Jonny Bairstow first arrived onto International cricket arena when Matt Prior stepped himself out of his almost authoritative position in 2014.
This is what he said back in time about Jonny Bairstow:
“You have one guy who is scoring a lot of runs but has made a few mistakes behind the stumps and one guy whose glove work had gone up a huge amount but wasn’t scoring the runs, Jonny is the man in possession, he did well in South Africa with the bat and he’s had time to go away and work on the things with his wicket keeping. I think this period has been quite good for Jonny, he’s been out of the shop window, and he’s been able to go to the training ground and work hard. It’s very hard to make huge improvements while playing Test cricket, with so much scrutiny, 26 cameras on you, super slow-mo. I’m sure he’s used that time well to go away and work on areas, he’s a hugely determined guy and very resilient as well. (Sic)”
2 years later, Jonny Bairstow had attracted more slow-motion cameras with every single match he played. 2016 is turning out to be a magical year for him – with three centuries scored in just eight innings, with an average of 106. 80 runs per innings. Those are amazingly impressive numbers even for a top order batsman and Jonny maintains these statistics at No. 6 and No. 7 – A position for an all-rounder.
Any century that you score, irrespective of the opposition teams credentials is special. In tests, it is magical. But, the three centuries that Jonny Bairstow scored in 2016 would put all the adjectives for special to shame.
First: vs. South Africa – 02 January 2016: Scorching hot day as the world awoke from celebrations of New Year. English cricket one of their own star rising up the ranks. It was a batting paradise. Jonny Bairstow is playing his 37th Test Innings with no century under his belt. Averaging at 28. 38 murmurs intensified about his ability as wicket keeper and batsman. Joe Root just got out with England at 223 for the loss of 5 wickets. Safely defended on his first ball and 160 balls later.
“YESS! He fulfills the dream!”
There’s clear emotion on his face, and a glance skywards – A roar that announced his arrival.
Second: Vs. Sri Lanka – 19 May 2016: The century is at Headingly – his home town with the family from the corner of his eye eagerly waiting for him to step out. He is in at No. 7 but much earlier than anyone could expect. This time debutant Shanaka is running English batsman for rags – all mishaps but home remains home. He scored his second hundred and added 200 runs on the board from the time he walked out to the time he walked out to standing ovations from proud home supporters and family.
“Run for overthrows on a cover drive. Brings up his second hundred. Up goes the fist, off comes the helmet, and the home crowd lauds one of his own”
The roar returns and this time it is the comfort of security – Came, conquered and locked the Home safe.
Third: Vs. Sri Lanka – 09 June 2016: The century is at Lord’s- considered to be the Mecca of cricket. Came into bat at No. 6 when Sri Lankan fast bowlers are enjoying their happy day out at the ground they never lost since 2013. Three fifty run partnerships with Cook, Ali and Woakes, he shattered the dreams of a happy day.
“Shovels the ball away through backward square – off comes the helmet, a Third test hundred for Jonny Bairstow – third in 2016 and first at Lord’s.”
The shaken up Lion’s roar this time even more thunderous that scattered the happy birds away.
This is one dimension of what Matt Prior pointed out in the conversation written at the start of this article, the other aspect of his game is wicket-keeping.
Jonny Bairstow in spite of scoring many runs at the domestic level had to swing through heavy currents at International level due to questions raised about his wicket keeping skill.
First Investec Test match against Sri Lanka in 2016 – he claims nine catches in the match and that was not even his first time. He just accomplished that couple of Test matches ago.
This is what Paul Fabrace, England’s assistant coach said during that test match:
“The challenge we set him after South Africa was that you will play the Sri Lanka series and you will have the gloves, but we want a consistent wicketkeeper,”The wicketkeeper is picked first and foremost to take his catches and any run he scores is a bonus. The keeper sets the trend and the fielding level so if he is taking his catches everyone else takes confidence from that”
This is what he did – brought the non-traditional training routines. He worked with New Castle United, an English Premier League Soccer Club – and a session of learning tips from their goalkeepers for the progression.
It might even be too early to write appreciation letters about a sportsman, but for what we have seen of him so far – Jonny Bairstow is a man of pride, a man of hard work, a man of respect and most importantly the man that carries the reputation of his family.
Image and comments courtesy: ESPNCricinfo