Why Bairstow is so valuable for England
The white ball dominance that kicked off the English summer left a number of fans and pundits crying out for the inclusion of Jonny Bairstow.
Many cannot quite believe that a man of such clear and obvious batting talent is unable to nail down a permanent spot in Eoin Morgan’s limited overs XIs.
With the Test summer now well and truly in full swing Bairstow has furthered his case with great aplomb.
Naturally success in one format of the game does not necessarily translate to being competent across cricket’s three international variations.
However England’s Test keeper has done all he can to prove his value and make a case for a role across the formats.
In the last two years only Alastair Cook and Joe Root have scored more Test runs for England with the latter the only man to maintain a higher average.
1907 Test runs in two years before he walked out to bat on day two of the second Test against South Africa have included three hundreds and eleven fifties from 44 innings.
England’s lower middle order are in something of a golden age with allrounders Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali outshining England’s carousel of underwhelming top order Test batsmen that includes the likes of Alex Hales, Nick Compton, James Vince and youngsters Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings.
But what does Bairstow bring to the party beyond his incredible numbers with the bat?
Criticized heavily and mercilessly mocked for his at times shambolic displays behind the stumps in 2015 and into 2016 Bairstow has quietly dedicated himself to improving his wicketkeeping.
Gone is the sight of a clearly off balance Bairstow grassing routine catches to the frustration of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson.
He has trained with Newcastle United’s goalkeepers to improve his balance and put in countless hours to get to the point where he arguably outshone his opposite number, Quinton de Kock, behind the stumps in the first Test of the current series.
Those improvements not only allow England to put their faith in his keeping and give the team greater freedom in selecting their XI but it underlines the professionalism of the Yorkshireman who had to cop his fair share of flak during the early part of his career.
This is also in evidence in his white ball career where despite being in and out of the XI he has performed consistently when asked to do a job for England.
Bairstow is a hard-working professional and one of those men you’d want out in the middle when the going gets tough, he can perform rescue acts or drive the final nails into the coffin of struggling teams.
The fire-haired keeper looks set to put to bed any debate about who England’s wicketkeeper should be despite pressure from Jos Buttler and promising young Surrey stopper Ben Foakes.
Bairstow went past 100 dismissals in the first Test against South Africa and if he keeps up his hard work will smash wicketkeeping records for England.
Reliable, talented and professional and a man who will battle De Kock for the title of best wicketkeeper batsman in the world for the foreseeable future, Bairstow will take his place among the all-time great England players.
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