A fellow coach and I were speaking last night about a perennial problem in our team: the ball stops swinging very early.
We blame the quality of the balls. This happens every season. The new ball wobbles a little but the deviation soon ends, often after as little as 10 overs.
But it’s not just about the ball. So here are 4 ways you can make a “bad” ball swing.
1. Use your wrist
Here’s a simple fact; if you get your wrist behind the ball when you are bowling it’s much more likely to swing.
But learning how to get your wrist behind the ball consistently takes a lot of work. Some people are instinctively good at it. They are the bowlers who seem to be able to make it swing round corners at any stage of the game. But those players are rare beasts and most amateur level players just never work on wrist position.
So experiment with getting the right feel for inswing and outswing while keeping your wrist behind the ball. It’s a good way to use net time that might otherwise be misused.
2. Change pace
The science of swing is not exact, but one thing the boffins do know is that there are optimal speeds for the ball to swing. This means your stock pace may be fine when the ball is new, but is too fast for it to swing when the ball loses its shine.
So experiment with pace variations. You may find slowing down a little makes the ball swing. On the other hand, you may find bending your back has the same effect. The seamers should be constantly looking for that optimal pace, and be aware that the number will vary as the ball ages and weather changes.
3. Change length
It’s a cliché to say the fuller you bowl, the more the ball swings but it’s also true. Many bowlers are afraid of the half volley and pepper the back of a length and shorter areas, wasting the chance to make the ball swing.
Whether it’s your natural length to bowl a touch short or not, you should always look to bowl a fuller ball early on when slips are in place. Even a half volley that swings can take a wicket.
If the fuller ball doesn’t swing, go fuller still. That fraction longer in the air could make a difference and the most it will cost you is a couple of boundaries before you return to your original plan.
4. Take care of the ball
This is a huge one. A quick rub of the shiny side with your sweaty palms all over the rough side of the ball is not going to work.
The ball needs to be treated like a precious object.
Designate someone as the ball shiner and keep everyone else’s hands off the ball unless they are fielding it. Make sure that sweat stays off the ball by carefully handling it and be obsessive about keeping it clean and dry.
This makes a massive difference come the later stages of the innings.
There is never a time to give up on making the ball swing. I have seen a ball do nothing from overs 12-35 before a little occasional medium pacer comes on and bananas it round corners.
Yes, there will be times where the ball just will not swing, but if you are doing everything you can technically and tactically you know you will be a step ahead of the opposition, and that will help you win more matches.
image credit: Chris Turner