A fierce hitter and a tough cookie

Published : Aug 15, 2015 00:00 IST

Ready for a fight... Jonny Bairstow brings in raw aggression to the English Test side.-AP
Ready for a fight... Jonny Bairstow brings in raw aggression to the English Test side.-AP

Ready for a fight... Jonny Bairstow brings in raw aggression to the English Test side.-AP

It is not just that young Jonny Bairstow can hit the ball huge distances, but that he has that indefinable something which makes any good coach or captain think “we would be a better side with his spirit, never mind his big shots at No. 5.” By Ted Corbett.

If Jonny Bairstow succeeds in establishing himself in the England side — and I for one certainly hope he will, maybe as their frontline wicketkeeper — it will be a tribute to his clear mind and tough makeup. He has also had a little help from his friends.

Happily, he has more than one facet of a remarkable character on his side as he returns to the Test and international side after the disaster that struck his new teammates at Lord’s.

It required only a few minutes for the average hard-bitten, cynical, England fan to realise that the game was up and those minutes came together in a tumbling rush on the first day. Huge score by the Australians and England four down before you can say all’s right with the world and the game was gone.

There was a lot of talk in our media — suddenly all together and backing England — about a fighting finish to the game, a one chance in a million of making 500 in the fourth innings and “don’t forget how we won in Cardiff and, 75 years earlier, escaped destruction on the beaches of Dunkirk.” I don’t imagine many English cricket people were fooled.

Such an early collapse has happened repeatedly in recent series and we knew that there was no point in shrugging our shoulders and saying “it’s just one of those things.”

I say we knew but it would seem that the team management and the team selectors missed the clues. Surely if the same disaster strikes repeatedly, the densest citizen must shake his head and inquire: “What is the reason for all these batting collapses?”

Well, you and I wondered why, and a good many of those who took to Twitter and such other opportunities to make our views known, seemed to understand; but what about the selectors under the chairmanship of James Whitaker, once and once only a Test batsman, a leading light in the glory that is Leicestershire and a product of a good Yorkshire upbringing and a public school education. I have the advantage over many of you in that I met him repeatedly in the past, both as a young batsman and later as a county administrator.

In fact, I sat next to him in the stand in Queensland when he was waiting to bat against a side of no distinction, while he was on tour with England. I could not help noticing that his hands and knees were shaking. I did not need a calculator to tot up his runs that day.

On another occasion I asked him a question about the affairs at the county — it was a simple request for knowledge but he seemed to see trickery in my inquiry — and he replied: “Oh, Ted, I could not possibly tell you that.”

Now he chairs the committee that fronts the selection process, but still he cannot tell anxious inquirers what is happening.

So it was left to the new coach to decide — or so I read — and Bairstow played in the third Test and Gary Ballance returned to county duties with Yorkshire. A very sensible decision, approved by almost everyone from Geoff Boycott down to me, as Ballance looks, if you will excuse the pun, off-balance at No. 3.

A whole load of Yorkshire players leapt to Ballance’s defence — while still praising the choice of Bairstow — and I have no doubt he will make a bucketful of runs in county cricket. It is simply that he has failed to take the giant step from county to international play to Tests and needs time to adjust.

Now all the pressure lies with Bairstow. I knew his dad — favourite expression to those he did not like “You know three tenths of two thirds of nothing” — another blunt, no quarter given nor asked Yorkshire-man with red hair and bright blue eyes who died when Jonny was still a lad.

Someone with a big heart looked after the Bairstows, saw that Jonny went to the finest public school near at hand and I will bet that he glows with pride every day he reads about the feats that would also make Jonny’s father proud if he were still alive.

It is not just that young Bairstow can hit the ball huge distances — “better hitter than his dad” someone who should know told me when the lad was barely out of his teens — but that he has that indefinable something which makes any good coach or captain think “we would be a better side with his spirit never mind his big shots at No. 5.”

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