Pacemen losing the art of conventional swing for reverse: Davidson

WHEN THE LEGEND SPOKE: Alan Davidson explains the ideal grip for swing bowling. Photo: S. Dinakar

WHEN THE LEGEND SPOKE: Alan Davidson explains the ideal grip for swing bowling. Photo: S. Dinakar  

Alan Davidson got up, his 85-year-old frame still sturdy, to show what he loved most: the ideal grip for swing bowling.

In an exclusive conversation with The Hindu here on Friday, the Australian legend said, “You hold the ball between the index and the middle finger. The thumb, which is under the ball, is the tail. We call it the kangaroo hop.”

Davidson elaborated: “If the thumb points towards leg-slip, it is the in-swinger. If it points towards first slip, it is the away swinger.

“The ball should rest on the knuckle of the ring finger, you take it out of the equation as you release the ball. If the ball rolls or rotates over the ring finger, it will not swing. It has to come out clean.”

Davidson was the Australian attack’s lynchpin between 1953 and ’63, picking up 186 wickets in 44 Tests at 20.53. The deadly left-arm swing bowler was also a useful batsman down the order with 1,328 runs at 24.59.

He is quite the perfect man to talk about swing bowling. Davidson said, “I used the angles by using the return crease and bowled the line. These days, the pacemen don’t do that. The left-arm pacemen bowl from the same spot and if that doesn’t work out, bowl round the wicket. Unless I was asked to by the captain, I never bowled round the wicket.”

The ‘Irish’

Davidson was concerned at the general decline of swing bowling in world cricket. “There is too much focus on reverse swing. We used to do it too. We called it ‘Irish.’ If the ball swung the other way, we would say it did ‘Irish.’

The Australian Hall of Famer added, “But we never rubbed the ball into the ground in the 15th over to get it roughed up. In their bid to get it to reverse, the pacemen are losing the art of conventional swing.”

On the spate of injuries to fast bowlers these days, Davidson said, “I think they are trying to bowl faster than what their body allows. You have to bowl at the pace your body can withstand. If you exceed that, you are bound to get injured.”

He was not pleased with the present-day training methods either. “You needed strong legs, a strong heart and flexibility to be a pace bowler. I used to run 30 miles a week and bowled a lot of overs at the nets. Now you have speedsters lifting weights in the gym, building muscles. They lose flexibility and consequently get injured.”

Davidson, in fact, was a brilliant fielder. “I was nicknamed ‘Claws’ by Keith Miller because I caught everything.”

Of course, Davidson has wonderful memories of his ‘mates’ from his playing days. “Miller was a part of the ‘Invincibles’. They were the ‘Gods of cricket’, the greatest team that ever played the game if you ask me. He was a lively person and a fantastic cricketer.”

A unique captain

He recalled his captain Richie Benaud. “He was unique. He not only knew everything about his own team but about the opponents too. He led by example.

“He also had Neil Harvey as vice-captain.”

On his ‘best mate’, the left-handed Harvey, Davidson said, “He’s my life-long friend. He had the best footwork I have seen from any batsman in the game. You had to see how he batted on pitches that turned viciously. He had great vision as a cricketer.”

Davidson cherished his first Test wicket in Nottingham, 1953. “It was Len Hutton. I told skipper Benuad that I would have Hutton caught at gully. Soon, I angled one across, he edged the ball there!”

His first victim in first class cricket, George Thoms, had succumbed to a huge in-swinger.

Asked about the finest left-arm paceman he had seen, Davidson replied, “Wasim Akram and Bill Johnston. Johnston was a very versatile left-arm paceman.”

He looked on even as the crowd in the Alan Davidson Stand at the SCG roared at an Australian boundary. Davidson has his place in cricket history.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:03:04 AM |

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