The Explainer

All in the mind

How it feels to be trapped in the choking process


Ravi Shastri famously got the yips at Glamorgan in 1991 © Getty Images
What are the yips?
"Getting the yips" is a phrase used to describe a (mostly) mental affliction that prevents sportsmen from performing a repetitive task - such as bowling - in the presence of an audience. Most commonly prevalent among golfers, in cricket the syndrome usually affects bowlers, particularly left-arm spinners.
How are the yips different from an attack of nerves, or a choke?
Getting the yips is not, unlike nerves, a passing phenomenon. It is akin to being trapped for long periods in the choking process.
What causes it?
There is no one cause, but a change in bowling action to compensate for injury may be a trigger. Also, research has shown that bowlers with the yips may be overusing the analytical left side of their brains.
What are the manifestations?
At nets, yippers generally feel everything is fine, only to fall to pieces in a match situation, losing length and line, and often both.
Have any well known players been victims?
Fred Swarbrook, the Derbyshire left-arm spinner of the 1970s, was one of the first public cases. Ravi Shastri, Phil Edmonds, and Maninder Singh are among the better known players to have been affected.
Is there a cure?
There is no fail-safe cure, but victims have found help in such measures as rubbing a soft pebble kept in the pocket before bowling, and in starting a spell from over the wicket. Research also suggests bowling in the nets against a friendly batsman, then going on to an unfamiliar batsman, then in the middle with nets, then without, and so on, may help.