New-model Yardy comes good
Michael Yardy is a man who likes to upset the odds but the prospect of him batting at number four for England against Australia would have been a 100-1 shot a couple of months ago.
The Sussex all-rounder is scheduled to do just that in the pre-Ashes clash at the ICC Champions Trophy on Saturday.
The 25-year-old’s inclusion in the provisional 30-man party for this tournament raised eyebrows in early August but he has made a resounding impression on coach Duncan Fletcher since his call-up.
Yardy’s smooth transition in recent times contrasts to his struggles of just two years ago when he was a second XI player struggling to make the step up to first-class level.
He is now a totally different player to the one searching for direction then - a crab-like shuffle across the crease got his batting going while he dumped mediocre medium pace for slingy left-arm spin.
“Not necessarily to prove people wrong but I like to do things against the odds,” Yardy said. “Everything I do in cricket is different to how I was when I started.
“I changed from bowling seam to spin, I changed my stance when I am batting, and the way I go about things is different.
“I am not a hugely naturally talented player, as some others are, so I have had to go down different avenues.”
England’s must-win contest with Australia, at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, will be Yardy’s fourth one-day international cap.
He has been earmarked as the man to provide the glue between captain Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen as well as form a spin alliance with Jamie Dalrymple.
“There is a lot of tradition to England-Australia but I will try to approach it like any other game I play,” said Yardy, whose first memories of the rivalry are from 1993.
“It has all happened pretty quickly but because I haven’t got any previous history in terms of international cricket I will just go in there and take it as it comes.”
His initial experiences in an England shirt were not pleasant as he struggled on the A tour to the Caribbean earlier this year.
But, in typical fashion, he returned to domestic action, replicated the success of 2005 and earned a call-up to the senior side.
“Determination comes from experiences of life,” reflected Yardy.
“If you get a few knocks in cricket as a youngster that you take pretty badly you have a choice of coming back strongly or giving up and looking to do something else.
“I have always had knock-backs - spent a few days of feeling sorry for myself - but I have always come back.
“I had a poor A tour so I just concentrated on not being a one-season wonder.
“I was propelled into the England set-up and maybe, at that point, I didn’t quite believe I should be there.
“I didn’t have the confidence that I was as good a player as some of the other guys on the tour.
“Since I have come into the full England squad I have been very clear to do what I do and not try to be a different kind of player.
“I will look to do things my way. If it is successful, brilliant. If not, I have given it my best.”
Since reinvention, Yardy has excelled for the current county champions, who this week secured him on a contract until 2009.
He began the 2005 season in a batting bounty, scoring 257 of his 1,520 first-class runs that summer in one innings against Bangladesh.
He also took a maiden five-wicket haul in the same contest to double his career tally of first-class wickets.
It was the first fruit of alterations made to his technique the previous winter. “My game wasn’t really moving forward and it was a case of ‘do something now, hang on for a couple more years, and I might not have a career in the game’,” said Yardy.
“I was bowling at 70 miles per hour and at that pace you have to have a lot of variations, which I didn’t have, nor the consistency.
“I had done a lot of technical work as a seamer and I was getting no better, so I went to cutters off a short run and then changed to spin.
“As for the batting, it was something that just happened, it was one of those weird nets where you try a few things and it clicked straightaway.
“At that stage my first-class average was about 29 so it was a case of doing things differently or getting the same results.
“Who is to say in a year’s time I won’t be back to standing still and that might work?"