Grip, Release, Origin: Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s Knuckleball Explained

What is a knuckleball? Here’s a look at the grip and how the ball is released.

3 min read
Hindi Female

India’s speedster Bhuvneshwar Kumar became the first Indian bowler to pick up a five-wicket haul in each of the three formats during the first T20 against South Africa in Johannesburg.

The 28-year-old, who has been using the knuckleball to great effect, returned with figures of 5/24 in the match.

I have been bowling that knuckleball with the seam up since the last one year. Worked on it in the IPL.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar

So what is a knuckleball? Here’s a look at the grip and how the ball is released.



The bowler grips the ball with the tip of his fingernails, in the case of Bhuvneshwar, he holds the ball with the tip of his index and middle finger, and supports it with his thumb at the bottom of the ball.



When the bowler delivers the ball with his fingernails, the ball wobbles upwards, and then dips alarmingly at around the yorker length at a slower pace.

Australia’s Andrew Tye made the knuckleball famous when he executed it more than 15 times on his IPL debut for Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiant. In that match, he became the first bowler to pick up a hat-trick and take a five-wicket haul on his IPL debut.

It has probably taken me five-six years to get to the stage where it [the knuckleball] is today. I have practised it hard and have practised with the right intent. Now, it is my most powerful weapon in T20 cricket. Unlike the hat-trick I took in the Big Bash, I actually knew it was a hat-trick ball. It came out perfectly as sometimes you try too hard and it just doesn’t go right. You always go back to your run-up and think, ‘What ball am I going to bowl?’ I had decided I’d bowl a slower ball before I ran in. I was able to get it on the stump and the batsman missed it.
Andrew Tye

Origin of the Knuckleball

What is a knuckleball? Here’s a look at the grip and how the ball is released.
File photo of a pitcher throwing the ball.
(Photo: Reuters)

The knuckleball was first executed in baseball, before it was transferred to cricket. Toad Ramsey of the Louisville Colonels (old American Association) and Eddie Cicotte of the major leagues' Chicago White Sox are supposedly the ones who first started knuckleballs.

Even the baseball players hold the ball with their fingertips, and while releasing the ball, they make sure that there is no spin on the ball.

Eddie Cicotte was nicknamed knuckles in 1908.


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