What Happened to Jonny Bairstow?


If you want to start a Twitter debate, talk about Jonny.


Cricket is a very strange and unique sport. A sport where a single player has to mould his game to very different skill-sets in order to succeed.


Performing in test cricket, ODI cricket and T20 cricket at the same time is very difficult. Very few players outside the elite of Steve Smith and Virat Kohli manage it.


Bairstow is undoubtedly one of the best ODI batsmen out there. With 9 centuries and an average north of 47, his place in the England ODI set-up shouldn't be questioned. However this is where cricket is unique.


In order to excel in white-ball cricket, Bairstow opened up his game completely. Playing more expansive shots on the off-side. This left him highly susceptible to balls that nip back towards him, putting his off-stump in the firing line.


In 2016, Bairstow averaged 58.80 in test cricket and just 28.29 in ODI cricket. Since then, his fortunes in ODI cricket have improved, significantly (46.89 average in 2019), culminating in him playing a vital role in England's world cup winning squad last year. However his test average plummeted to an all-time low of 18.56 in 2019.


Jonny Bairstow's Test Averages by Year

To anyone who watches England test cricket on a regular basis, the problem is quite obvious. Ill-timed expansive drives that lead to him being bowled. Over his career he's been bowled 33 times, good for a place in the top 5 batters to have been dismissed by such a method over 100 dismissals or more. It's not just a problem, it's a huge problem.


After being dropped for New Zealand, Ed Smith stated that now was the time for Bairstow to go away and reset after a hectic Summer, to go away and work on "one or two things". The problem was Bairstow was given another chance almost immediately, being recalled for the 1st test against South Africa.


Bairstow came in and got bowled by South African quick Anrich Nortje for just 1 in the first inning and then was out cheaply in the 2nd for 9. He lost his place thereafter and was relegated to drinks carrier.


Opinion


Nobody wants to fail and I do think Bairstow gets a lot of stick (and I'm guilty of it myself). Let me just repeat that, nobody wants to fail. Bairstow isn't laughing, in fact I find it hard to believe he's enjoying test cricket at all. His sulky appearance on the field portrays a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.


I don't think Bairstow is as bad as those 2019 numbers show, however I also don't think he's anywhere near as good as the 2016 numbers show. You can't argue that 2016 is the outlier when it comes to looking at the stats.


I don't blame Bairstow. I blame Ed Smith, national selector. Ed Smith should have given Bairstow the complete winter off test-cricket. If you want him to reset and really go and work on his game, you'd give him the entire winter off. Take him out of the firing line.


In no way, shape or form should Bairstow go to Sri Lanka. That sends the wrong message. Some people are using Buttler's lack of form as a reason to take Bairstow, it's not a one or the other situation. Take Ben Foakes and Ollie Robinson (Kent wicket-keeper).


Bairstow will be away at the IPL when Yorkshire's county championship season starts, but that's his choice and you can't blame him for wanting to make as much money as he can while he still has value. Due to the scheduling of the English county season, there is a good chance that Bairstow will miss all of the April and May fixtures, and as such won't be able to push his cause before the West Indies arrive in early June.


Instead of having him around the fringe of the team when the West Indies come to town, carrying drinks. Release him to play for Yorkshire. They have two games (vs Lancashire, vs Essex) in June and then another game against Gloucestershire in July. Playing for Yorkshire and getting a feel for test batting away from the glaring media scrutiny is the best thing for him.


I love watching Bairstow bat and will continue to love every minute of his ODI and T20 performances. Maybe it's time we just let him concentrate on what he does best because when he's in tune, there isn't a sweeter sound than the ball cracking off the middle of his bat and sailing into the stands.




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