Balancing act could see Bairstow sidelined once again as Bell returns

England's Jonny Bairstow.
England's Jonny Bairstow.
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Jonny Bairstow has welcomed Ian Bell back on tour – even though the new father in the England camp may be about to take his Test place again.

Bairstow had to make way, despite making 95 and 54 against South Africa at Lord’s, for the reintegrated Kevin Pietersen at the start of this tour.

Assuming the last-in, first-out basis pertains again, after Bell missed last week’s second-Test victory to fly home for the birth of his first child, Bairstow accepts he may be vulnerable once more.

While he could make only nine this time at the Wankhede Stadium, Bell – who did not quite make it home in time for the birth of Joseph William – nonetheless had the chance to adjust to fatherhood with his wife Chantal and first-born, before returning to England duties in time for this week’s third Test in Kolkata.

Both he and Bairstow were at nets yesterday at Eden Gardens, where the tourists took part in their first training session since their famous series-levelling win at Wankhede six days ago.

Bairstow reported his middle-order rival in appropriately jovial mood, and ready to get back to his day job.

“He’s absolutely delighted. It’s obviously a fantastic moment for him in his life,” said the young Yorkshireman.

“We’re all really pleased for him, to have had the little one.”

Bell’s return has added to the feelgood factor as England battle back in this four-match series.

“It’s really good to get him back, and everyone’s smiling about having the little one,” added Bairstow.

“He seems very pleased to be back.

“The morale and confidence are obviously very high at the moment.”

As for his own place in the team, Bairstow has learned from personal experience already that there is no sense fretting about selections which will be made by others. “Those decisions are obviously out of my hands – I have no say,” he said.

“But I’ll be delighted if I do get selected, and I’m working hard in training and in the nets.

“That’s the situation in professional sport, people coming in and out all the time.

“You’ve got to be adaptable to each one that’s put in front of you.

“You learn to deal with it, growing up when you come through playing for your county and then for the Lions, then one-dayers and up to the Tests.

“It’s something that’s been dealt with before, and I’m sure it will be in the future – if that’s the case, then so be it.”

He did not find it easy when Pietersen’s return put him back on the fringes of the team, but he understood.

“It’s obviously desperately disappointing,” he said of his omission. “But for the sake of the team, what’s best for the balance of the side, then it was going to happen.”

Whoever bats at No 5 for England in the match starting on Wednesday, Bairstow acknowledges that they will face no easy task against India’s spinners.

Alastair Cook and Pietersen’s wonderful record-equalling centuries in Mumbai helped England to a 10-wicket victory, as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann outbowled their hosts too. Footmarks in the bowlers’ run-ups here betray the fact the pitch for the third Test was used for a Ranji Trophy match barely three weeks ago.

Groundsman Prabir Mukherjee has assured that it will be a fair surface despite India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s public preference for one that turns from the outset.

If he does get his chance to do so, Bairstow has already made one assurance – that he will not be walking off again, as he did in Mumbai, after being caught via the helmet of a bat-pad fielder.

“It was a bizarre one,” he said, of the catch taken by Gautam Gambhir off Ojha. “I didn’t really know the rules personally, but I should perhaps read the laws of the game a bit more... It will be something I’ll definitely learn from. If it does happen again, I will be staying there.”