The yorker is a bit like my mother-in-law: Don’t see either of them as much as I used to.
A perfectly pitched yorker is a thing of beauty.
Who’ll ever forget the moment of the 2015 World Cup in Australia when Mitchell Starc crashed a 150kph thunderbolt into the base of Brendan McCullum’s off-stump on the third ball of the final in front of a packed MCG. It’s the loudest roar I’ve ever heard in a stadium.
Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Lasith ‘Slinga’ Malinga — all grand masters of the yorker.
So, where have all the yorkers gone?
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Newsflash for most white-ball bowler’s around the world: Whatever it is you are doing, it is not working.
It’s said the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. At the moment, there’s mostly one outcome for fast and medium pace bowlers: They’re getting smashed.
Continue to allow modern day batsmen with rocket-fuelled bats and ever-decreasing boundary dimensions to get under the Kookaburra and it’ll continue disappearing. Going, going, goooone.
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Watching a Marsh Cup game earlier this week, you might as well have plugged a bowling machine at either end, set them on a perfect slogging length and see how far the batsmen can hit it. There didn’t seem to be any answer, or any obvious tactic I could see, to try and combat the power hitting of the modern batsmen. There was an air of resignation about the whole affair.
The answer to this problem, like most aspects of cricket, is very simple.
If you don’t want to get hit out of the ground, don’t let batsmen get under the ball. Bowl a yorker!
Am I missing something here? Why are modern-day quicks avoiding bowling yorkers? Are these the ramblings of an ex-player — a dinosaur — who the modern game has passed by?
Best ask some experts a bit closer to the action.
Brett Lee is one of Australia’s best ever red and white-ball bowlers. He’s also the owner of one of the deadliest yorkers in history.
Australia’s Brett Lee was one of the great yorker bowlers. Picture: Ben MacmahonSource: AAP
In addition to taking 380 ODI wickets, ‘Binga’ has been involved in every IPL since 2008 as either a player or commentator, while he’s also, of course, a Sydney Sixers BBL legend and Fox Cricket commentator.
If Binga’s not qualified to talk yorkers, no one is.
“In the last 12 years of the IPL, the average strike rate per successful yorker delivered is one run per ball. It’s the hardest ball to bowl under pressure, but it’s the most effective, by the length of my run-up,” he said.
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“Unfortunately, most bowlers don’t seem to have the confidence to bowl yorkers, especially under pressure. Coaches and captains sense that lack of confidence and tend to build their game plans around quicks bowling into the pitch, slower balls and back of a length. That works in certain situations, but as a rule, it’s asking for trouble.”
Lee religiously practised bowling yorkers for an hour in the nets the day before each ODI and T20 match. Aiming at a water bottle at the end of the pitch, he’d simulate possible match situations he could be confronted with by using an old ball that didn’t swing, one that reversed and a wet ball in case he had to bowl at the death on a damp ground due to rain or dew.
“You can’t bowl a few yorkers in the nets the day before a game and hope to go out and bowl four or five in an over under pressure against the best batsmen in the world,” he said.
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“I don’t think many of the modern day bowlers practice yorkers enough, to be honest with you. More so than any other delivery, bowling yorkers has a real feel and rhythm to it.”
“It annoys me to hear bowlers say yorkers are too hard and too risky to bowl because batsmen sit back in their crease or play the ramp shot. To me, that’s a cop out. If you’re worried about the ramp, drop your fine leg and third man back. It becomes a very risky shot to play for a single. I would rather make a batsmen hit me back over my head for four or six than play one of those dinky little ramps for the same result.”
Lee also had some advice for young bowlers.
“If a young quick came to me and asked how to progress their career the fastest possible way, I would tell them to get in the nets and practice their butts off until they can bowl five yorkers an over. Not just at the stumps. Wide yorkers to both right and left-handers are a great weapon if used the right way,” he said.
“Once you can do that, write your own ticket, you’ll be one of the most sought after bowlers in the world.”
Brad Haddin and Brett Lee urge bowlers to bring back the yorker. Picture: Gregg PorteousSource: News Limited
Brad Haddin has one of the sharpest cricket brains on the planet. Australia’s vice-captain in its 2015 World Cup win, a multiple BBL title winner with the Sydney Sixers and current assistant coach under Trevor Bayliss with IPL franchise, Sunrisers Hyderabad.
A straight shooter who has impressed all with his razor sharp insights during his BBL commentary on Fox Cricket this season, it was no surprise to hear Haddin share Lee’s frustration at the lack of yorkers being bowled these days.
“Players feel as though the yorker is old fashioned. They would rather bowl into the wicket with changes of pace,” Haddin said.
“One of the main problems I see is that they don’t practice bowling yorkers enough. This lack of practice means that under pressure in match situations, most bowlers simply don’t trust their ability to consistently hit the blockhole. So they go with another delivery.”
Hmm. Seems like we have a pattern forming here.
“A bowler who can bowl consistent yorkers controls the game,” Haddin said. “You can manipulate the batsman into hitting the ball into the areas where you want them to and it’s much easier to set fields to. You have to think about what the batsman wants.
“I can tell you from experience, the last thing a batsman wants to face is a searing yorker when they are trying to clear the ropes. I don’t care who you are, it’s impossible to hit a good yorker for six.”
New Zealand’s Trent Boult bowled superbly during the second T20 match. Picture: Marty MelvilleSource: AFP
“Look at the 18th over Trent Boult bowled against Australia in game two of the T20 series at Dunedin. He won that game for the Kiwis by controlling the batsmen with his yorkers. He had the trust in his ability to execute the plan. I guarantee you if he bowls the ball into the pitch during that over, Australia win that game.
“Bowlers and captains need to review the fields set to yorkers as well. There is very little margin for error bowling yorkers with fine leg and third man up on the circle. I’d hate to see what batsmen’s strike rates are with fine leg and third man up as opposed to back on the boundary.”
Haddin said he’d like to see “bowlers practice bowling yorkers like batsmen work on their front-foot defence or cover drive”.
“Thangarasu Natarajan made his Test debut against Australia largely on the strength of his brilliant yorker bowling in his maiden IPL season and starred against the Aussies on his T20 debut. The most valuable bowlers in the IPL, are bowlers like Natarajan and Bumrah who not only take wickets early, but come back and execute yorkers at the end of an innings,” he said.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love watching Glenn Maxwell play some of the most ridiculous shots ever seen. But I do think, spinners aside, the lack of imagination and skill shown by most bowlers are making it a little bit too easy for batsmen like ‘The Big Show’.
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So come on bowlers in Australia and around the world, it’s time to fight back.
Time to acknowledge that what you are doing at the moment isn’t working.
Time to have the courage to try something different, to think outside the square.
Time to stop making excuses and do something about it.
Time to, dare I say it, Make the Yorker Great Again.
Brad McNamara is a former NSW captain and executive producer of Fox Cricket