It was once called a dark art and its practitioners were branded cheats without so much as being given a fair hearing. But cricket has come a long way since the 70s and 80s when it was only a few Pakistani fast bowlers who had mastered reverse swing. England, the team that complained the most about opposition bowlers extracting swing from the old ball, famously embraced the phenomenon, ironically under the tutelage of Troy Cooley, currently Australia's bowling coach. In the 2005 Ashes Cooley shepherded Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones through a series of reverse swing that left the Australians at the wrong end of a heavy defeat. Now, even as he tries to get the ball to go in his team's favour, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma are showing the world champions how its done.
One of the tactics the Indians have adopted is to hit the deck hard with the ball delivered cross-seam, thereby legally getting wear and tear on the ball early on. What's more, Zaheer and Ishant seem to have enough control to hand one side of the ball on the pitch more often than not, giving fielders a chance to keep the shine going on the other side. What this has done is cause the ball to reverse even when it is comparatively new, and at slower speeds than traditional reverse swing.
While no-one quite understands exactly how to produce this reverse swing, experts all agree that the factors that determine reverse swing are: the condition of the ball, the position of the seam on release and the speed at which the ball is delivered. It's not an exact science, and though
Halfway through the series Australia are struggling to come to terms with India's reverse swing. India's bowlers may not know the science behind this art, but the practical demonstration they've given has been enough to floor the Australian batsmen.