Bruce 'Roo' Yardley, who died today from cancer aged 71, was a one-time seamer who adopted the unfashionable art of finger spin at a time during the 1970s when hefty, hairy chested fast bowlers bestrode the cricket world.
Not only did the wiry, moustachioed bundle of exuberance forge his career on a home track at Perth's WACA Ground that was as friendly to spinners as it was to opposition batters, he went on to be crowned International Cricketer of the Year for the Australia summer of 1981-82.
In doing so, he joined an honour roll that would ultimately feature his Australia and WA teammate Dennis Lillee, as well as visiting greats the likes of Viv Richards, David Gower, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan and Curtly Ambrose.
It was a feat further amplified, not only because Yardley's 38 wickets in six Tests of that summer came against acknowledged spin experts Pakistan and the full might of the then-rampant West Indies, but also because he was aged 34.
Indeed, within barely two years of its undisputed high point, Yardley's international career was finished when he failed to make Australia's 1983 World Cup campaign in the UK and decided to retire from all forms of the game.
He did, however, make a fleeting return to first-class cricket more than six years later, but subsequently pursued careers in television commentary and as a coach with Sri Lanka, junior teams in Singapore and as a regional cricket development officer with the WACA.
He was a member of WA's Team of the 20th Century that has been immortalised upon the historic scoreboard at the WACA Ground, and was renowned as a tireless supporter of cricket at all levels, who spun post-match yarns as sharply and often as he turned an off-break.
"Bruce was a significant figure in Australian cricket, contributing in many ways on and off the field," Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer Kevin Roberts said today.
"As a player, it took him more than ten 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.
"He was also an excellent fielder and handy batter, holding the record for the quickest Test fifty for 38 years.
"Off the field, Bruce had an infectious personality and was regarded as one of the best spin-bowing coaches in the world, coaching Sri Lanka and mentoring the greatest Test wicket-taker of all time, Muthiah Muralidaran.
"On behalf of the Board and staff at Cricket Australia, we acknowledge Bruce’s outstanding contribution to Australian cricket, and our thoughts are with his family, friends and many of those in the cricketing community who knew him."
In his 33 Tests between February 1978 and April 1983, Yardley's 126 wickets came at an average of 31.63 with six five-wicket hauls and an innings best of 7-98 against the West Indies at the SCG in January, 1982.
By contrast, Nathan 'the Goat' Lyon – now Australia's most successful Test off-spinner – boasted 112 wickets at 26.29 (with five five-wicket bags and best figures of 7-94) at the same stage of his career, which has now netted 341 victims.
But in addition to his undoubted bowling acumen, Yardley was an athletic and intuitive gully fielder who, at times, resembled an allrounder because of his usefulness as a lower-order batter.
For almost four decades, until it was eclipsed by David Warner in 2017, Yardley held the honour of the fastest Test 50 scored for Australia - a milestone he achieved from just 29 deliveries in Barbados in 1978.
Not only did the right-hander have to endure a barrage of body blows from rival fast bowlers Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft, he did so just days after impaling his foot on the spine of a black sea urchin at one of the island's beaches.
Yardley's abilities as a batter were testament to his remarkable evolution as a cricketer.
Having made his Sheffield Shield debut as an opening bowler for WA in 1966, Yardley saw his opportunities being limited in a seam attack that also included Test-capped quicks Graham McKenzie and Laurie Mayne, as well as Ian Brayshaw and Sam Gannon.
However, the fast bowling depth for which WA was renowned (with Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie rising through the ranks) meant so few chances emerged for spinners that leggie Terry Jenner and off-spinner Ashley Mallett both moved to Adelaide to try their luck.
But Yardley pursued his dream as a specialist batter, playing several more Shield games over the ensuing years until, in his late 20s, he embraced off-spin in his own idiosyncratic fashion.
Influenced by his winter pastime as a baseball pitcher, he fashioned a technique in which he spun the ball from his middle and ring fingers (rather than the traditional middle and index-finger method) and quickly found success.
The exodus of established Australia players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket in 1977-78 paved the way for Yardley to gain a Baggy Green Cap, as he replaced his WA teammate (and wrist spinner) Tony Mann for the final Test against India at Adelaide Oval.
Yardley then formed an important spin partnership with leggie Jim Higgs until his landmark summer of 1981-82, when he carried the spin-bowling burden alone - to the extent that he sent down 66 overs (7-187) in Pakistan's sole innings at the MCG.
On the day Australian cricket remembers former Test spinner Bruce Yardley, here he is taking a brilliant catch against the Windies back in 1982 pic.twitter.com/XsbFahHtKW— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 27, 2019
No Australia bowler has carried such a workload in a Test innings on home soil since then.
In his 105 first-class appearances, he finished with 2738 runs at 20.58 and 344 wickets at 28.19.
Despite his ascension to the role of Australia's principal spinner, Yardley was overlooked for the 1981 Ashes tour (in favour of Ray Bright and Graeme Beard) and when his name was missing from the World Cup squad two years later, he called time on his career.
"I want people to understand the decision was not based on not being selected to go to England", he said at the time.
"I will be 36 in September and it's as good a time to retire as any.
"I will not even be playing club cricket."
However, he returned to his Perth grade outfit Midland-Guildford and briefly flirted with a recall to the WA team in 1989-90 before claiming selectors would not take a chance on a 42-year-old and focusing, instead, on coaching.
It was while with the WACA in 1991 that he undertook a brief stint as a guest coach in Sri Lanka – where he had played his final Test eight years earlier – and first saw then St Anthony's College student Muthiah Muralidaran bowling in the nets.
He became a vocal advocate for Muralidaran, and when he was appointed Sri Lanka's coach in early 1997 in place of his former Australia teammate (and World Cup-winning coach) Dav Whatmore, his first job was to rehabilitate Muralidaran's action after he had been no-balled in Australia.
Yardley had himself been called for throwing during a tour match against Jamaica in 1978, and became a staunch defender of the Sri Lankan spinner who would go on to become Test cricket's most successful bowler.
"I've been following Murali's bowling ever since 1991, when I did some coaching here in Sri Lanka, and I have never found anything the least bit suspect in his action," Yardley said upon taking over the coaching role.
He was sacked from that position prior to the 1999 World Cup in the UK, and as well as television commentary he then took up roles as coach/manager with Singapore under-17s and in 2010 he led WA's Indigenous team to their first Imparja Cup title in Alice Springs.
Soon after assuming the Sri Lanka job in 1997, Yardley reported problems with his vision that led to him losing his left eye and undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumour that had developed behind it.
He subsequently fought a series of battles against melanoma, and died in hospital at Kununurra, 3,200km north of Perth, this morning.
“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,” said former teammate and WA assistant coach Geoff Marsh.
“He was 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.”