Tuesday 24 September 2013 

Are You Sabotaging Your Chances Of Getting Swing?

MS Dhoni - India - cricket
Keeping the ball in good condition is crucial to make it swing
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

The sun beats down on a warm afternoon and you are in the middle of an opening spell. The ball is new, the pitch is firm and the batters have set their jaws to dig in hard.

You are desperate to find that bit of swing to make all the difference to your attack.

The call goes up for which side needs shining from the senior player at gully, "look after the dragon, guys" he insists, before rubbing the side of the ball imprinted with a golden dragon on the dark red leather.

To boost the shine further he licks his thumb and slides it over one side, before returning to the rubbing. When he is satisfied, the ball goes round the field to get back to the bowler.

It's a common scenario. I'm sure you have seen it yourself. His intentions were to increase the chances of swing, but in fact he - and everyone else who touched the ball on the way through - has just made the ball less likely to swing.

Stop using sweat and saliva

We used to think that weighing the ball down with water helped the ball swing. So adding sweat to the ball became a commonly held belief in cricket going back years.

In recent years, research has shown that water is counter-productive because it stops the natural enzymes in the ball coming out as you shine it.

In short, you need to stop using sweat and saliva when you shine the ball.

Instead, the way to get more swing from the ball legally is to keep it as dry as you possibly can.

So, cut out the thumb licking and sweat wiping (even if you have been eating sweets) and keep your hands as dry as you can when you shine the ball.

Less hands, better grip

Ideally, if you sweat a lot, you will not touch the ball at all unless you are bowling. This means the ball is transferred from keeper or fielder to the bowler with as few hands as possible on the ball.

For example, if the keeper takes a ball from a leave, he passes is straight to the slip fielder who is least sweaty. This fielder works on the ball before throwing it straight to mid off to pass to the bowler.

All fielders should also be instructed to how to work the ball with fingers on the seam and palm off the ball to reduce the amount of sweat that gets on the ball. If you are shining it, work in a circular motion rather than up and down.

In short, make it your obsession to keep the ball as dry as you possibly can so you can let the leather do the work.

Avoid perfection

Throughout all this, you are still looking for as much difference as possible between the shiny and rough sides of the ball, as this is how it swings.

However, often a perfect shiny side is not always possible, especially on rough, dry outfields. The good news is that all you really needs is a small shiny area the size of a large coin. This will still allow the ball to swing, even in harsh conditions.

Combine this with an effort to flatten the seam once the ball has got older because this will further allow swing.

But the real key is to keep the ball as dry as possible as long as possible. If you are doing anything else you are reducing the chances of swing.

© 2013 miSport Ltd

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