Bruce Yardley, the former Australian spin bowler, coach and commentator, who departed this world on March 27 this year after a long illness at the age of 71, was an affable, large hearted character. Yardley, who played against Sri Lanka in two test matches and an ODI series in 1983, went on to coach the Sri Lankan team having replaced compatriot Dav Whatmore in 1997. In fact Yardley carried many fond memories of Sri Lanka. He brought down the curtain on his Test and ODI career in Sri Lanka in 1983. He played his last Test against Sri Lanka at Kandy from April 22 to 26 in 1983 as well as his last ODI versus Sri Lanka on April 30 the same year. Incidentally, it was Australia’s first tour of Sri Lanka. Fittingly his figures of seven wickets, including a five-wicket haul, in his final Test was a great farewell appearance. But that was not to be parting ways for Yardley with Sri Lanka. He would return 14 years later to take over the coaching reins of the Sri Lanka team in 1997 following Dav Whatmore’s exit.
If his cricketing prowess saw him stamp his name in the game as Australia’s most successful Test off-spinner with 126 wickets from 33 appearances before the record was surpassed by Nathan Lyon, Yardley’s broad, winsome smile endeared him as a much likable, genial man. It is apt to recall interviewing the Australian at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) soon after he took over the coaching mantle from Dav Whatmore. I asked him in lighter vein, “What more after Whatmore?” Yardley responded with a broad smile before moving on to the pros and cons of the game.
A man who lived by righteous virtues, Yardley was a notable advocate of Muttiah Muralidaran and a defender of the Sri Lankan’s bowling action. He called a spade a spade and played his cricket hard and would not hesitate to rub shoulders with officialdom where he saw wrong.
Having debuted against India on January 28, 1978, Yardley went on to crown himself as the nation’s No. 1 spinner, and enjoyed three summers in the national spotlight from 1980 to 1983.
Born on September 5, 1947 in Midland, Western Australia, his most memorable performance fwas his 38 wickets in six home Tests against Pakistan and the West Indies in 1981-82. Yardley was to soon earn a cult following for the way he played his cricket. He capped his success as a world class spinner by celebrative on field instincts, his plucky fielding at gully and a forceful lower order batsman. His 29-ball half century against an intimidating West Indian attack in a Test at Barbados in 1978 remains a Yardley masterpiece. A popular team man, he was fondly referred to as ‘Roo’.‘
Yardley, who cut his teeth in the game with his native Western Australia served as Regional Cricket Officer for the Western Australian Cricket Association promoting cricket and increasing participation in the South West region through school visits/programs and cricket carnivals. He was a regular cricket commentator on TV and radio.
His contribution to the game of cricket at large will surely endure Bruce Yardley to posterity.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-