Everything you need to know about the Yo-Yo test

Pakistan cricket team went through extensive fitness tests ahead of 2019 World Cup

Everything you need to know about the Yo-Yo test PHOTO: File

The Yo-Yo test is considered as the litmus test for professional cricketers around the world. If you pass the test, you are fit to play but you are shown the door if you don’t reach the desired level.  

The test was devised 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. Seeing the success of the test in football, other sports, including cricket, gradually started adopting it as well.

Ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales, Pakistan squad went through extensive tests at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore in order to assess team’s level of fitness.  The Pakistan Cricket Board and team management had made it absolutely clear that players, who don’t reach the desired level, won’t be considered for selection for the mega event.

What exactly is a Yo-Yo test?

A Yo-Yo test comprises of a player shuttling between two cones, which are placed 20 metres apart on even ground. When the timer starts, with a beep, the player has to get to the first cone on the opposite end before the second beep. He then repeats the same process and gets back to original starting cone but before the third beep. This is known as a single ‘shuttle’ and the speed level is five.  

The shuttles increase gradually with increase in level of speed. Level 23 is the highest standard in the test but no cricketer has reached that level yet. A distance of 40 meters is covered in every shuttle.

The player is given ten seconds to recuperate between shuttles. In case a player fails to reach the cone before the beep, he is reprimanded with a warning. The test concludes when a player has received three official warnings.

As a player moves from one level to another, the time available to finish each shuttle reduces, which consequently means that the player must increase his speed to reach the cone. The level achieved, before a player’s three official warnings, is the test result.

Teams set different speed levels as benchmarks for their fitness standards with Pakistan currently using 17:4 as the passing score.

How is it beneficial for cricketers?

There are multiple benefits of adopting Yo-Yo test as a fitness standard, which includes allowing players to improve fitness, during testing, an uptick in their batting and especially running between the wickets while also enhancing the aerobic abilities of a cricketer.  

The main difference between the Yo-Yo test and previously used ‘beep tests’ was the absence of recovery period.

“The Yo-Yo test is better than the beep test because there is a recovery period,” Pakistan’s strength and conditioning coach Grant Luden once said in an interview.

During the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy in 2017, Pakistan batsman Umar Akmal was sent back home, just before the beginning of the tournament, because he failed to pass the Yo-Yo test. His score was 16:5, which was short of the benchmark score, at that time, of 17:1.

Luden also highlighted why he increased the score to 17:4 later by stating: "The reason why we have come up with 17:4 is, it is not going to make you hit a cover drive or bowl faster. All it does is, it helps with the recovery."

 When Mickey Arthur was named Pakistan Head Coach in 2016, Pakistan cricket has gone through a major fitness overhaul; which is evident from the improved fitness standards and fielding.

“When I started my tenure with Pakistan, we had a look at what we needed to improve and one of the things that needed drastic improvement was the standard of fitness,” said Arthur in July last year.

The South African also explained why the Yo-Yo Endurance was used as a benchmark to gauge the fitness level of cricketers.

“We have settled on something very simple such as the Yo-Yo test as it provides an effective measure to assess cardio, durability and agility of cricketers,” he said. “We can also alter this as we get further in the piece because Grant Luden keeps a close eye on what is best for the players.”

Preparation vital ahead of Yo-Yo test   

The Yo-Yo Test may seem simple in nature but it requires adequate mental and physical preparation before one can appear and successfully pass it.

Players who have been involved in extensive activities on the field, close to the test, find it difficult to go past the qualifying mark. Also if one appears for the test, straight after coming off from a long flight or an injury break can also face similar problems.

Pakistan all-rounder Imad Wasim is the prime example in this regard due to his lingering knee problems. He was given extra time to pass the Yo-Yo test by the PCB because he is still recovering from injury, which is in line with the requirements needed before one can appear for this test.

“The Yo-Yo test is both mental and physical. If you have not done it before, you don't know what to expect. There is the pacing element because the speed of the test increases as the time goes on. So you are going to probably going to go too hard too soon, as opposed to pacing yourself," said Andrew Leipus, who has served as the head physiotherapist for the Indian Cricket Team in the past.