Krishna Tunga analyses the art of swing bowling in the light of India's batting collapse against the Proteas.

Friday, April 04, 2022

Is Swing Bowling the last hope?

Krishna Tunga

Yesterday, the Indians collapsed to some intelligent swing bowling. The strategy was to keep someone like Sehwag on the back-foot by peppering him with some good short-pitched bowling and once he was stuck on the back-foot, they bowled to a good rather than a fuller length.
In January this year, the Indians did the same to Australia at WACA, Perth to register their first ever Test win on the fastest wicket in the world. The Indians swung the ball very well and used the straight ones on the right lengths. Australians were good enough to edge them more often which brought about their downfall. What was interesting was that the Indian batsmen played and missed more than the Australians, suggesting that the Australians bowlers created more chances, some of which were dropped and on some occasions, the batsmen couldn't get an edge. 

The Indian pace arsenal including two left-armers and a right-armer were all capable of swinging the ball, which was a perfect foil for the long list of left-handers the Australians possessed. Ishant in particular was the pick of the bowlers as he bothered Ricky Ponting all ends up, using his straight ones to great effect. 
Why is it difficult to face swing bowling?  

A batsman is obviously looking for the seam rotation when the ball is new, and once the ball is old, he tries to spot the shiny side of it. This is a tough task, considering that the batsman has only a fraction of a second to do so.

Add to this, if a bowler is bowling around the wicket, it becomes even more difficult for the batsman to see the angle of the ball, especially if it is reverse swinging. A good example of this is RP Singh troubling Michael Clarke during India’s recent tour to Australia.
Chris Cairns successfully implied this theory against Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden, when New Zealand toured Australia in 2002. To curb their run-rate, Cairns started bowling around the wicket and managed to get it under 3 runs/over. The theory was later picked by the England team management and applied with great success by Andrew Flintoff and co. to record their first Ashes win in 18 years.

With the help of Steve Harmison (who was bowling fast and short-pitch), Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones, England got the Australians on the back-foot, and tied down their scoring rate. With Flintoff bowling around the wicket to the left-handers, they were unable to see the line of the ball and started getting inside edges to the stump. Freddie’s height and the late wrist flick made it difficult for the batsmen to spot the ball.

Indians have some quality swing bowlers in the form of RP Singh, S Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, and Ishant Sharma. They, however, lack the discipline and accuracy needed to take the leap from being good bowlers to great bowlers.