CB Series 2011-12 March 5, 2012

Where have the yorkers disappeared?

Bowlers have been rather conservative with the use of the yorker in this tournament. They are more obliged to employ the slower, length balls

It was an exhibition game in England in 1991. Wasim Akram was representing Rest of the World XI against an England XI. He began bowling length balls, and Kim Barnett, an attacking Derbyshire batsman who played five Tests for England, went after Akram at the start. It was just an exhibition game, and Akram wanted to preserve himself, but his pride took a beating. He began bowling yorkers, and Barnett eventually fell to Tony Dodemaide for 26.

As the World XI players waited for the new batsman to arrive, Akram told his team-mates, Sanjay Manjrekar one of them, how he didn't want to bowl those yorkers. When asked to verify that anecdote, Akram says, "Zor lagta hai yorker daalne mein [It takes a lot of effort to bowl yorkers]. It is easy to bowl bouncers. A bouncer is nothing in comparison."

And when Akram talks of yorkers, he means those speared in, swinging bullets landing on the crease. "You have to dig deep for those." A good, quick yorker takes as much effort as two or three normal deliveries. It was these yorkers that made it desperately difficult to score at more than a run a ball against bowlers the likes of Akram.

During the CB Series, even on the big fields of Australia, even two runs a ball hasn't looked safe for the bowling side in the last ten overs. Sri Lanka needed 18 off the last over in Perth, and Mitchell Starc bowled either length or the bouncer, and just about came out safe. In Adelaide, with 12 to defend in the last over, Clint McKay bowled length at various paces. When even Lasith Malinga hasn't relied that much on the basic yorker, what of the other bowlers?

Is it too harsh to say that the bowlers perhaps don't want to "dig deep"? Cricket has changed a lot. The schedules are hectic, there is too much to lose if you don't prolong your career, and it is possible that the bowlers want to preserve themselves. Malinga's body wears scars of the most difficult delivery bowled at the most difficult trajectory. He can't even play Test cricket now. How many bowlers want to go all out and bowl a spell full of yorkers?

But perhaps it will be a bit too harsh to look at it this way alone. Batting has changed too. Batsmen have found ways of countering yorkers. They go deep into the crease to convert them into half-volleys. They walk down the stumps and scoop them on the full. They make room and squeeze the ball past point. It is true that earlier there were fewer batsmen who did this - the Saleem Maliks, the Javed Miandads for instance.

Batsmen definitely play the yorker better than they did 10 years ago, but not so well that a slower length ball can replace the yorker as the most effective delivery at the death. Michael Clarke, a batsman himself, agrees. "Yeah, look I think the basic and simple yorker is still the best delivery at the death," Clarke says. "We continually look at Malinga, when he hits his yorker, doesn't matter what technique, theory, you have to score, it's the hardest ball to score off."

However, Clarke also sees merit in other variations, especially on the bigger fields in Australia. "For starters I think we have got to hit that yorker, but I think Shane Watson showed as well tonight that his change of pace is crucial," Clarke says. "It's such a big ground square of the wicket, the Gabba, you have got to be able to change the pace and get the batters hitting to the long parts of the ground."

Mahela Jayawardene, who captains the best bowler of the yorker today, also wants to use the longer boundaries. "Depending on situations, trying to get batsmen to hit into longer boundaries [as Watson did] with the change-ups [is important], which we did as well to a certain extent," Jayawardene said. "Different venues, different places, you need to come up with those ideas. That's the beauty of the game. Because we play each other so often, they know your strengths and weaknesses."

Either through reluctance or deterioration of skill or the lure of the fancy slower balls, an art from - a breathtaking sight of a batsman saving his toe from breaking - is dying.

Australia's main problem though with death bowling, which has driven Clarke up the wall, has been the absence of a bowler who can bowl eight to 10 yorkers in his last two overs, which will, in the worst case, go for 15-16 runs, and in the best scenario could pick up wickets for under 10 runs.

One example of this was when Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan bowled yorker after yorker on a runway in Rajkot in the 414-v-411 game, and defended 31 in the last five overs. Tim Southee did the same when Cameron White was in a hot and crazy pursuit of a 200-plus total in a Twenty20 at the 'lilliputian' Jade Stadium in Christchurch. Both were successful. In fact, we have reached a stage where most bowlers feel obliged to bowl a slower ball simply because they haven't bowled one for four-five deliveries.

That we clearly remember two incidents from the last two-three years is a clear indication that the yorker is not employed well or often enough. Either through reluctance or deterioration of skill or the lure of the fancy slower balls, an art from - a breathtaking sight of a batsman saving his toe from breaking - is dying. We need evidence against this notion.

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Viz on March 6, 2012, 23:42 GMT

    Did any of you see Malinga bowling his yorkers on one leg yesterday? It's more to do with the two new balls than anything, hope Monga does a bit of research next time and looks for the stats of the best in the business after this rule came in to play. Check Binga's strike rate for example and have a chat to him around why he's not finding the yorkers as destructive when there's no reverse swing.

  • Syed Arbab on March 6, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    Yorkers can't be replaced but you need an exponent to do it.

  • V.L on March 6, 2012, 5:36 GMT

    Batsmen are definitely better at handling yorkers these days. Thanks to the two new ball rules they have become even more useless as reverse swing is almost non-existent. It is a real farce that every once in a while MCC introduces a rule that tips the balance of the game heavily in favor of the English!

  • kamal on March 6, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    Two new balls is the reason. Simple as that.

  • Harvey on March 6, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    Wasim and Waqar are legends of the inswinging yorker. I would love to see those days again.

  • Bobby on March 6, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    I am unable to understand that how people suppose that Virat Kohli has become some master batsman just after few good innings. Kohli was a sitting duck along with all his mates in England. Please leave the poor man alone and let him play his game. All this hype from Indian fans is always pre-mature. Indian media feeds on fantacy.Tendulya who has never won anything for India is their God. Waqar Younis did get hit by Jadeja for a few on his day but so what? Saeed Anwar did hit Kumble for 27 runs in an over including three sixes..Does it make Kumble a bad bowler? What about Harbhajan who went for 5 sixes in a test match against Afridi? These are all good bowlers who ended up getting punished by a better batsman on a given day. Waqar Younis had superb yorker that no batsman in the world could ever played..This Include Tendulya who was clean bowled for 15 by Waqar in his first test match and ended up breaking his nose in the next...and then avoided playing two best bowlers of decade!

  • Dark on March 6, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    drop malinga.... ..........

  • Kay on March 6, 2012, 2:07 GMT

    @Viz-from-OZ: spot on mate! couldnt agree with you more. monga's articles have been tedious and downright partisan sometimes. that his penchant for sensationalism in his articles goes unnoticed by cricinfo is incredible.

  • theo on March 6, 2012, 0:43 GMT

    I am a fast bowler when I do get round to playing, and bowling a quick swinging yorker and watching the batsmen stumble trying to save his toes, gave me as much joy as taking a wicket!! I found more batsmen complemented a great yorker than a regular wicket.. but im just talking about regular club games, not internationals.

  • Viz on March 5, 2012, 22:09 GMT

    Think we need to diversify the reporter pool at Cricinfo. I've read quite a few below the belt yorkers from Monga in the last few weeks and starting to wonder if some of these guys can be objective in what they write when "India" is not doing well. We're seeing some wonderful cricket played by the Australians & the Sri Lankans in this series and it's disappointing to see these fellows trying to insinuate negative things about players. Media is a powerful tool and I don't believe Malinga should be subjected to cheap analysis based on a different bowlers experience.

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