It’s a challenge to bowl to Laxman: Bruce Yardley

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

New Delhi : Former Australia off-spinner Bruce Yardley says V.V.S. Laxman would have been a “difficult player” to bowl to because of his “brilliant” wristy batting, but feels Gundappa Viswanath was the best Indian batsman of spin he has bowled to.

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“I enjoyed Laxman’s play here because he is so brilliant with his hands as well. He can actually punch the ball against the spin; his timing is so good and plays through the onside so well,” Yardley, here as a television commentator, told IANS in an interview.

Yardley, one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic Australian players of 1980s and winner of the International Cricketer Award of 1981-82 Australian season, was talking about Laxman’s unbeaten 72 in the first innings against Pakistan in the first Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground.

“So, for me, Laxman would have been a difficult player to bowl to,” Yardley said of the right-hander who has modelled his batting and even hit gait on his fellow Hyderabadi and former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin.

Yardley himself found all top Indian batsmen difficult to handle in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“They were all difficult to dislodge. But I remember bowling to Vishy [Viswanath] in Bangalore in 1979. He lunged forward to two deliveries from me and I thought ‘yes, I’ve got him’ – coming forward, bat-pad chance here,” he said during the fourth day of the India-Pakistan match here.

“And in just a fraction of a moment he transferred his weight to the back foot, changed the length of the ball and cut me past point for four. What I was thinking was that it was against the spin. This is how clever these guys were – very, very quick on their feet and brilliant with their hands.”

Viswanath smashed an unbeaten 161 off 297 balls, including 11 boundaries and one six, in the first innings.

Yardley vividly remembers bowling against a strong batting line-up on the tour of India in 1979 and later in Australia in 1980-81.

“It was a joy, an absolute joy, because they were great players of spin and every player enjoys a challenge. And the line-up was awesome, back in the late 1970s when I played my first Test against India in Adelaide, and in 1979 came to India and the line-up was again awesome,” he said.

“There was Chetan Chauhan, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Viswanath – even little guys like Syed Kirmani were great players of spin. Kapil Dev was a great all-rounder and had the ability to hit you out of the ground whenever he felt like,” he conceded.

Yardley, who also worked in a liquor company and as a curator to keep in touch with cricket, said it was a challenge to bowl to them.

“It was a great challenge. I believe that when you are bowling to such greats you can’t afford to sit back and hope that someone gets out; you have to attack them otherwise they would murder you,” he said.

Yardley traced the Indians’ ability to play spinners well to the makeup of their home pitches.

“It was a greater challenge bowling to the Indians because they grew up on these [spinning] pitches and when they get to Australia it’s even easier for them because it doesn’t turn quite as much [but offers more bounce],” he said.

“The thing that helped me a lot against the visiting teams to Australia… good players of spin… was the extra bounce that they don’t get here in India. I enjoyed bowling at the Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) ground [Perth] even though the pitch was generally made for fast bowlers. But I got extra bounce and turn, that helped me a lot.”

Yardley, who was also the Sri Lankan team coach in 1997, said apart from the Indians, players from other countries offered more chances to get them out.

“And having bowled some of the West Indian batsmen like Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards and Desmond Haynes … they gave you more of a chance to get them out because they hit through the ball a lot, a lot more harder and they tried to attack you and it was easier to get them out.”