Swing bowling is a complex science and not an absolute one. The basics are simple enough.
Swing occurs due to the uneven distribution of pressure on the two sides of the ball as it passes through the air. It can be achieved by holding the ball with the seam canted in the direction where the bowler wants it to swing — towards first slip for the out-swinger, towards fine-leg for the in-swinger. The angled seam produces turbulence only on one side and the resulting difference in pressure gets the ball to deviate.
Conventional wisdom says that a new ball swings more, the science behind that is simple. The seam in a new ball is more prominent and almost acts like a rudder. Conditions also play a part with the traditional belief that overcast and damp conditions aid swing bowling. (Although a paper in science journal Nature discredits this theory for the lack of scientific evidence. The only explanation it gives for this phenomenon is that is in damp conditions the ball has a tackier surface, which in turn helps the bowlers grip it better and impart more revolutions, almost unknowingly).
Keeping it simple
Enough of the physics lesson, though. Swing bowling can also be a simple art, especially for those who master it.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is all about simplicity. His run-up isn’t about steaming in, It’s a measured, direct jog. His release is uncomplicated, wrist in the right spot, head still. His follow through is, you guessed, simple yet effective. All these simple steps, however, combine to make the batsman’s task a complicated struggle.
The simplistic approach is also evident in his interactions with the media. Following a Man-of-the-Match performance against Pakistan, he made his way to the post-match presser.
His answers were much like his bowling, to the point. Ask him if India are now the favourites, and he says, “If any team does well obviously they are favourites, but we have to keep the momentum we got from these three matches.”
Tell him that he has an enviable record against Pakistan, and he shoots back, “It's not that I love to bowl against Pakistan. I have taken most of my wickets against Pakistan, so maybe that's just a coincidence. I don’t know.”
There’s also a touch of simplicity about his role in the team. MS Dhoni prefers bowling him out upfront. That makes sense. New ball swings more, Bhuvneshwar is a swing bowler. No rocket science that!
Of course, it’s still too early to pass any judgement on him, good or bad. What has been evident in his first year of international cricket is that the 23-year-old is a thinking man’s cricketer, ever willing to adapt to the situation.
The white Kookaburra hasn’t swung that much, the conditions have been decidedly un-English. He’s responded by focusing on his line and length, making the most of what little swing is on offer. When he made his Ranji debut at 17, his batting would’ve shamed Danny Morrison. He now has a first-class average over 30, with a ton to boot.
He doesn’t have the raw pace of Umesh Yadav, nor the disconcerting bounce Ishant Sharma can generate. But, when you’re talking about Bhuvneshwar the important thing to focus on isn’t the skills that he doesn’t possess, but rather the ones he does. That’s the way he looks at it.