Jonny Bairstow prizes his Test career above all else – because it will always be his most important stage.
His comments came after England’s leading Test wicket-taker of all-time James Anderson admitted his fears for the future of the format.
Bairstow, England’s one-day international opener and Test wicketkeeper, excels in all versions – as 62 white-ball appearances for his country demonstrate.
But 50 Test caps stand most proud for the 28-year-old, who sees the obvious threat from Twenty20 franchise competitions to the well-being of cricket’s longest format.
Bairstow has the chance to help make history with a first World Cup victory for England next year – yet success and longevity in Tests remain top of his agenda.
He does not disparage ODI team-mates Adil Rashid and Alex Hales’ decision to relegate Test ambitions by agreeing white-ball-only county contracts. But categorically, Bairstow will not follow suit any time soon.
He regards Test cricket as “absolutely” the “ultimate” - although its future is uncertain, as global crowds prefer shorter fixes and players are tempted by bigger money for shorter working hours.
Bairstow said: “If we’re not careful, there are going to be more and more people (giving up red-ball cricket).
“You’ve got lucrative tournaments... (to) go off for five weeks and earn a heck of a lot of money... (with) the strain and stress on the body of bowling (only) fours overs comparative to 24 in a day in Test cricket.”
Bairstow put himself in the mix for this year’s Indian Premier League auction but did not land a deal. Had he done so, Bairstow would not have missed any England engagements – unlike Hales and Rashid, who cannot press Test claims while playing limited-overs only.
“I won’t be going down that route just yet – we can put that to bed for the next few years at least,” he said. “We need to back individuals’ decisions... you can’t force people into playing things. (But) I want to play all formats for England – I have put a lot of time and effort into white and red-ball cricket over a long period of time to get into the teams and play for England. That’s what I want to do for a long time.”