Jonny Bairstow is going to play. So who won’t? – The Full Toss
Today, new writer Tom Chambers discusses Jonny Bairstow’s inevitable return to England’s Test side.
When asked about a certain Yorkshireman’s eventual return from injury the New Zealander said, “As soon as he’s fit he’s back in the side, no doubt. But let’s work that out down the line.”
The collective and individual performances of England’s Test team in Pakistan and New Zealand this winter have made that decision possibly the most difficult and important of McCullum’s tenure so far.
But McCullum’s England are not a team that worships at the alter of batting averages and run rates. This is a team of positive energy, of attitude, of ‘vibes’ – and therein lies the problem.
The current group of players have created an almost perfect professional environment, trying to squeeze more productivity out of them could easily have the opposite effect.
Every England supporter has asked themselves the question of who Bairstow will come in for and it seems that nobody can quite agree. The prospect of Bairstow slotting back into his role at number five in the order is a non-starter.
For a while it had seemed as though the easiest option was for Bairstow to take Ben Foakes’ place in the team and either hand the gloves to Ollie Pope or wear them himself. The team just seems more balanced, more nuanced, with Foakes as part of it.
When Bairstow makes his return to this team it is likely going to be in a different role to the one he vacated after suffering a freak ankle injury on the third hole at the Panaal golf course back in September.
It’s a tantalising thought and one that will give Zak Crawley sleepless nights as he reflects on his struggles in Mount Maunganui and Wellington.
In that tournament Bairstow averaged 48 with a highest score of 111 and let’s face it, since McCullum took the reins, England have been approaching Test matches as if they were being played with a white ball.
In many ways the Bairstow question is a good problem to have. There are plenty of teams in world cricket who would like the option of fielding a batter who scored more than 1000 test runs last year.
As McCullum would go on to say in his chat with the BBC: “It’s a much better place to be than scrambling around for blokes!”
By confirming the safety of Jonny Bairstow’s place in the line-up (injury permitting) heading into this summer’s Ashes series, the head coach of England’s test team has backed himself into a corner.
But then again, that’s just how he likes it – now he can come out swinging.