well," Madsen said. "We still performed really well on the road last year so we take confidence from that. It's about building on those performances last summer and giving ourselves a chance of doing what we missed out on last year.
"Essex are a quality unit and they're the one team in the country that look really balanced, so it'll be great to test ourselves against them, and the other four teams, we've either beaten, or put in really good, solid performances against over the last few years."
Madsen's own outlook is refreshing. He turned 37 at the start of the year, and while he is out of contract at the end of the 2022 season, he has no intentions to retire just yet. He is rational in thinking that, six years after he qualified, his England ambitions are unlikely to be realised, but hopes that performances for Manchester Originals in the Hundred this summer can help him add to his previous franchise opportunities in the PSL and the Abu Dhabi T10.
"I'm still enjoying it, still contributing to the team, and still improving parts of my game. While that's the case, I still want to play. I still have that competitive drive and will to win. We won Division Two [of the Championship] in 2012 and trying to win another trophy is one of the big drivers. When the body is too sore for me to be enjoying it and I'm not playing with a smile on my face, it'll be time to finish up, but I think I've got a lot of time left.
"I'd have loved to have played international cricket but realistically there is a younger crop coming through. I tried to put in performances to be selected but at the time there were players who seemed to be doing that better. Maybe [England selection] wasn't quite meant to be, but the opportunity to play in franchise competitions has been pretty special - they're a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills."