'When you drop a few catches…': Cook reacts to under-fire Bairstow with '99 shows of destruction' remark
Jonny Bairstow has been under fire for his questionable glove work and former England captain Alastair Cook has something very interesting to say.
The last year has been quite eventful for Jonny Bairstow. Around this time in 2022, Bairstow got into a freak accident which took away eight precious months of his career. During this time, he missed being part of six Tests, England's victorious T20 World Cup squad and the Indian Premier League. As Bairstow broke his leg in three places and feared he'd never be able to walk again, the emergence of Ben Foakes was looked at as a huge positive for England. Foakes took over wicketkeeping duties behind the stumps and won fans and pundits over with his exemplary glovework. However, as Bairstow recovered, his replacement was shown the door highlighting, and five Tests later, as Bairstow is in the middle of a topsy-turvy Ashes 2023 campaign, the Jonny vs Foakes debate is as hot as it gets.
Despite not being able to reach the final of the World Test Championship, England have successfully revolutionised the traditional format with their new brand of Test cricket – the Bazball. The change in approach began soon after England's 4-0 humiliation against Australia in the previous Ashes, forcing the management to make major changes at the helm. With the focus majorly being on scoring briskly, England have backed players, who perfectly fit in their Bazball setup, even if it comes at the cost of sidelining someone better. This has been the case with Bairstow, who despite not being at his best behind the wickets has remained the team's number one choice, while someone like Ben Foakes waits on the fringes.
Four Tests into the Ashes, and Bairstow has already had a roller-coaster ride. At Lord's, his dismissal attracted controversy leading to the 'Spirit of the game' debate. Besides, his dropped catches have hurt England and even though Bairstow redeemed himself with a swashbuckling 99 in Manchester, he isn't entirely out of hot waters. Bairstow's wicketkeeping in fact, has let England down on a few occasions. In Edgbaston, Bairstow missed out on a host of chances, starting with Cameron Green's routine stumping, while he was just two-ball-old in the first innings. He also dropped Alex Carey twice in the match.
The argument has also been put forward by several ex-cricketers over the past month, with ex-Pakistan player Rashid Latif claiming Bairstow to be 'nowhere close' to Foakes. "Foakes is the best wicketkeeper in the world. He has played only 20 Tests. Jonny Bairstow is nowhere close to Foakes. Bairstow will keep dropping catches, but Foakes will not get a chance," Latif was quoted as saying by Indian Express last week. Latif is not the only one to make such an argument, former Australian wicketkeeper Darren Berry and Aussie legend Ian Chappell have also made similar claims.
Former England captain Alastair Cook admits the same but has backed England's choice to stick with Bairstow despite his shortcomings. "Well, I had Jonny Bairstow in my squad at the start of the series for the innings he can play. He hasn't kept as well as he can keep in those first three games, maybe it was a huge ask for where he came with his injury," the former England skipper responded to a query by Hindustan Times during a media interaction organised by Sony Sports Network.
"But what we know about Jonny Bairstow and we've seen over all his career, what a competitive nature he's got. To keep on coming back from the tough position when you drop a few catches and he has missed some chances but he's never thrown it in. He's always continued trying to play that way and he got back and got rewarded for it in that last Test match. You can see the 99 shows how destructive he can be."
'I haven't kept wicket in three years': Bairstow defends himself
Bairstow, who averaged 23.50 before the fourth Test in Manchester, was stranded one short of his hundred – off just 81 balls – as England ran out of wickets. His knock along with Zak Crawley's magnificent 189(182) gave England a huge opportunity to square up the series, but rain had other plans. Reacting to his criticism of not being up to the mark behind the wicket, Bairstow took cushion behind his injury, mentioning that prior to the Ashes, he had not kept wicket for three years.
"I have not kept wicket for three years. I have got nine pins, a plate and a wire that goes through my ankle. I have had nine months out. It is not the lack of overs. I am still just 10 months post operation right now. So when you speak to the surgeon and he says: 'I am surprised you're walking and running, never mind playing professional sport,' I am delighted to be where I am at," the gloveman was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.