Reverse psychology deadly for Australia
There is only one thing that cricket commentators love more than hilarious in-jokes and fascinating anecdotes from their past playing careers.
If listeners aren’t being treated to a classic retelling of the time Warnie slog swept on 99 – Tubby calling the action as Mark Nicholas bounded about near the sheds collecting signatures – then chances are they’re hearing about reverse swing.
Few cricketing phenomena are more confusing and/or talked about – the process of an older ball moving through the air in the direction of the shiny side, as opposed to conventional swing where the ball moves to the rough side.
For commentators and cricket fans alike, the science behind reverse swing is seldom dwelled upon but that doesn’t seem to hinder the obsession.
Following last week’s loss to South Africa in Perth, Steve Smith was criticised for underutilising spinner Nathan Lyon, with reverse swing cited as the reason.
The Aussie skipper’s logic was simple enough: why use a spinner in the South Africa’s second innings when the ball is reversing?
Whilst it is true that pace bowling is more conducive to extracting reverse swing than slower bowling, Smith’s logic is undone by one key factor – the Australian fast bowlers weren’t taking wickets.
As Shane Warne pointed out – “it wasn’t as if it was going around corners, hooping all over the place and we were taking wickets.”
Though Warne’s opinions on the importance of spin may appear biased and unrelenting (because they are), they’re not without merit.
Lyon was selected as a frontline bowler with the hope that he would contribute to the wicket tally and while he was underwhelming in conditions that ill-suited him, Australia cannot afford to carry any passengers after a fourth straight test lost.
Regardless of whether the ball is reversing or not, if the spinner is selected he must bowl – particularly in near 40-degree heat and with quicks that have a history of breaking down.
Since Michael Clarke’s resignation from the selection panel in 2013, the captain may not have an official hand in the 12 players selected but to suggest that he has no say would be naïve.
The ultimatum is simple: either bowl Lyon or don’t select him.
Alternatively, you could throw Jordan Silk in the infield and use Lyon’s steady hand to cut the oranges.