Reverse Swing is when a pace bowler is bowling with an old ball and can often get the ball to swing in an opposite direction compared to his usual swing bowling and this leaves batsmen surprised and confused. It is a very useful tool in any bowler’s arsenal if used right.
In the modern age, the sport of cricket is leaning heavily towards becoming a batsman-centric game. The rise and growth of T20 cricket, the introduction of new rules and technologies that favour batsmen in limited overs cricket as well as an ever-increasing need for more boundaries and sixes is making the sport more difficult for bowlers to thrive in.
As a result, today’s bowlers need to be smarter than ever and need to arm themselves with as many resources as possible in order to outsmart and outthink the batsmen and come out on top. One way they can achieve this is by mastering the cricket ball and using as many delivery types as possible that surprise the batsmen and ones that they fail to anticipate.
One such delivery is the reverse swing which has been utilised heavily these days. Despite its popularity in the modern era, it is still a difficult delivery to read and batsmen often lose their wickets to reverse swing bowling compared to conventional swing bowling.
But what is reverse swing in cricket and how does it happen? Let’s discuss:
What is reverse swing in cricket and what does the term mean?
Generally, a cricket ball swings on the opposite side of where the shiny side is. For instance, if the shining side of the ball faces a right-handed batsman, the ball ends up swinging away from him. Similarly, the cricket ball swings into the right-handed batsman if the rough side faces him.
Therefore, it is easy to infer that the direction of a cricket ball swing actually depends on the seam position held by the fast bowlers.
In the case of reverse swing, the complete opposite effect takes place. Unlike normal swing bowling which is easier to affect with a new ball, swing bowlers have to rely on an old ball in order to reverse the swing of the ball.
When the ball is reverse swinging, the delivery comes into the right-hander if the smooth side of the ball is facing towards him. And the ball swings away from him if the shining side of the ball is not towards him. So if the bowler is bowling an outswinger with the usual seam straight position, the reverse swing makes it an inswinger and vice versa.
How to bowl reverse swing in cricket?
During a cricket match, players often try their best to create shine on one side of the ball by rubbing it on their thighs repeatedly, spitting on it, and otherwise. Naturally, the other side of the leather ball becomes rougher due to wear and tear of the rough and dry pitch, and eventually, the pits, tears, and scratches become too deep. If there is a pressure difference between the two sides of the ball, a side force or swing ends up being generated.
The science of reverse swing works something like this: Once the cricket ball is bowled, a thin layer of air forms around its surface – this is what is known as the boundary layer. This boundary layer does not stay attached to the surface all the way around and so it has to separate at a certain point on the ball.
This separation point will affect how the ball moves further through the air. A late separation will lead to lower pressure on that side and a net lateral force will be generated if there is a pressure difference between the two sides, making the ball move sideways.
Because of the polishing and shining, the other side of the ball finds greater air coverage and therefore, the quicker air flow now takes place on the shiny side of the ball. The ball then swings in the opposite direction as it usually does with normal swing. A conventional inswinger would swing away from the batsman and this is what is known as contrast swing or reverse swing in cricket.
Although it is hard to predict exactly when reverse swing comes into effect, the tipping point is generally said to be around overs 35-40 (usually it comes into play later in Test cricket because of the red ball’s nature) although there are numerous cases of reverse swing coming into effect even when the ball is around 15-20 overs old. Actually, when it comes into play is determined by a host of factors such as the nature of the pitch and the weather.
The masters of reverse swing bowling
As is often the case with great fast bowling, reverse swing too was said to be born in Pakistan. Famous domestic cricketer Salim Mir is said to be the first to use reverse swing in matches and he taught it to Pakistan pacer Sarfraz Nawaz.
Today, Nawaz is said to be among the earliest exponents of reverse swing at the international level. He had a successful Test career and took 177 wickets in 55 Tests for Pakistan between 1969 and 1984. He once took 9/86 in an innings against Australia at the MCG to spearhead an upset win.
Legendary Pakistani captain Imran Khan was also said to be great at it but the fast bowling duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis took reverse swing bowling to a different level and became the masters of the craft. Wasim and Waqar are the highest wicket-takers in Tests for Pakistan and they are also second and third on the list of bowlers with the most ODI wickets.
In today’s generation, the recently retired Dale Steyn was a great bowler of reverse swing while currently, England great James Anderson and Indian stalwart Jasprit Bumrah are capable of surprising batsmen with the reverse swing.
What is the difference between conventional and reverse swing in cricket?
In the case of a reverse swing, a conventional outswinging delivery comes into the batsman and vice-versa. This takes place because the air flow moves through the opposite side of the ball instead of the same direction as the ball gets older over time causing it to swing in the reverse direction.
What is done to the ball’s surface in order to create swing in cricket?
One side of the ball is shined thoroughly with either spit or by polishing it on the pants in order to create a separation point from the rough surface.
Why is reverse swing dangerous?
In order to achieve the effect of reverse swing, cases have been found where the bowling team has indulged in ball tampering in order to create more wear and tear on one side of the ball. It goes without saying that ball tampering is not only looked down upon in the cricket world but is also a punishable offence.
Who invented the reverse swing delivery?
Pakistan bowler Salim Mir is credited for inventing the reverse swing delivery but it was first popularised in international cricket by his protege Sarfraz Nawaz who had a successful Test career.