Should the Yo-Yo Test be used as a selection standard in cricket?

What's the fuss? The yo-yo fitness test has become a popular assessment tool in the sport of cricket, and some teams are even using the test as a selection standard. If you cannot reach a certain level in the test, you cannot play! It is mandatory to pass the yo-yo test to play in the national team for India and also for many of the IPL teams. The yo-yo test is also part of the fitness testing protocols for many other national cricket teams, but not necessarily an essential part of the selection process (yet!).

Let's back up a bit. What actually is the yo-yo test? The yo-yo test is a fitness assessment of cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness and repeat-sprint ability. Players run up-and-down between markers 20 meters apart in time to recorded audio signals. For the version used mostly with cricket players (the yo-yo intermittent recovery test level 1), the players are required to rest for 10 seconds after every 40 meters run (there are other versions with 5 seconds or no rest). The required running pace increases as the test progresses, and the test is completed when the players cannot keep up with the audio signal. The tests can last anywhere from 6 to 20 minutes, with players running up to 3kms, depending on their fitness.

Why do the Yo-Yo Test? As with most team sports, players require good levels of fitness in a wide range of areas. To be a successful cricket player, it is advantageous to have good levels of speed, power, and endurance fitness, and also have good reflexes, flexibility, coordination, and low body-fat levels. Fitness testing is used to measure the players' ability in a range of areas, to identify where they may be deficient and to monitor changes in fitness over time. The yo-yo test is a suitable test to measure the aerobic endurance and repeat-sprint ability, but that is only part of the fitness requirements of a cricket player.

Is cardiovascular fitness even important for cricket? Having good cardiovascular fitness (stamina) is an important fitness parameter for cricket, but it is not the only thing, and possibly not even the most important factor. Stamina is important for staying fresh and alert during a long day in the field, or batting a long innings, and backing up day-after-day. On the other hand, cricket is a sport requiring a high level of speed and power - for powerful hitting, bowling the ball, sprinting to the ball when fielding and powerful throwing to the keeper.

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The fitness requirements also depend on the playing position, whether you are the fast or spin bowler, batsman, or wicket keeper. A good battery of test protocols for testing cricket players should also include tests of strength, upper and lower body power, running acceleration and speed, agility, flexibility, core stability, and body fat levels.

So, should the yo-yo test be used for selection? It is definitely worthwhile to use the yo-yo test or a similar sprint/endurance test as part of the fitness testing battery for cricket players. It is also important to set a certain achievable standard that is expected by the players. However, a range of fitness tests should be considered, and setting a benchmark that is mandatory does not allow for any discretion by the selection panel about whether the player gets a place in the team or not.

But it is not that hard to achieve. Thankfully, only a low benchmark has been set, meaning only a low level of fitness is required to pass the test. The benchmark of level 16 (now 17!) is not very hard to achieve. Maybe that is the point. Not much is expected, just a minimal level to show that the player has a basic level of fitness required to play a game of cricket, and is not hiding an injury.

Are they measuring motivation? The yo-yo test is hard work, and the player needs the motivation to push themselves. Is that what they are attempting to measure - Is the player motivated to succeed and able to push themselves physically? And if the player does not make the minimum standard, can they make a commitment to make changes to their diet and fitness training, do some hard work and get back on the team. That's probably closer to what the selectors are looking for.

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