What is reverse swing? How to bowl reverse swing and how to bat against reverse swing?

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New Delhi | Updated: December 08, 2016 9:07 PM

Both for fast bowlers and medium-pacers mastering the art of reverse swing is crucial to ensure they do not get booted out of their teams. But it is easier said than done. In fact, it is one of the hardest tasks in cricket to be able to control the ball in a way that they are able to reverse swing it

Reverse swing is an effective art of swinging the ball where the ball turns in towards the batsman, rather than moving away from him. This technique is used effectively by bowlers as the ball gradually gets older, perhaps after 35 overs. The science behind this is that, one side of the ball is kept shiny while the other is allowed to get rough. (AFP)Reverse swing is an effective art of swinging the ball where the ball turns in towards the batsman, rather than moving away from him. This technique is used effectively by bowlers as the ball gradually gets older, perhaps after 35 overs. (AFP)

In cricket, explosive batsmen and volatile fast bowlers are what really adds to the thrills of the game and keep the fans rivetted to the game. This has been the story for decades and it is not going to change much in the future. But the fast bowlers need a new ball to be really effective. What happens thereafter? Were it not for reverse swing, the batsmen would have run riot, so to speak. Both for fast bowlers and medium-pacers mastering the art of reverse swing is crucial to ensure they do not get booted out of their teams. But it is easier said than done. In fact, it is one of the hardest tasks in cricket to be able to control the ball in a way that they are able to reverse swing it. So, here below, we show exactly what bowlers need to do to be able to add this particular weapon to their armoury:

What is reverse swing?

Reverse swing is an effective art of swinging the ball where the ball turns in towards the batsman, rather than moving away from him. This technique is used effectively by bowlers as the ball gradually gets older, perhaps after 35 overs. The science behind this is that, one side of the ball is kept shiny while the other is allowed to get rough. Once, the leather ball has two contrasting sides – one shiny and the other rough, the swing of the ball will depend on three factors viz. shiny side, climatic conditions and behaviour of the pitch. The seam position, seamy part, wrist position and arm position of the bowler wont affect the ball movement much. As one side of the ball continues to shine and the other side of the ball becomes rough, the bowler starts getting reverse swing. If the bowler doesn’t use reverse-swing with the ball getting older, then he is most likely to be ‘hit’ around the park by the batsmen.

Check out this video where cricket experts discuss reverse swing:

How to bowl reverse swing?

If a bowler wants to use reverse swing as a weapon, then he should initially hold the ball like he does while swinging it out. Now, if he is bowling to a right-handed batsman, then the rough side of the ball should be to the left (off-side) of his index finger while the shiny side to the right (leg-side). Then, he needs to hold the ball with its seam point towards the slips, by 20-30 degree facing the batsmen. Moving further, it is important to keep 40-50 degree angle between the bowling arm and head and shoulder. While following through, the bowler shouldn’t let his hand move away from the stumps. He should try to keep the ball moving between his body and the stumps. The bowler should try not to change his natural bowling action and try to deliver with straight fingers down the seam; relying on the fast movement of the wrist to produce reverse swing.

Check out this video where Irfan Pathan offers tips on reverse swing:

How to bat against reverse swing?

No doubt it is always a challenging task for batsmen to deal reverse swing. We have seen classic exponents of reverse swingers over the years in greats like Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Dennis Lillie, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis. Among the modern-day bowlers we have James Anderson, Zaheer Khan, Andrew Flintoff and Ajit Agarkar to name a few. For a batsman to deal with reverse swing, he needs to shorten his back-lift to a considerable amount. Higher the back-lift, more tougher it becomes to play the in-swinging yorkers. Nevertheless, this art keeps the dangerous toe-crushers out of contention. But reverse-swing limits a batsman’s shot-making ability because of lack of momentum. Playing a shot moving forward is recommended ensuring that the batsman’s leg movement be towards the line and impact of the incoming delivery; in order to counter any kind of sidewards movement, be it off the pitch or in the air.

Who invented reverse swing, who bowled it for the first time?

Cricket has evolved over the years. Thus, innovation has been an integral part of it; especially for bowlers to dismiss a set batsman. It is believed that Mudassar Nazar, bowled an unplayable reverse swing back in 1940 during a club cricket match in Lahore. However, as mentioned above, the major exponents at Test level were Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan and Dennis Lillee.

Check out this video where James Anderson talks on how he uses reverse swing:

How to treat the cricket ball to get it ready for reverse swing?

To get effective reverse swing, one has to wait for almost 30-35 overs to get the ball older. Then, the bowler needs to keep shining one side of the ball and leave the other side rough. It is important that the rough side remains untouched and should be as rough and hard possible. Usually, it has been seen that sub-continental pitches suit best for reverse swing causing maximum damage to batsmen.

Check out this video where Imran Khan explains the art of reverse swing:

What is the science of reverse swing?

There is some science behind bowling effective reverse swings. A bowler needs to vary the bowling speed on air, both side of the ball by utilising the seam movement of the ball. The two sides of the ball can clearly be seen. The ball must be at least 30-35 overs old before it starts to reverse-swing. When the match starts, the bowler within five overs needs to choose which side to shine.

Check out this video where the art of reverse swing is explained in details:

Likewise, the other side is left to roughen up under typical wear and tear of the game. The shiny surface allows speedier air flow through that side. In the long run, as the ball gets older, the air transforms its inclination for the side of the ball that it will go speedier around, thereby effecting better reverse-swing, causing havoc for the settled batsman, much to the delight of the bowler.

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