Hayter: It’s just wrong that Bairstow was rested

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - PETER HAYTER

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?

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Where was he? Jonny Bairstow did not fea­ture for York­shire in their open­ing two Cham­pi­onship games

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