IT is commonly held that Joe Root is England’s best batsman of the present day.
I wouldn’t disagree with that, the brilliant Yorkshireman having already taken his place among the game’s greats.
Root appears in prime form going into the World Cup and the Ashes this summer after some fine performances for Yorkshire this month.
He scored 73 and 130 not out to help Yorkshire draw with Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge and then scored 94 in the victory against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
In any discussion about England’s best batsmen, however, you would have to put Jonny Bairstow right up there, too.
After his great success in the Indian Premier League (445 runs in 10 games for Sunrisers Hyderabad at an average of 55.62), Root’s county team-mate deserves, in my view, to be regarded as England’s best all-format batsman – ie the best at all three disciplines combined: first-class, one-day and T20.
The other contenders for this accolade would be Root, the master craftsman at Test and one-day level, along with Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
But Bairstow shades it for me with his versatility and is England’s most versatile batsman full-stop, able to bat anywhere in the Test line-up and with the ability to get the innings off to a flyer in the white-ball formats, plus an outstanding wicketkeeper and fielder, too.
It has been a long road for Bairstow to get to this point, one where his all-format prowess deserves to be recognised.
It is difficult to think of any cricketer who has had to fight harder to get where he is in recent times (you still sense that Bairstow is the easy option for England to leave out if they want to; witness what happened in Sri Lanka last winter).
But if I wanted an England player to bat for my life in all three formats, as opposed to just one or two, I would have to pick him ahead of the rest.Chris Waters
But if I wanted an England player to bat for my life in all three formats, as opposed to just one or two, I would have to pick him ahead of the rest.
His success at the IPL has surely established beyond reasonable doubt that he, too, deserves to be regarded among the game’s greats.
Bairstow’s success with the Sunrisers will surprise no-one who suspected that he would tear up the IPL, such as Yorkshire’s director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.
Stokes had a disappointing competition by comparison (123 runs in nine games for Rajasthan Royals at 20.50 and six wickets at 31.50) and, without seeking to decry for one minute the magnificent Root, the Test captain had a difficult Big Bash last winter (93 runs in seven games for Sydney Thunder at 15.50).
It is unfair and frankly absurd when people say that Root is not a T20 player; he just does not play a great deal of it and his skills in the format tend to be dwarfed by his Herculean talents in the other two.
Indeed, trying to compare the likes of Root, Bairstow, Stokes and Buttler in any event is a bit like trying to compare the paintings of Picasso. A thread of genius runs through them all.
In India, Bairstow struck up a stunning opening partnership with David Warner, the pair feeding off each other and forging a natural understanding when running between the wickets.
Both are proper stroke-players as opposed to mere big-hitters, so vital for prospering across every format.
Bairstow’s IPL season was a watershed moment.
It proved that this is a man who can literally do everything.