This has emerged as the new dreaded term in cricket. A player might make five successive centuries, claim an equal number of eight-wicket hauls but if he fails the Yo-Yo fitness test, he won’t be picked in the Indian team.
The Yo-Yo changes the dynamics of selection. It alters the manner we judge cricketers. It also throws up some interesting questions, reopens the fitness versus talent debate and the compelling need to find the right balance.
Truth to tell, many legends of Indian cricket — there will be exceptions such as the super-fit Kapil Dev — would not have cleared Yo-Yo. Yet, they were exceptionally skilled, won several games for India.
But then, some argue that they would not have survived the rigours of present-day cricket where endurance and speed are considered vital ingredients in a game that has become faster with lesser recovery time between matches.
A source told The Hindu, “Given the pace and intensity of today’s cricket and the sheer volume of matches, we just cannot take any chances with fitness. We cannot risk injuries and the cricketers have to be at their peak fitness levels.”
What is it?
What then is Yo-Yo. Simply put, it is endurance training that includes bursts of velocity; a variation of the beep method and a maximal running aerobatic fitness test.
Introduced by current Indian strength and fitness conditioning coach Shankar Basu, it was made mandatory for all India cricketers.
In Yo-Yo, two sets of cones are placed 20m apart, creating two lines. The players have to run between the lines as the beep starts and turn once the beep becomes silent.
The pace of the beep increases after every minute, so does the speed of the cricketers; those who do not make the line on time, will have to contend with more beeps. It’s a gruelling, exhausting experience.
The BCCI has set 16.1 as the benchmark score to clear Yo-Yo. Soon, we could have the bar raised to 17.5. In countries such as Australia, the mark is around 20.
Already Yo-Yo has thrown up some interesting results. Suresh Raina, who can be electric on the field, failed while Ashish Nehra, considered a liability as regards fielding all through his career, cleared the test. According to sources, Nehra has stamina even if he is lacking in flexibility while Raina is not as fit as he once was.
Another game-changer in shorter formats, Yuvraj Singh was tripped by Yo-Yo. Promising off-spinning all-rounder M.S. Washington Sundar was all but selected in the Indian team for the three-match Twenty20 series against Australia before falling to Yo- Yo. He scored 15.7 in the test conducted at NCA; he is still not 18 and could find his way back soon.
The Yo-Yo is a lot about pacing yourself through the ordeal. There are cricketers who run too fast initially and tire out as the test nears conclusion.
There will always be those who argue that players who can swing games with the bat or the ball are too precious to be discarded owing to a marginal difference vis-a-vis the benchmark fitness score.
For this Indian team though fitness is a non-negotiable issue.