Talking in reverse

Troy Cooley speaks to Peter English about how big a threat reverse-swing will be during the 2006-07 series

Peter English
Peter English
Reverse-swing was a series-turning trend during the 2005 Ashes and the bowling coach Troy Cooley was painted as one of the key designers. Despite often saying "we" when speaking about England, Cooley is back working in his native Australia and talks to Peter English about how big a threat the movement will be during the 2006-07 series in the first of a two-part interview

Troy Cooley monitors Matthew Hoggard during his high-profile stint in England © Getty Images
When did it click that reverse-swing could be so important?
Reverse-swing is one area of bowling variation, as long as you've got a bowler who can swing it and reverse-swing it, you should cover all bases. You practice reverse-swing and we - when I say we I mean England - practised it in the nets. When we went to the West Indies some of the grounds were terrible and the ball was getting old quickly. You had to work to get the swing and that sparked an immediate red flag to say "Come on lads, we've got to get going".
Have the Australians come up and asked "can you show me reverse-swing?"
No, we're leaving that alone, that's been well worn.
So how do you bowl it?
It's speed, condition of the ball and position of the seam. You've got to have the ball in the right condition and the seam in the right position. You can have it slightly tilted or you can have it straight up and down, whatever, but if you've got the ball in the right condition and the seam in an upright swinging position you will get it to reverse. If you've got a really roughed up ball the time that reverse-swing starts to take place is a lot lower. If the ball is in better condition you need a higher speed to get it to start. A new ball will start swinging at 70mph and when it gets to 90 or 95mph it will stop. It's all built on aerodynamics and high and low pressures.
Is reverse-swing a big deal in Australian conditions?
Swing or reverse-swing is condition based. You need to have the ball in the right condition with a contrast on both sides. You need a surface that can do that to the ball, making it rough and coarse, and then you rely on the bowler's capabilities to release it in the right spot. Conditions of the ball are paramount.
Why are Australia's hard pitches less helpful?
The outfields and wicket squares are also important. England has pretty big squares so you might have two or three used wickets and the ball skids across them. That all goes to deteriorating the ball in a more rapid time frame than if you are hitting it across lush grassy surfaces.
Did you notice the ball reversing when playing for Tasmania in the 1980s?
Reverse swing has always been there. At that stage Pakistan and India bowlers were using it and there was the thought they were doing something illegal. Whether they were or not, as a fast-bowling coach you make sure you want some of that movement. At over 50 you still had 30 overs left to get a new ball and you wanted to use it as best as possible. Any coach worth their salt wanted to try to make sure the bowler knew when it was happening and how to use it.

Cooley says Michael Kasprowicz has always had a good outswinger © Getty Images
Now sometimes they're not even taking the new ball at 80 overs.
At that stage the ball isn't coming off the bat as well and if the ball's swinging then, gee, it makes it a bit tough for batsmen. Poor batters. You just make sure bowlers understand it and then practise it, just like a bowler practises his legcutter. You practise with a scratched-up ball to make sure you know when it's about to go, when you're going to deliver it, what line you're going to deliver it, how to use it effectively and if there's anything you need to change for wrist positions.
Do Australian bowlers swing the ball much? Does a Test bowler need to swing the ball?
Um, looking back to when he started, Michael Kasprowicz has always had a good outswinger. You have to have either swing, seam or speed, or be big, tall and bouncy. Each bowler has their own skill set and brings it to a team of bowlers and you want things to be a bit different. You don't want robots coming in all the time because batsmen get pretty smart about that.
England had a team of bowlers last year?
They were working well on that last year and they got themselves into a good position and were lucky to keep out of injury. They also had people on the fringe like James Anderson and Sajid Mahmood and a couple of other county bowlers to keep the bunch honest. The bowlers developed their skill sets, which was very important, and didn't rely on what they had already.
In part two tomorrow Cooley speaks about the Ashes battle and coaching

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo