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Taha Hashim reports:

Taha Hashim shares news about Jonny Bairstow, England's resilient player, who has earned the opportunity to score another century.
Cricket Sport

Taha Hashim reports: Taha Hashim shares news about Jonny Bairstow, England’s resilient player, who has earned the opportunity to score another century.

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If Jonny Bairstow continues to play in the remaining matches of England’s series against India, the final Test in Dharamsala will be a time for celebration. This achievement was not seen as a possibility a few years ago, as Bairstow will become the 17th English player to reach 100 Test caps.

Ben Stokes reached Rajkot on his own, with a more direct path despite facing some off-field problems. There has never been any doubt about Stokes being a crucial member of England’s top eleven for almost ten years. However, for Bairstow, who started his journey 12 years ago, it has been a constant cycle of questioning. Should he continue as the wicketkeeper? Where is the best spot for him to bat? Isn’t it time for Dan Lawrence to take over?

As we approach the important day, where praises are typically showered for a noteworthy resume, Brendon McCullum has been answering questions from the media regarding Bairstow’s position in the lineup. England’s head coach has been encouraging his player, who has only averaged 17 in the series, by saying “we must continue to boost his confidence and ignore external distractions”. Even if Bairstow continues to score low in the fourth Test in Ranchi, it would be unlikely for him to be left with 99 runs. The management team fully supports their players and they have to, as the goal is to eliminate fear and play freely. Alex Lees is the only specialized batsman to have been replaced since McCullum and Stokes took charge, and even then he was given an entire summer before being replaced.

Possibly some soft murmurs from Baz and Ben may suffice, prolonging what has been a peculiar profession. In the beginning, he was the young protege filling in for a team of legends, achieving scores of 95 and 54 against a formidable South Africa attack at Lord’s in 2012 while Kevin Pietersen was facing consequences. It wasn’t until 2016 that he reached his first century in Cape Town and solidified his role as the go-to wicketkeeper, scoring the most runs by a Test keeper in a single year. This was followed by his establishment as an opening batsman in limited-overs cricket, leading to the belief that he couldn’t excel in all formats; success as a big-hitter at the top of the ODI lineup coincided with a decline in performance lower down the order in Tests. Ben Foakes and Jos Buttler also had their turns as wicketkeepers and Bairstow was left out of the Test team for all of 2020.

However, the selectors for England were still unable to resist contacting him late at night with the phrase “You up?”. In a series against India three years prior, he was given the task of batting in the first position, but unfortunately scored three ducks out of four innings. This seemed to be the end of his career, until he was brought back just a few months later to face the same team in August 2021. The addition of McCullum and Stokes two summers ago allowed for Bairstow to excel in white-ball cricket while also maintaining success in red-ball cricket. He was placed at No 5 and instructed by his captain to continue hitting the ball out of the park during their incredible 179-run partnership against New Zealand at Trent Bridge. This led to three more centuries in the span of a month, with his performance in those three Tests averaging better than a run per ball. After ten years, everything finally fell into place for him. However, then he suffered a broken leg.

England's Jonny Bairstow, on his home Test debut, leaves the field at the end of day two at Lord's in August 2012View image in fullscreen

The well-known golfing accident sparked the impressive debut of Harry Brook, whose performance was so exceptional that he could not simply be a temporary replacement when Bairstow returned from observing on the sidelines during the winter. In order for both players to be included in the lineup against Australia, Foakes – who had performed well – had to be removed, allowing Bairstow to take on the role of wicketkeeper. One argument that can be made is that this decision was another display of trust and support from England’s management towards Bairstow, similar to their actions the previous year. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be argued that the added responsibility of keeping was not beneficial for a player returning from a potentially career-ending injury.

He has scored runs in the current series by positioning himself on the leg side of the ball and hitting it towards the off side during his innings of 25 and 26 in Vizag. However, facing Jasprit Bumrah proved to be a challenge. In Rajkot, the spinners were able to dismiss him. Suddenly, his potential for a high score diminishes and he holds the record for the most Test ducks against India.

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Bairstow is set to participate in the upcoming Test, and if he is aware of the speculation surrounding his future, he may use it as motivation to score a defiant century, similar to his performance in Colombo back in 2018. Despite his struggles in India, this is still a possibility due to his evident resilience. Reaching 100 Test matches requires continuous determination and perseverance. Bairstow has faced being dropped by every previous regime and has gone through extended periods without scoring a century on two separate occasions. After a leg injury, he even questioned if he would be able to walk again. He has also had to adjust to an inconsistent relationship with wicketkeeping duties. Bairstow has persistently pushed through, even though it may have been easier to give up a few years ago and focus solely on white-ball cricket. As he approaches a century, another comeback is necessary.

Source: theguardian.com