Jonny Bairstow’s recovery from a “horrendous” broken leg has limited him to running in straight lines. But he can also think rationally, and he has determined that a return to Yorkshire wicketkeeping responsibilities is vital to maximize his prospects of playing in the Ashes series this summer.
Bairstow sustained a fractured fibula in three places, a dislocated ankle, and tendon injury after slipping and falling on a golf course near Harrogate in September.
Bairstow has spent the winter as a frustrated onlooker as England have extended their remarkable run to 10 wins in their last 12 Tests and his fellow Yorkshire batsman, Harry Brook, has claimed his middle-order position in spectacular fashion. Bairstow helped kickstart England’s more aggressive era under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum with prolific returns in successive Tests last summer against New Zealand and India.
It cannot be assumed that Bairstow will regain full fitness in time for the Ashes. The medical opinion, according to Yorkshire’s coach Ottis Gibson, was that he might be able to play some cricket “by the middle to end of May” – and England’s first Test against Ireland at Lord’s begins on June 1.
It did not prevent Bairstow from discovering two clear routes into the team. Ben Stokes would replace Zak Crawley as the opening batsman, while wicketkeeper Ben Foakes would be replaced by Sam Curran. If Stokes’ bowling is limited, an all-rounder like as Curran might also be considered.
Bairstow, who has donned the gloves in 49 of his 89 Tests, the last of which will be against India at the Oval in September 2021, has already informed Yorkshire of his desire to retain the position. Yorkshire’s absence of a Championship match on May 18 is not in his favor (suggesting he may even attempt a loan game), and restoring health in time for a visit to Durham at Chester-le-Street a week earlier would be a monumental feat.
Yorkshire’s director of cricket, Darren Gough, stated: “He had his best year ever for England, but you know how it is, someone comes in and it’s hard to get back. He probably wants to give himself as many opportunities as possible. He’s a top player, and he’s figured out where he wants to be and where he wants to go with his game.
“I believe Jonny has expressed a desire to keep. Clearly, he believes he has a place in the England team, as he has witnessed everyone’s success and desires to remain. He is not quite physically fit, but he is training hard and doing well. It is a matter of his getting fit, which is difficult after suffering that injury. It was dreadful. You can’t play someone who isn’t 100 percent fit, therefore he must return from his injury and prove he is. The ECB would not approve him if he is not eligible. We’ll see whether he plays in one, two, or none of the games before England.”
Gibson did not minimize the difficulty Bairstow faces to be in contention for the Ashes series “He has suffered a terrible injury, but he is recovering well. He is running up and down, and he is able to run in straight lines, but he is not yet doing much lateral movement. I’ve spoken with him and the medical team, who have done an excellent job; they believe he will be able to play cricket by the end of May. Everything is proceeding in the correct path.”
Bairstow is not the type of player who would have favored a more conservative approach, such as breaking themselves in gradually and assuming that it would be preferable to avoid playing in the dirt for a day or two.
Unsurprisingly, England has not yet communicated their preferences to Yorkshire, as it is still early.
Jonny Tattersall, who has been raised to the captaincy temporarily at the start of the season since Shan Masood, who was appointed with much hoopla last year, is missing with Pakistan, awaits his fate.
Tattersall might lose the captaincy and the gloves within a few weeks.
Tattersall’s candor was comme il faut: “Clearly, I’d prefer keep the gloves.” “You wish to participate in every game, correct? But the club’s ambitions are more important than my own, so if that means stepping aside to let Jonny wear the gloves, that’s OK. If we’re winning cricket games, it doesn’t matter to me.
“I’m used to it. I wasn’t a goalkeeper until the 2018 season. I took it up to attempt to make the first team, and it worked. I understand it’s a professional sport, and Jonny is an international player for a reason. If he needs specific things to prepare for England, so be it.”
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