Inside the wily craft of the slower ball

L. Balaji and T. A. Sekar discuss with Sportstar the various forms of the slower ball that is a handy weapon in a bowler's arsenal.

Dwayne Bravo bowls an effective slower ball using his thumb and wrist.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

The batsman settles in his stance. And the big fast bowler, sweat streaming down his face, thunders in off a long run-up. The batsman expects an explosion of power at the delivery stride and a quick ball. Instinctively, he goes for a punishing stroke over mid-wicket. The bat only meets thin air. The ball had arrived late!

The batsman has been done in by a crafty slow delivery. The art of deception is not confined to spin bowling alone.

Speaking to Sportstar, L. Balaji, who still sends down a handy slow ball, said “Look at Dwayne Bravo, how beautifully he bowls the dipping slow delivery.”

The former India paceman explained, “Bravo’s action is that of an offspin roller but here the thumb and the wrist do a lot of work. He breaks his wrist, which rocks back, to change direction of the ball at the last moment. By using his wrist, he also imparts revolutions on the ball, gets it to back-spin and dip.”

Balaji said, “This delivery, the slow dipping ball that Bravo bowls, is released from the highest point. It is above the eye level of the batsman who expects a full toss but then the ball dips and beats him.”

The Chennai paceman himself bowls a fine back-of-the-hand slow delivery that comes into the batsman and then tends to dip and kick off the pitch because of the back-spin.

Balaji said, “Wrist position is crucial for slower balls. You use your wrist and thumb for control. Fingers give the balance.”

Knuckle ball

Former India paceman and Delhi Daredevils bowling coach T. A. Sekar spoke to Sportstar about the knuckle ball that pace ace Zaheer Khan sent down so effectively. “The knuckles of the index and the middle fingers will be on the ball. The thumb will give support. The ball is flicked by the knuckles. It will slow down in the air but bounce after pitching. It is a difficult delivery to bowl and pick.”

Sekar also shed light on the ‘split fingers’ slower one. “The fingers are wide apart instead of being close on either side of the seam. When the ball is delivered, the air speed will be low because the wrist is locked.”

There is also the one finger slow ball which Sekar revealed pace legend Dennis Lillee mastered. “The index finger and the thumb are on the ball. The release speed is reduced, the ball moves slowly in the air.” Lillee also bowled the slow off and leg-cutters.

Another wily delivery that forces miscued shots from the batsmen is the slow bouncer. Sekar said, “It is an off-cutter that is aimed to hit the middle of the pitch, at about 11 yards. This will take the pace off the ball. It will end up as a slow lifting delivery. The shoulder has to be used to get the bounce.”

Sekar added, “Pacemen also bowl cross seam these days to get varied bounce. The ball skids if it hits the leather, but lifts when it lands on the seam.”

Speed thrills but the lack of it can be a batsman-killer.

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