After a quiet couple of years, Rob Yates has made an encouraging start to 2024 with both bat and ball. He speaks to Toby Reynolds about his summer so far.

Aged 22, Rob Yates was on top of the world. He’d scored five centuries in Warwickshire’s title-winning season and was called up to the England Lions that winter. However, a collapse in form the following season has sent him on a journey to rediscover what he does best.

After debuting in 2019, Yates established himself at the top of the order in 2021, helping Warwickshire win both the County Championship and Bob Willis Trophy. Since then, his progression has not always been linear, passing fifty just four times across the entirety of the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Since then, he has rediscovered his form. Yates currently averages 53 this season and only a few weeks ago amassed a mammoth 343-run opening partnership with Alex Davies – Warwickshire’s second highest ever opening partnership.

“It was great fun – I had no idea it was a record until afterwards,” reflects Yates. “I actually got out slogging one up in the air on 191. I was trying to get to 200 in that over.”

“Seany [Steve O’Shaughnessy], the umpire gave me a ticking off afterwards, basically calling me an idiot for throwing it away there, which looking back I probably did. But it was one of those days where I was on one, so I was continuing the way I was because I was enjoying it. I just had so much fun. I felt like a kid again.”

That 191 came off just 205 deliveries and that quicker scoring rate has been a feature of Yates’ campaign. In 2022 and 2023 he struck at 41 and 46 respectively; this year that number is 72.

The title-winning season of 2021 will always be remembered fondly by Yates. It was Warwickshire’s first Championship since 2012 and for a home-grown player, that will always be special.

“There were some great wins in that year: they’re the main things that stand out. We had one against Notts where Briggsy [Danny Briggs] got the last wicket when there weren’t many overs to go, and I just remember the celebrations.

“When you’re in the thick of a season, you don’t particularly appreciate how well you’re playing, until the end and it’s like: ‘Oh jeez, I got five hundreds there. That’s pretty good going.’ But even then, I still felt like there was more to add and I’ve been on a bit of a journey since that year.”

“The year after was pretty disastrous, for various reasons. Everyone has personal reasons and it all accumulates, but it’s part of a journey. And I’m sure a lot of people have had that in cricket. It was a time of learning; I’d probably include last year in that a little bit. Although I felt like I was out the other side last year, it was still not fully there. But it’s something that hopefully, one day when I finish my career, I look back on as a really important time of my career.”

Yates credits his recent resurgence to the work he put in over the last few years.

“[I focused on] a few technical bits, a few mental skills. I was trying to progress my game and be more fearless and assured. The main first step was to come back to what I do best and being the best version of me. I think taking ownership of that and being really comfortable with myself and trying to upskill and be eager to learn about the game of cricket [was key].”

Yates, as well as finding form with the bat, has taken career-best figures with the ball this season. He lauds Danny Briggs, Warwickshire’s premier spinner, and his coaches for the way his off-spin has developed, as well as skipper, Alex Davies for giving him confidence and allowing him to take onus with the ball. 14 of his 22 first-class wickets have come in 2024 and seven rounds into the season, only Oliver Hannon-Dalby has bowled more overs for the Bears.

“I started bowling off-spin when I was 15 or 16. They were pretty crap to start with, but I’ve always worked hard, and I’ve always enjoyed it. You’re always in the game. It’s better than standing in the field. I know it’s our job but the more you can be involved the better.

“I’ve always worked hard but for the last few years I feel like I’ve bowled loads out of matches. When I’ve been away to Australia, I’ve just bowled and bowled and bowled and it’s got to a point when the next step is to learn through bowling in matches.

“Even through club cricket and age group cricket, I didn’t bowl that much in matches, because I wasn’t seen as a bowler. So, it’s one of those where now I’m sort of learning the nuances of being a spinner.

“I’ve been given more opportunity this year. I still worked hard this winter. I got my volume in, played around with a couple new skills and Davo [Alex Davies], since he took over, has given us [Yates, Jacob Bethell and Dan Mousley] a bit of confidence and a bit of ownership over us treating ourselves as bowlers.”

Yates, Bethell and Mousely, like many others at the club, have come through the academy from a young age and Yates, as he enters his 15th year with Warwickshire, is undoubtedly one of the most prolific.

“It [the academy] was a good mix of never letting you slip up and some properly challenging sessions. But also, afterwards they would be really pally with you and there were plenty of good lessons, in terms of toughness, the basics of cricket and the team environment.

“I remember Kadeer Ali telling me that when you move up levels, it’s the same game, just quicker and longer, which is a message I’ve held when I’ve had challenging experiences of moving up the ladder.”

Yates has certainly some of those over the past two years, but is now emerging on the other side with an added string to his bow.