England head coach Trevor Bayliss has admitted it would be tough to convince Jonny Bairstow give up his wicketkeeping duties and focus solely on batting as the hosts’ batting continue to struggle in the ongoing England vs India series.
England’s top-order once again failed to fire in the third Test at Trent Bridge. The likes of Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root and Ollie Pope continued to struggle at the top of the order as India thrashed the hosts by 203 runs. That performance has only extended England’s poor batting in recent times.
Even in the first Test of the series which England had won, they suffered two inexplicable collapses. In the first innings at Edgbaston, they were all out for 287 despite being only three down for 216 at one stage. In the second innings, India shot them out for 180.
A century from Chris Woakes helped them put up a good batting show at Lord’s. However, their recent knack of collapses came back to haunt them again as India bowled them out for just 161 in the first innings at Trent Bridge.
Keaton Jennings and Alastair Cook had added 54 runs for the first wicket. But once both departed on successive deliveries, the rest of the lineup fell like a pack of cards. England lost all their ten wickets inside a session. For the third time in the last two years, England were bowled out inside a session. The other two instances happened in Mirpur 2016 and Auckland 2018.
And now there are speculations that England might promote Bairstow in the batting order despite the batsman enjoying success down the order. But one thing that can hinder there plans is Bairstow’s wicketkeeping duties. The long-held theory in cricket is that the demands of wicketkeeping and batting up the order does not go hand in hand. Moreover, what can further hinder England’s plan is whether Bairstow would be willing to give up the gloves.
And Bayliss knows it would be tough to convince him.
“That’ll be the hard thing, trying to convince Jonny,” said Bayliss. “That will be a decision that is taken from the team point of view. He is a world-class batter, we know that. One of the difficult things might be convincing Jonny of that.
“I think he has improved his ‘keeping over the last couple of years from where he was say when we were in South Africa. He’s aware of that. He’s done some hard work. Jos will have to do some hard work as well. He’s been keeping a lot in one-day cricket. But keeping 100 overs-a-day can be difficult, day after day, Test after Test. There are other options out there as well,” he added.
Jos Buttler proved his credentials by donning the gloves in the second innings after Bairstow suffered a finger injury. Buttler then went on to score a fighting century.
But stats would certainly make England cautious. When wicketkeeping, Bairstow averages 42.33. And when he plays just as a pure batsman, the average falls dramatically to 28.96. But at the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that he played solely as a batsman between 2012 to 2015 – a period where he was still struggling to deliver in Tests.
It was only from 2016 that Bairstow became a batting mainstay of this side.
Bayliss further said the conversation with Bairstow is going to be a deep one.
“It would certainly be a deep conversation with someone like that. Jonny’s a reasonable bloke. If that’s the way we wanted to go… in the long run, he wants to play Test cricket. We know he wants to keep but there would be a lot of explaining and chatting.”
If Bairstow accepts the promotion, newcomer Ollie Pope will have to move down the order. Pope replaced Dawid Malan at four in his first two Tests despite having never done so for his county. Bayliss admitted that asking Pope to bat at number four was a big ask.
“He is a young guy with a good head on his shoulders and I think he is going to give himself every opportunity to be a good international cricketer.
“He’s batted no higher than six for Surrey so it was a big ask to come into international cricket and bat four but the short times he’s been at the crease that he might be a good international cricketer. We would have probably liked to have started him off down a bit lower but the hole was at No.4. Obviously, Jonny is an option there as well which might allow Ollie to drop a little lower. These are all things we’ve discussed,” he said.