A recent survey by Cricket Monthly showed the wicketkeeper-batsman turned out more times for his country than any other player in the world over the past 12 months.
In the year ending August 31 he clocked up 43 England games across all formats and was in action for a total of 91 days.
That placed him fractionally ahead of his Test captain and fellow Yorkshireman Joe Root, who racked up 90 days on the field, but 15 ahead of the nearest overseas challenger, Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella.
Informed that his competitive workload outstripped the likes of Lionel Messi (62 days) and Roger Federer (71), Bairstow laughed: “I wish we got paid like them.”
Yet beneath the levity there is a serious point. With the schedule increasingly packed, notwithstanding the strains of travel and practice or the pull of lucrative domestic deals, three-format cricketers like Bairstow are being stretched to the limit.
The 29-year-old does not feel burdened by those demands, though. Instead he feels honoured to have earned the selectors’ trust in Tests, one-day internationals and T20s alike and proud of the steel it takes to continue answering the call.
“It’s a good thing because it means that people want you to be part of their team. It also means you’re in good condition physically and mentally, because if you weren’t I’m not sure you’d get through all those games,” he said. “It can be very mentally challenging if things aren’t necessarily going your way because then you’ve got external pressures as well – and physically you’ve got to get up for it every day because keeping wicket and batting does take it out of you.”
Bairstow spent more time than he would like fighting to establish himself in the 50-over team and, with an average of 51.05 and four centuries to his name in 2018, is unwilling to vacate the shirt.
“It’s a short career when you’re playing for England and you have to relish every single bit of it,” he said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”