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What is 'banana swing' in cricket?

Sushil Sali
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Irfan Pathan was one of the practitioners of Banana Swing
Irfan Pathan was one of the practitioners of Banana Swing

Swing bowling is one of the most alluring assets in cricket. And it is also the most complex commodity as it is not understood by many, including professional cricketers. Many bowlers do employ swing bowling but don’t really know the science and the aerodynamics behind it.

Most of us are well aware of the various types of swing and seam bowling that exist in cricket. The most conventional form of swing bowling are in-swing and out-swing, and then we have the third category in Reverse Swing.

But what is banana swing?

Banana swing is a variant of reverse swing and needs to be bowled at higher speed than usual. It can be termed as a fast swinging yorker delivery.

In banana swing, the ball follows a path similar to that of a typical banana. As the ball leaves the bowler's hand, its path takes a “C” shape in the air and finally zips in or out based on whether the bowler has bowled an in-swinger or an out-swinger.

By the definition of reverse swing, the ball should nip back in late. And since banana swing is bowled at such serious pace, it makes it almost impossible for the batsman to play it out.

Bowling a yorker itself is a challenge, and to reverse swing it at such high pace and york the batsman demands skill of the highest order from the bowler.

The term banana swing was first coined when the world saw Waqar Younis bowling it against the mighty Aussies in the late ’80s. Later we saw quite a few other bowlers develop the mysterious skill too.

Banana swing cannot be bowled just like a conventional swinger, by pointing the seam towards the direction you want. By orienting the seam towards the slips, the ball will swing early and lose the element of surprise.


For banana swing, the seam has to be upright and straight in the fingers. The wrist should be cocked back, so that it automatically snaps forward, causing backspin.

So all the magic potions lie in the wrists and the arm position. Waqar had a beautiful side-on action that helped him deliver those deadly sniper-like deliveries.

The level of accuracy and expertise needed to generate banana swing is extremely high. It is something that's very difficult to achieve, and not many have mastered it. Waqar was the first one to employ this kind of delivery, and over the years we have seen a few other bowlers such as Shaun Tait, Wasim Akram, Irfan Pathan, Lasith Malinga and Shane Bond executing it.

The famous delivery by Irfan Pathan to Adam Gilchrist in the 2003-04 series in Australia is still fresh in the minds of many. Today, banana swing has become a rarity and although we see glimpses of it in Mitchel Starc’s bowling, it is nowhere near like what was seen a decade and a half ago.