Bright prospect

Perhaps, because he is in Test terms, still a youngster, Jonny Bairstow may have to wait for Matt Prior to finish his career and to serve a few years batting wherever he is most needed and fielding at long this or deep that. By Ted Corbett.

It will not be long before Jonny Bairstow forgets all about fielding at deep this and long that, puts on a pair of big fat gloves and shows the world what he can achieve as England's first choice wicket-keeper.

My pal in the corridors of power at Headingley was the first to spot the change.

“He's had his card marked, or been given a strong tip that he is the next cab off the rank,” he said late last summer. “He's changed. Wants to talk. Mr. Nice Guy.”

I had had my own signpost to Bairstow's future when I went to watch the last one-day international of the summer at Cardiff. Bairstow won the match with a dynamic innings full of what the cricketers love to call “proper cricket shots.”

No slogging, not a sign of eyes wide shut and hit out. Instead Bairstow hit hard and often, with a straight bat, signs of increasing confidence, an indication as my Headingley spy said, that he knew the big chance just needed taking.

I walked down the corridor to the TV studios and found that someone had already begun to tell the story. “Did you see him?” the voice was saying emphatically. “Fearless hitting. Proper cricket shots. Not one slog. He can go far. Better than his dad. Hits the ball harder and further than his dad, too. Just remember what I have been saying. This lad is a prospect.”

You will not be surprised to know that the voice belonged to Geoff Boycott and neither do you need me to explain who GB is. The most Yorkshire of batsmen, the most plain spoken of commentators, the most knowledgeable of pundits. When he speaks everyone listens. Believe me he has the respect of all the modern rulers, coaches and players.

He played alongside David Bairstow who was Yorkshire and then England wicket-keeper and, a bit like Boycs, inclined to say what he thought. They're like that in Yorkshire whether they are cricketers or bus drivers or Lord High and Mighty. They're not always right, of course, but they always think they are right. Stubborn with it.

That's our Geoffrey and that was “Blue” Bairstow and when Blue died early Boycott took an interest in his lad. It looks as if some of the lessons have stuck. It also looks as if the quiet word which I have no doubt has been planted in the ear of the wise has had its effect.

I knew the senior Bairstow from the days when I used to see more than my fair share of the Yorkshire side of the late 1960s and early to middle 1970s, when Yorkshire were expected to win the championship, provide a fair proportion of the England side and dismiss a few players every summer's end. They sent them off to other counties where they often prospered.

Just to take the step from a local league — the Bradford, the Yorkshire or the Leeds — into the Yorkshire side, you had to be able to field well, to know which end of the bat was for holding and which end hit the runs and you had to understand how the game can be played.

David Bairstow had all those qualities and a boisterous, combative nature when he made his teenage debut. I'm told Jonny is less inclined to join an argument, more sensible, less fiery despite that flame red hair but that is not to knock his dad, one of the best.

As they also say in Yorkshire “he has something about him.” Jonny looks as if he might have been planted on this earth to play Test cricket, to learn how to build an innings and by the time he reached the middle to understand what sort of innings might be required.

He would pick up some of that from his dad who was wiser than he looked and had been nurtured by men who did understand technique and tactics and strategy. It was hard work being a Yorkshire cricketer in those days because you had to play all day and attend informal, rough lectures on the game in the pub afterwards.

I got sucked into one of those classes one night. “We're going home,” said my pal, who had given me a lift. He was a good club player. “First I want to ask Tony Nicholson why I keep getting out lbw.”

Nicholson, a burly quickish bowler, who specialised in getting his victims lbw, told him. Actually he told him for nearly two hours, and showed him; and I got home at midnight; in trouble as usual.

So young Bairstow has good genes, an enviable background in cricket, the best sponsor and talent to match.

He will be the sixth England Test 'keeper since 2000: Alec Stewart, James Foster, Chris Read, Geraint Jones, Matt Prior and Tim Ambrose. I cannot count those who have played in ODIs. Prior, the current 'keeper, has put in the hard work, and learnt his trade at the feet of Bruce French, the best coach for stumpers in the Test-playing countries.

How to solve this problem? Prior at No. 6 and Bairstow at No. 7? I wonder if Geoff Miller and his co-selectors have considered that possibility.

Perhaps, because he is in Test terms, still a youngster, Bairstow may have to wait for Prior to finish his career and to serve a few years batting wherever he is most needed and fielding at long this or deep that.