|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
Developed in Pakistan in response to unresponsive pitches, it revitalised cricket, but not before being greeted with fear and suspicion
August 7, 2010
Reverse swing is cricket's irresistible force. Appropriately for such a murky subject, we cannot be entirely sure of its origins, beyond the fact that it was developed in Pakistan, possibly as far back as the late 1940s, as a response to parched pitches. A little further down, its lineage is clearer: it was patented by Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz - although Imran also credits Australia's Max Walker for it - and mastered by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
Hand in hand with the legspin renaissance, reverse swing revitalised cricket in 90s. Cricket's response to such an unknown science was first fear (allegations of ball-tampering), then ignorance (as seen in the dirt-in-the-pocket affair involving Michael Atherton). But as time has gone on, more has been understood about the mechanics of reverse swing: pace and full length are prerequisites, as is a fast arm and a relative lack of height; additionally, a bone-dry outfield is also of help. As the name suggests, it reverses the norms of orthodox swing bowling: while one side of the ball is kept shiny, the other must be made as dry and rough as possible, which is why the old ball became such a deadly weapon. Beyond that, it's hard to explain, though some balls "go" better than others. Readers are the reverse swinger's ball of choice.
Reverse swing has also enabled bowlers to be entirely self-sufficient, needing no help from pitch or umpire (height is not a factor in lbw decisions that result from reverse-swinging yorkers). Both Wasim and Waqar have taken over half their Test wickets through bowleds and lbws. Ultimately, reverse swing has meant more collapses, more hat-tricks, and as Scyld Berry has pointed out, more results: tailenders are simply not equipped to handle a ball boomeranging in at their toes.
Rob Smyth is the author of The Spirit of Cricket - What Makes Cricket the Greatest Game on Earth. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003Feeds: Rob Smyth
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
|Comments have now been closed for this article
Simon Barnes: Phillip Hughes' death was desperately unlucky, and it came in the courageous pursuit of sporting excellence
It was a matter of time before Phillip Hughes cemented his spot in the Australian Test team. Then, improbably and inconsolably, his time ran out. By Daniel Brettig
Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Inzy's technique
Habibul Bashar talks about the team's early days, landmark wins, and the current squad
Raf Nicholson: Apart from the fact that they are exciting, intense encounters, getting rid of them will only spell doom for the format itself
The cricket world reacts to the passing away of Phillip Hughes
Likeable, hard-working and skilful, it was a matter of time before Phillip Hughes cemented his spot in the Australian Test team. Then, improbably and inconsolably, his time ran out
It is impossible to imagine how Sean Abbott must feel after sending down that bouncer to Phillip Hughes. While the cricket world hopes for Hughes' recovery, it should also ensure Abbott is supported
An early start to the international season, coupled with costly tickets, have kept the Australian public away from the cricket
The sickening blow that struck Phillip Hughes is a reminder of the ever-present dangers associated with facing fast bowlers, even while wearing a helmet
Pakistan have notched up some fine wins under Misbah-ul-Haq's leadership, but they haven't yet achieved consistent results outside the UAE
Going out to play cricket today would have been near enough to impossible. Even doing so next week in the nets and at the Gabba for the first Test will be difficult