Bruce Yardley
Former Australian Test spinner Bruce Yardley dies

Former Australian Test star Bruce Yardley, who was later regarded as one of the world’s leading spin-bowling coaches, has died aged 71 after a battle with cancer.

The West Australian played 33 Tests and was his country’s first-choice spinner in the 1980s, taking 126 wickets at an average of 31.63.

He was also handy with the bat, holding the Australian record for the quickest Test fifty for 38 years.

Known as “Roo”, Yardley was equally well known for coaching Sri Lanka in the 1990s and being a big influence on the greatest Test wicket-taker of all time — Muttiah Muralitharan.

Yardley, who was the international cricketer of the year in 1981, was reportedly the man who advised the Sri Lankan great to start bowling his famous “Doosra” delivery.

“Bruce was a significant figure in Australian cricket, contributing in many ways on and off the field,” said Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts after his death on Wednesday.

“As a player, it took him more than 10 years of persistence playing first-class and premier cricket to find the art of off-spin, earning him a Test debut at the age of 30.

“Off the field, Bruce had an infectious personality and was regarded as one of the best spin-bowing coaches in the world.”

Former West Australian teammate Geoff Marsh said Yardley had a real love of the game.

“I was only very young when he was playing, but he was always one of those guys who had the ability to settle everyone down in the changeroom in a pressure situation,” he told broadcaster ABC.

“He was a very funny man. He had a real passion for the game of cricket, a real love for cricket … I can’t speak highly enough of the guy.”

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