Cricket 3 years ago

Jonny B Good

  • Jonny B Good

With the colour still to return to faces of England supporters after the humiliation of Lord’s the selectors have named their side for the Third Test starting on 29th July at Edgbaston.

They made just one change, recalling Jonny Bairstow for his Yorkshire teammate, Gary Ballance.  Ballance must be one of the few cricketers to be dropped averaging over 50, although that has dropped slightly through this series.  But the way he is struggling with his technique would suggest some time off from the glare of Test cricket should do him some good.  His record suggests he has a bright future ahead of him and I fully expect him to be back.  But for now, here’s Jonny!

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Born in Bradford on 26th September 1989, Jonny Bairstow is son of former Yorkshire and England wicket-keeper, David, who was a combative, nuggety cricketer whose First-Class career at Yorkshire spanned twenty years from 1970.  David, or “Bluey” as he was known, made his Test debut at The Oval against India in late August 1979.  He hit a half century in the Second Innings in a match India very nearly beat the World record for chasing a score to win when their 429-8 was just nine runs short.  He was picked for the Australian tour the previous winter when he made his One-Day International debut at Melbourne against Australia in January 1979.  Bairstow snr, also got to play at his home ground, Headingley, the following year when the West Indies visited, but only made a total of four Test appearances.  After a gap of three years his final appearance in an England shirt was at Lord’s for a Prudential Trophy game against West Indies in June 1984.

Jonny made his First Class debut for Yorkshire at Headingley in June 2009 when Somerset visited along with Justin Langer and Marcus Trescothick.  He took his place alongside Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan and Jacques Rudolph.  He scored 28 in his first knock but immediately showed off his talent with 82 not out in the second in a losing cause.

Jonny first received international recognition when he was selected for the ODI side to play India at Cardiff in September 2011.  He came in at number six and thumped an unbeaten 41 from just 21 balls including three sixes and a four as England won a rain-affected match.  He was employed purely as a batsman on that day as Craig Kieswetter took the gloves.  He was then selected in the two T20 internationals against West Indies soon after.  Bairstow’s opening salvo was enough to earn himself a place on the ODI team trip to India that winter to play in all five matches, yet only registered double figures once.  His highest T20 score came when he hit 60 not out in Dubai against Pakistan in February 2012.

2011 was a memorable year for the young Bairstow as he earned the Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year award.  A prestigious title previously won by such names as Ian Botham, Peter May, Fred Trueman, Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey, Tony Greig and Nasser Hussain.  In fact, of the fourteen players in the squad for the Third Test, nine of them, including Bairstow have won that award.

His first Test cap arrived in May 2012 when he lined up in the side which met West Indies at Lord’s.  The Windies, opponents in his Dad’s last international, were the combatants in Jonny’s first as he played in all three Tests but only managed a top score of 18.  Again he was only trusted as a batsman with Matt Prior still the keeper.  In August with the South Africans touring Bairstow finally showcased his talent with knocks of 95 and 54 in a defeat at Lord’s.  His second innings saw him come in at 45-4, something which he might get used to in the current England team.

Of his fourteen Test appearances six have come against Australia as he played a part in the 2013 Ashes win for England with his best effort coming again at Lord’s (67).  His last Test appearance was in Sydney back at the beginning of last year as his last innings saw him register a three ball duck.

He was chosen in the side to meet Ireland in Dublin back in May and took the gloves for the first time in an international.  Rain prevented him from batting as the match was abandoned and it was uncertain what part he would play in the ODIs against New Zealand in June.  In one of the most exciting ODI series seen in this country, Bairstow joined as a late replacement for Jos Buttler and took his bow in the final match.  Chasing a reduced total of 192, he came in at 40-4 in the seventh over with 152 required off 19.3 overs.  The young redhead was undaunted and thumped an unbeaten 83 off 60 balls hitting 11 fours.  Ironically he batted longest with another wicket-keeper, Sam Billings of Kent, as the two put on 70 in 9.3 overs and was joined at the end by another Yorkshire teammate, Adil Rashid.

Bairstow has come on leaps and bounds with his batting this year for a Yorkshire team who are runaway leaders and favourites to retain their County Championship title.  He has scored 980 in 12 innings at an average of 108.88 hitting 5 centuries and 4 fifties.  His career best 219 not out came at the end of June at Durham and he has followed that up with further hundreds at Edgbaston against Warwickshire (108) and then 139 in the latest match at Scarborough against Worcestershire.  Such is his rich vein of form that he added to his first innings ton with 74 not out off 51 balls as Yorkshire won by three wickets to stretch their lead at the top of the table to 34 points with a game in hand on Warwickshire and just six matches to play.

When Bairstow joined the One-Day squad he came into a team buoyant from their exploits against New Zealand and much of this must have rubbed off on him.  When he meets up with the squad at Edgbaston the mood will undoubtedly be more measured, which is a shame as had he joined up with the lads after Cardiff he would have found a distinctively buzzing group.  He is the in-form player in the country with only James Hildreth having scored more runs of those qualified to be selected for this Test.

Locals have spoken of the change in behaviour of their young charge highlighting his return to youthful ebullient self rather than the soulless nervous player Andy Flower appeared to have turned him into.  He certainly isn’t the great messiah but the influence of one Australian coach, Jason Gillespie could well be enhanced by another, Trevor Bayliss in an attempt to quell the Australian national side fresh from levelling things up in the series at Lord’s.  Bairstow’s record at Edgbaston is decent, averaging 40.25 from eight innings with one century and two half-centuries.

Whatever Jonny achieves at England level will always carry a tinge of sadness in that his father never saw him play for his county, let alone for his country.  David retired in 1990 having taken 961 catches in a twenty year career, a total bettered by only six keepers in history.  He may not necessarily have been a great batsman or even a great keeper “but”, as his teammate Phil Carrick once said “he was a great cricketer”.  People often spoke of his “unquenchable spirit” and his sheer will to win, especially from seemingly hopeless positions which made him an ideal limited overs player.  At the age of 46 and suffering from depression, David hanged himself at his home on 5th January 1998.  His wife was ill, he had financial troubles and he faced a drink-driving charge as well as being in pain from his own injuries.  His death may well have resulted in him being one of the first cricketers to highlight the problem of stress and pressure faced by retired sportsmen.  For one so indomitable and least introspective it appeared unlikely he would face such a fate and those around him were left with the agonising wrench of “if only”.  It sent shockwaves through the sport and provided a much needed wake-up call.

The coroner in the case recorded an open verdict saying he was not convinced Bairstow meant to kill himself and that his actions may have been a “cry for help” although this was the second time in a few weeks he had tried to take his own life.  David did get to see his other son, Andy, play when he had a brief spell with Derbyshire beginning in 1995 but one can only wonder at how proud he would have been for Jonny and no doubt the younger Bairstow carries his father’s spirit throughout.

It can be unfortunate for cricketers, or even any sports people, when they’re continually compared to their sports playing parents and not considered in their own right as their parents were able to be.  But David Hopps on cricinfo has summed up one of the numerous quirks which can often exist.

“The England career of David Bairstow, Jonny's late father, suffered a setback when Paul Downton, a wicketkeeper-batsman of more discreet talents, was preferred. "Bluey's" analysis of his rejection could be on the tempestuous side. By a historical quirk, nothing more, Jonny Bairstow also lost his place when Downton assumed command as England's director of cricket after the Ashes whitewash.

But Downton was sacked barely a year later. Jonny Bairstow, within a few months, is back. It is funny how life works out.”

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