Yo-Yo is a variation of the Beep test, a running aerobic fitness routine that Indian cricketers had to undergo in the past. But passing Beep was not mandatory for selection as is the case with Yo-Yo. Ambati Rayudu was left out of the one-day squad for the England tour in July after failing the test. Yo-Yo probes a sportsperson’s endurance and ability to pace himself; towards the end of the maximal running aerobic fitness drill, an element of speed comes into play.
The gruelling routine has two sets of cones that are 20 metres apart. Once the beep is sounded, an athlete has to reach the marker on the other side by the time the next beep sounds, turn and get back to where he started before the third beep.
The frequency of the beeps gradually increases for the subsequent trips; a trip is a successful completion of a run to the cones at the other end and back. There is a gap of about seven seconds between each trip.
What starts off as a fast jog at the start becomes distinctly quicker as the test progresses with the duration between the beeps decreasing. The point at which an athlete misses two beeps (twice unable to finish trips before the third beep goes off) is his score. Rayudu had failed to meet the benchmark of 16.1
How did it come about?
The Yo-Yo test was invented by Dr. Jens Bangsbo, a Danish scientist and football coach, in the 1990s. He tested it on footballers to improve their overall fitness levels, with a routine that was not just about running long distances. Gradually, other sport started adopting Yo-Yo. For elite footballers, the benchmark score was set high at 21. Yo-Yo was introduced to Indian cricket by the national team’s strength and conditioning coach Shankar Basu. Ahead of India’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2017, the cricketers underwent these tests.
Why does it matter?
Given the sheer volume of matches for Indian players and the pace and intensity of contemporary cricket with its different formats, there is a belief that optimal fitness must be achieved. Irrespective of a cricketer’s ability, the present Indian team management feels a minimum fitness level is non-negotiable. As it turns out, the benchmark Yo-Yo score for Indian cricketers has been set, rather low, at 16.1. For New Zealand and England, it is 19 and above, while Sri Lanka and Pakistan have fixed it at 17.4. Irrespective of their performance on the field, cricketers have to clear the Yo-Yo test for selection to the India ‘A’ and the national teams. Earlier, prominent cricketers such as Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh had failed to surmount the hurdle. Now, Rayudu’s missing out on the England ODI series after grabbing headlines in the physically and mentally demanding IPL led to an uproar in certain quarters. The trainer, some experts say, cannot become a selector in a skill-based sport. Those who argue against Yo-Yo point out that it measures only one aspect of fitness and does not take into account factors such as agility, flexibility and mental toughness, and the specific demands needed by different breeds of cricketers such as batsmen, spinners and fast bowlers. Too much hinges on a cricketer’s familiarity with the test, critics point out.
What lies ahead?
India captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri firmly back the test. Ahead of the England tour, Shastri said, “Anyone who thinks Yo-Yo is a one-off is mistaken.”
However, there have been rumblings within the Board of Control for Cricket in India over the issue. The chief of the Committee of Administrators, Vinod Rai, has voiced his concerns.
Cricket Australia has replaced Yo-Yo, which it found “unreliable,” with a two-km time-trial.
In Indian cricket though, Yo-Yo seems to be heading for a longer run.
(Adapted from The Hindu)