Bruce Yardley: 8 things about Muttiah Muralitharan’s coach

Born September 5, 1947, Bruce Yardley belonged to the rare species of quality Australian off-spinners (along with Hugh Trumble, Ashley Mallett, and Nathan Lyon), though he also bowled seam-up. A relentless toiler who played the perfect foil to the menacing Australian fast bowlers of the late 1970s, Yardley claimed 126 Test wickets at 32. He missed out on 1,000-run mark by a mere 22, but averaged a shade below 20 at Test level, which made him more than handy low down the order. Abhishek Mukherjee narrates 8 facts about Yardley.

1.  Not what it seams: Despite being one of the leading Australian off-spinners, Yardley was also a more than capable seamer (one wonders why this is often the case). In fact, he was given first over by Murray Vernon on his First-Class debut: he had John Loxton (no relation to Sam) caught by Colin Milburn.

2.  What Blighty? Yardley played 9 Tests against England, but none of them on English soil, which is unusual for any Australian. In fact, he was the first Australian with over 100 Test wickets to ‘achieve’ this. Bruce Reid and Stuart MacGill have subsequently registered this ‘feat’ as well.

3.  Those terrible ten years: Yardley made his debut in 1966-67, but wandered in wilderness for close to a decade. Till 1975-76 he played only 14 matches with 246 runs at 14 and 6 wickets at 62. In fact, he had not even sent down a thousand deliveries. Then his career took off.

4.  Yahoo! One of Yardley’s trademark shots was a semi-chip that soared over the slip cordon, often necessitating the presence of a fly slip (the uppercut?). His affectionate fans often referred to it as the Yardley Yahoo.

5.  Fours and fours… Yardley was a part of Bobby Simpson’s team that visited West Indies in 1978. In the second Test at Kensington Oval he smashed 74 with 13 fours and 2 sixes against Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft.

What made the innings stand out was his first 50, which included 9 fours and 2 sixes, amounting to 48. Yardley became only the third Test batsman to score 48 of his first 50 in boundaries after Alan Knott and Gary Gilmour (who hit 12 fours each).

Unfortunately, they no longer hold this record, for Tim Southee hit 2 fours and 7 sixes in his 50 against England at Napier, 2007-08.

6.  Unknowing law-breaker: At SCG against England in 1978-79 England needed a mere 34 to win. Graham Yallop decided to open bowling with an old ball, asking Yardley and Jim Higgs to start proceedings. English manager Doug Insole found out the error, but he did not intervene, for England romped home by 9 wickets

7.  A bizarre comeback: Yardley quit First-Class cricket after 1982-83, but made a surprise comeback seven seasons later. He played three Sheffield Shield matches and one more against the touring New Zealanders, but also toured India to play a curious encounter — the MG Kallis-Kemplast Trophy between Tamil Nadu and Western Australia, both sides featuring full teams.

8.  His most famous student: Yardley became a coach on quitting. He coached Sri Lanka in 1997, and played a pivotal role in the rise of Muttiah Muralitharan. When Murali was called for chucking, the outspoken Yardley was extremely vocal in protest.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor of CricketCountry and CricLife. He tweets at @ovshake42.)