Hayter: It’s just wrong that Bairstow was rested
To the list of the unexplained mysteries of the universe, the Pyramids, Stonehenge, where single socks go to die and the mating ritual of the male Japanese Puffer Fish, can be added the case of the ‘Disappearing Bairstow’, made even more baffling because it seems to be happening again and again.
To recap: for the deciding match of last season’s County Championship against Middlesex at Lord’s, victory in which would have secured them their first hat-trick of titles since the Sixties, Yorkshire were informed by the England management that they could not include the Test wicketkeeper/batsman Jonny Bairstow.
Nor, for the record, and less controversially as he is England’s linchpin in all three formats, could they select Joe Root and, while they could have picked leg-spinner Adil Rashid, the player informed them he was just too jiggered, much to their consternation.
Bairstow had wanted desperately to play. Why wouldn’t he? The tradition, history and ethos of the club have always inclined those who wear the White Rose to believe that playing for Yorkshire is as much of an honour as representing your country, possibly an even greater one.
The biggest prize in domestic cricket was on the line. The club needed him. His mates needed him. The winner-takes-all climax of the much-derided Specsavers County Championship needed him.
Yet England refused him permission, on the grounds that, with their squad leaving for Bangladesh the following week, the demands facing Bairstow there and in India thereafter (seven Tests in eight weeks) made it absolutely vital he should miss four days of cricket now.
Yorkshire were thrilled, of course, and their mood was not eased by knowing that though ultimately defeated, they played their full part in one of the most thrilling championship matches ever seen at Headquarters.
Afterwards the club went so far as to air their “disappointment” in a public statement, in which they pointed out that Bairstow had been “rested for 16 days since he last played for England… said he felt refreshed and wanted to play…” that “other centrally contracted players who are soon to tour Bangladesh and India with England, have been allowed to represent their county in critical matches.”
Most persuasively of all, they reminded us that, after having asked to sit out the recently completed ODI series, in the five weeks since the final Test against Pakistan at the Oval had
The biggest prize in domestic cricket was on the line. The club needed him. His mates needed him. Yet England refused him permission
finished on Sunday, August 14, Bairstow had played just five days of cricket. I repeat: five days in five weeks.
By the end of England’s woeful winter, the poor lad was indeed wearing a wearisome look.
Maybe he would have faded even faster had they let him play against Middlesex. Maybe, though, had he played and shared the joy of a Yorkshire victory he might have carried that experience with him on the plane to Bangladesh, rather than the confusion and frustration of having been denied the chance to share their gain.
And last week, for Bairstow and Yorkshire and England, it was déjà vu all over again.
England had already given Bairstow permission to put himself forward for auction in the Indian Premier League (history, tradition and ethos do have their limits when it comes to the cold hard cash of the richest T20 League in world cricket, it seems). But after he failed to find a buyer, Yorkshire were anticipating having him available from the start of the new season.
But once again England intervened, ruling him out of their first two matches against Hampshire and Warwickshire. After the second of which they won at Edgbaston by an innings, it was the turn of Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale to question the decision of Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, his coach Trevor Bayliss and their medical team to withhold Bairstow’s labour.
Gale said: “I can see why someone like Rooty (Joe Root) would want a rest given the amount of cricket he’s played. But Jonny has played one ODI since Christmas. I think he’s played three days of cricket.” I repeat: three days since Christmas. “For me,” Gale stressed, “he should have been available right from the first game of the season. He had enough time off from the end of the West Indies trip. I felt he should have been available.”
Bairstow is not the only England player whose absence from the early rounds of the Championship has caused a stir, of course.
Nottinghamshire were similarly irked that, after having bowled the grand total of 21 overs in their first match, Stuart Broad was pulled from the second. James Anderson played one for Lancashire then missed one, too, though, bearing in mind his fitness issues over the past month, that hardly came as a shock.
Strauss, meanwhile, defended his position, saying: “We have to recognise the demands of the international programme over the next 12 months, with seven Tests in ten weeks from July followed by another seven in Australia and New Zealand over the winter.”
Unsurprisingly, Strauss’ stance did not find universal favour and none whatsoever among those who have always insisted you get fit to bowl by bowling, such as former England, Northamptonshire and Hampshire seamer Bob Cottam, also an ex-England bowling coach.
“I read that Anderson and Broad are having their workload closely monitored!” he posted on social media. “WHAT! WHAT! Too many sports scientists coming out of university trying to invent the square wheel….Bubble wrap must be the shares to get cos plenty is being sold!!!!”
To which the great Barry Richards replied: “Could not agree more.”
Another argument for another day, perhaps. And no one is seriously arguing that ECB central contracts have not been a force for good since they were introduced at the end of the bad old Nineties, when stories abounded of bowlers traipsing from one end of the country to the other to play for England one day, their county the next, and round and round and up and down they went throughout the long summer.
But try as I might, I still cannot fathom the logic behind “resting” Jonny Bairstow, first after five days’ cricket in five weeks at the end of last season, then after three days’ cricket in three months at the beginning of this one, nor, evidently, can Yorkshire, nor the player himself.
After all, of those two enforced absences, did England really gain that much from the exercise in Bangladesh and India, and how much of a difference will the latest one make Down Under this winter?
Where was he? Jonny Bairstow did not feature for Yorkshire in their opening two Championship games