Bairstow thrilled by England ascent after remarkable take-off
22-year-old who shone on debut aims to build on his work so far in one-day series against the Indians
Jonny Bairstow's entrance on to the international stage brought the house down. With England staring down the barrel, he came in and nonchalantly knocked off the winning runs as if he had a much more pressing engagement, like a hand of poker waiting to be played out in the dressing room.
He scored 41 from 21 balls, casually hitting three sixes out of the ground, and a match that England were in perilous danger of mucking up was retrieved. Whatever happens next, and much could, Bairstow will always have Cardiff.
That innings in the final one-day international of the summer, remarkable for its sheer composure (crisis, what crisis?), ensured that Bairstow had to be selected for the limited-overs tour of India.
He is one of a generation of early 20-something batsmen who England have marked out to take them to limited-overs glory in the future, possibly as early as the next World Cup. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales and James Taylor are the others but Bairstow has an opportunity in the next few weeks to stake a claim that the others may subsequently find difficult to match.
"It's been a good few days," he said sitting in the stands yesterday at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad during a break in England's training session. "I've not been here long but it is definitely an experience. Without a doubt, yeah, it's happened more quickly than I thought. It's a pleasant surprise. It's a fantastic opportunity, every day and training session. Hopefully I'll take it with both hands."
Bairstow turned 22 last month, ten days after his heroic innings at Sophia Gardens. He was eight when his father was found hanged in the family home in Yorkshire. David Bairstow was an effusive, combative wicketkeeper for the county for 20 years.
He played four Test matches for England and it is natural that so far – though Cardiff may have changed it – Jonny has always been known as David's son. The flaming red hair has made it natural, too, for him to be given his dad's old nickname of Blue.
"I have some very fond memories of my dad, fond things that people have said," he said. "He was a great character and did a lot for the game. It's a very proud moment for the family and hopefully something that will continue.
"Being so young, perhaps it was easier for me, rather than being slightly older and knowing everything that was going on. But my mum wasn't very well, so it wasn't easy for the family. It took a lot of hard work and effort to get everything back on track. We're all pleased with the way things are going. We all pull together and I think that has made us a lot stronger as a family."
Jonny can recall a trip to Barbados and playing on the outfield at The Oval – "memories to cherish" – but he did not become a cricketer because his dad was. Bairstow jnr played a legion of other sports in his teenage years.
In this respect, he is also a chip off the old block since David played 17 matches in the Football League for Bradford City before it was decided that cricket needed his full-time attention. Jonny was a schoolboy footballer with Leeds United until he was 15, played county rugby union throughout his years at St Peter's School, York and played university hockey at Leeds Met.
"I was a fly-half and if I hadn't pushed for my cricket, I think I'd have pushed it for rugby," he said. "It would have been a lot of hard work in the gym. I think I was better at cricket, but I was preparing for a first's game, and something changed overnight. It was almost a subconscious decision that it didn't feel right playing rugby."
If that would have pleased his dad, it probably also delighted Geoff Boycott, who has stayed close to the family throughout Jonny's life. Boycott was as pleased as punch to be asked to present Jonny's cap at Cardiff.
Jonny has become a wicketkeeper like his father, though he is definitely a work in progress. There may be something there but it would be a pity if England promoted his keeping at the expense of his undoubtedly classy batting.
"I'd like to think I could be selected for England as a batsman but everyone wants to have a 'keeper who can bat," he said.
In the continuing absence of Craig Kieswetter, Bairstow will probably keep wicket in England's first warm-up game tomorrow, against a side from the Hyderabad Cricket Association. Kieswetter will stay with Somerset until the end of their run in the Champions League Twenty20. The county will play their semi-final tie against Mumbai Indians in Chennai tomorrow.
Andy Flower, England's coach, has also now joined the squad after receiving both his OBE and treatment on his injured shoulder.
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