Recently we had the opportunity to meet with L Siva – former Indian leg-spinner and cricket commentator. We were talking about Indian fast bowling and why Mohammed Shami was able to reverse swing the old ball a lot better than Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Siva felt that the slightly side-arm/round arm action of Shami seems to aid reverse swing much better than the conventional upright straight-arm action. Siva went on to point out all bowlers who reversed the old ball well – Akram, Malinga, Waqar, etc bowled with a slinging side-arm action. This set me thinking –
In test cricket, we play with the same ball for 80 overs. A new ball retains its shine (or newness) for 20 overs at best. The ball usually starts reverse swinging at around 40 overs or so. In effect, we get 20 overs of regular swing and a good 40 overs of reverse, give or take a few. So logically, we need more reverse swing bowlers (side arm) than the regular swing bowlers (straight arm). Then why is it that our coaches keep correcting the action of kids and make them bowl with a straight arm? Are we not better if we have a good crop of bowlers who can reverse the ball well? This means that we will be able to bowl much better to the middle order and be much more effective in getting rid of the tail quickly.
I remember Lasith Malinga saying in an interview that his coaches rarely tried to correct his action. Many Sri Lankan bowlers – Ajantha Mendis, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga and the great Muthiah Muralitharan – have all bowled with unusual actions that have confused batsmen all over the world. Credit needs to go to the Sri Lankan cricket coaches who have just nurtured the bowlers without trying to change their action. On the other hand, we have had many bowlers – like Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, etc who destroyed their careers trying to change their bowling actions.
Looks like the bowling coaches in India need to seriously re-look at the role they play in improving bowlers !!