Explained: The wide yorker and its growing popularity in T20 cricket

NEW DELHI: In a game heavily loaded in favour of the batters, a yorker is a delivery that has been used by fast bowlers to control big hitters and take wickets for decades.
Taking the pitch out of the equation, a fast searing yorker is bowled at the base of the batter’s boots and by the time he moves his legs to save them and before the bat comes into play, the ball, on many occasions would have already crashed into the stumps. Many batters have been injured also when they failed to move their feet out of the line of the ball in time and have then of course been adjudged out LBW.
A traditional yorker is indeed a thing of beauty when executed to perfection. Over the years in cricket there have been many exponents of the perfectly executed yorker and stumps being sent cartwheeling. In more recent times, the likes of Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Starc, Jasrit Bumrah, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult, Shaeen Afridi, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Kagiso Rabada and T Natarajan, among others, find mention on the list of bowlers who can bowl that perfect yorker.
The traditional yorker:
With the advent of technology, and with the edges and the sweet spot of the bats getting thicker and better, batsmen now move away from the stumps, giving themselves room to execute a wild swing with the willow and if they do connect well, the ball is bound to go past the ropes, more often than not. And with the feet out of the line of the ball, batsmen sometimes are also able to block the ball with their bats.
To counter this, bowlers developed the wide yorker, which may not get them wickets, since the batters’ stumps are taken out of the equation here, but can result in a dot ball, which in T20 cricket is as precious as gold-dust.
So what exactly is a wide yorker?
The length of this delivery is similar to the traditional yorker, bowled full. It’s the line that makes it different from the age-old yorkers we have seen in cricket. It is bowled somewhere between the wide marker and the off-stump, around the 5th-7th stump line. The batter, unless he has figured out exactly what the bowler is going to dish out next, has to reach to make connection with the ball. In the process, the batter can get a faint edge to be caught by the wicket-keeper and if it comes off a thick edge, the ball could fly to third man.
The wide yorker though could go horribly wrong also and could result in wides or multiple byes. Also, just like the traditional yorkers, if not bowled to perfection, it could end up being a full-toss, though it’s harder to hit a full toss on 5th or 6th stump line well, unless the batter has already shuffled across and is in a good position to tonk it over the ropes.
Which is why to perfect the wide yorkers, just like the traditional ones, a bowler needs hours and hours of practice. And that’s what the bowlers have been putting in – hours of practice in the nets, trying to perfect the wide and also slower yorkers.
There have been many stories that the best exponents of the yorkers place a boot at the base of the stumps during practice sessions to perfect their art. Bowlers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were not born in a day – they were the masters of the yorkers – inswinging yorkers, reverse swing yorkers, they could make the ball talk and make the batsmen run for cover.
Modern day cricket is all about being able to adapt. As the game tilts more and more in favour of the batters, bowlers have to try and innovate and find newer ways to counter the marauding batters. Modern day bowlers are developing different versions of the traditional yorker – like the wide yorker and the slower yorker.
Not surprisingly, T20 cricket, which is the most slam bang version of the game, sees the most amount of wide yorkers being bowled, even though it’s a feature in ODI cricket too these days. The shortest format requires perhaps the most number of variations, as far as bowlers are concerned and the wide yorker is turning into a very effective weapon to have in one’s arsenal these days.
In the recent IPL match this season, between the Rajasthan Royals and the Lucknow Super Giants, Kuldeep Sen impressed on his IPL debut as taking 1/31 and defending 15 runs in the last over to help Rajasthan notch up a win. Rajasthan captain Sanju Samson said he had faith in Sen’s ability as he had seen him practice the wide yorkers in the nets.
In Rajasthan’s match against the Mumbai Indians, Navdeep Saini was entrusted with the job of defending 29 runs against big-hitter Kieron Pollard in the 20th over. Saini bowled as many as six wide yorkers out of the seven deliveries he sent down (first ball of the over was a wide – too far outside off stump), full and wide outside off stump, to keep Pollard quiet and win the match for the Royals. Only 4 runs were scored off the bat, with as many as 4 deliveries being dot balls. Pollard fell off the last ball, which was also a planned wide yorker, though it became a full toss, around the 5th stump line.