YORKSHIRE’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon fears that Jonny Bairstow’s effectiveness could be reduced by England playing him solely as a batsman.
Bairstow hopes to return to the side for Friday’s third and final Test match against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
But he will not be keeping wicket, with Ben Foakes taking the gloves after the Yorkshireman got injured playing football prior to the opening Test.
Foakes’s performances behind the stumps, allied to a debut hundred and a follow-up fifty, appear to have pencilled him in as wicketkeeper/batsman for the foreseeable future, with head coach Trevor Bayliss suggesting that Foakes can expect an extended run.
But Moxon, who has worked with Bairstow throughout his career, feels that England are taking a risk with Bairstow’s batting by removing him from his favoured keeping role.
“Personally, I think that Jonny should be keeping wicket,” he said.
“Jonny keeping and batting has been a success story, and I’m just nervous that if Jonny plays solely as a batter, what effect that would have on him going forward.
“I think that England will get the best out of Jonny if he’s keeping wicket, as it would take the pressure off him (as a batsman) and allow him to play the way that he plays.
“He’s the type of player who needs to play without fear; he can play shots that mere mortals cannot play.
“If he feels under pressure to score runs, and is relying solely on that department of the game for his place in the side, it changes the dynamic somewhat.
If he feels under pressure to score runs, and is relying solely on that department of the game for his place in the side, it changes the dynamic somewhat.Martyn Moxon
“Would it inhibit him? That’s my fear.
“But, at the same time, he’s clearly a world-class player, and you’d think that they’ve got to find a way to get him into the side.”
Bairstow’s likeliest route back is at No 3, where England have struggled for consistency since Jonathan Trott’s time.
With captain Joe Root unwilling to fill that position himself (a batting order of Root at No 3 and Bairstow at No 4 would arguably suit the latter more), Bairstow could return as a straight swap for Sam Curran (side strain), with Ben Stokes reverting from No 3 back down the order.
Bairstow, who plays as a specialist opener in one-day cricket, with Jos Buttler taking the wicketkeeping gloves, said of a potential No 3 berth: “We’ve got to cross that bridge when we come to it.
“But, in all of the challenges that have been out in front of me, I’d like to think I’ve recognised them and hopefully combated them in many ways.
“People said about opening the batting in one-day cricket, ‘Can you do it? Let’s give it a whirl and see how you go.’
“Whatever the circumstances, it’s not something I’ve done a massive amount of (batting up the order), but, coming in against the second new ball, you’re doing the same thing there (facing a new ball).
“I might just have to leave a few more balls.”
Not that Bairstow is ready to give up on the wicketkeeping role.
“You don’t want to accept that, do you?” he said.
“You don’t know what’s round the corner, so I’m working on both of my primary skills, like I have done over the last three years.
“It was only three Tests ago I was in the top-10 batters in the world, and then you’re not playing.
“But, if we want to push each other, and push other teams around the world, then that competition is really good for us, because we’re going to be striving to be better, striving to score more runs, striving to be a better keeper, to take better catches.”
Moxon also welcomes the strong competition.
“I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be competition for places,” he said, “and I’m not decrying Foakes’s performances for one minute. Nobody is denying that Foakes is a good cricketer; he got a hundred on debut, after all.
“But, given that Buttler was (wicketkeeping) back-up to Jonny for the Tests, to pick Foakes (who was not originally picked for the tour), kind of flies in the face of the original selection.
“It’s a real conundrum for the England selectors, and it’s a bizarre set of circumstances as far as Jonny is concerned and it seems strange and unfortunate for him because he’s a world- class performer with bat and gloves.”
Moxon added that he plans to hold further talks with Bairstow regarding the player signing a new contract at Yorkshire.
“Jonny contacted me a week or so ago and we’re going to get together when he gets back from Sri Lanka,” he said.
“I’ve not spoken to him about it (the contract) since he went to Sri Lanka, and we’re hoping that he decides to re-sign.”
Commenting on England’s win in Sri Lanka, with the tourists holding a 2-0 advantage, Moxon said: “They’ve done really well. Fair play to them.
“Obviously, Sri Lanka are not the force they once were; they’re in a bit of a transitional period just at the minute.
“But, to win the three-match series over there (including the 50-over games and T20 match) is a great achievement, and one that is not to be taken lightly.”