It’s a difficult art to master and I’ve previously taken a look at reverse swing bowling and how to deliver it. But who has been the best in the business? Here is a list of some of the greatest reverse swing bowlers of all time.
Who is the Best Reverse Swing Bowler?
Most cricket experts will agree that the best reverse swing bowler of all time was Wasim Akram. He combined the mystery art of making the ball swing against its natural course with deadly accuracy.
He had pace and, when he managed either reverse or conventional swing, he was virtually unplayable.
Top 10 Reverse Swing Bowlers
Readers may have their own opinion and many of my lists are always up for discussion. However, I think in this case, most of you would agree that Wasim Akram was the best reverse swing bowler in the game’s history.
Traditionally, when the ball gets old, it is tossed to the spinners, but that wasn’t the case when Wasim Akram was around. He was arguably the best of any bowler, once that ball had become worn, and that reverse swing contributed a great deal to his total of 916 international wickets.
In his younger days, South Africa’s Dale Steyn relied mainly on his sheer pace. As time wore on and injuries started to catch up with him, we began to see more swing and seam from this clever bowler.
He was an expert at reverse swing and was still using it to great effect towards the end of his career. A particularly memorable spell came against Australia in 2014 at Port Elizabeth where his work with the old ball sparked an Aussie collapse.
As I write this in 2023, there are few who would argue against the theory that Mitchell Starc is the best left arm swing bowler still playing the game. Despite a few injuries, he still has genuine pace and has now taken more than 600 international wickets.
Starc is one of the few bowlers who can swing the white ball in limited overs cricket, but his mastery of the art of reverse swing helped him to claim a good percentage of those wickets with the old red ball in tests.
A left armer who had some pace in his earlier career, Zaheer Khan’s chief weapon was swing. He was another bowler who could get the white ball to move in the air, and he also employed the reverse swing technique to good effect in test cricket.
Local supporters will say that he is the best ever reverse swing bowler from India. Others would argue that he was as good as Wasim Akram on his day. That’s a debatable point, but we can all agree that Zaheer Khan was one of the best exponents of this mysterious art.
England’s Jimmy Anderson is another bowler who has enjoyed great success with both conventional and reverse swing. Still bowling in test cricket past his 40th birthday, Anderson can bowl fast leg cutters which are almost impossible to deal with when the ball is swinging.
Interestingly, Anderson credits Zaheer Khan with the inspiration behind one of his techniques. Zaheer would hide the ball as he ran in so that the batsmen had no idea how he was trying to swing it. Jimmy Anderson copied this to good effect.
Mohammad Shami had a successful tour of England in 2018. The conditions suited his swing and seam and he was a threat to the home side throughout. A bowler with genuine pace in his early career, he’s perfected other techniques since.
Reverse swing is now one of his chief weapons and we saw a lot of it on that 2018 tour.
He was arguably the greatest ever seam bowler with his near-perfect wrist position, but Glenn McGrath could also get prodigious swing when the conditions were right. Remember that reverse swing works when the ball is older and, when that is the case, the seam will have started to flatten out.
Seam bowlers such as McGrath would have to adapt when this happens and that’s exactly what he did. He finished his career as the leading wicket taker among faster bowlers in tests and, although seam was his chief weapon, he could also use reverse swing later on.
Shane Bond’s career is a tale of what might have been. He was New Zealand’s fastest bowler, but a catalogue of appearances restricted his appearances. Bond also had to rely more on swing bowling as opposed to pace as time wore on.
Because of an inability to stay fit for the longer formats, he was largely restricted to limited overs matches where we saw a rare capacity for imparting reverse swing on the old white ball.
Together with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis formed a deadly opening bowling spearhead. It was the perfect left hand/right hand combination and both men played a full part.
Yorkers are the perfect delivery for swing bowlers, and nobody delivered them better than Waqar. They were known as ‘toe crushers’ as the batsman would often fall down as the ball crashed into the boot.
Waqar Younis was a threat at any stage of an innings, but he was devastating when the old ball started to reverse swing.
He’s India’s most important fast bowler at the moment and he was badly missed at the World Cup. Jasprit Bumrah has the ability to swing the ball both ways and he is one of the best death bowlers in world cricket.
Because of all his qualities with the white ball, we may forget that he is one of the best reverse swing bowlers right now. When he gets back into the Indian test team, we will see all of those qualities with the old red ball once again.
All of these bowlers were equally competent at bowling conventional swing. At the start of any innings, the ball will tend to swing in a regular fashion, before it gets roughed up and moves in the opposite direction.
When you’re watching these bowlers on TV, all you can really see is the ball swinging in the air. You don’t really appreciate the fact that it is reversing – that’s for the batters to deal with.
Whether you’re a batter or a spectator, reverse swing is an impressive art to master and the players on this list are up there with the best.