England may have to be cruel to be kind with Jonny Bairstow

时间:2019-09-01  作者:苍嚎惋  来源:betway必威体育  浏览:153次  评论:12条

The days of the England dressing-room being hostile to debutants are long gone, but that doesn't mean newcomers don't feel lonely. Jonny Bairstow has almost been isolated by the excellence of his new team-mates. Ten of the 11 names for the first Test against South Africa are already inked in; at best, Bairstow's has been lightly drawn in pencil.

Ordinarily it would be simple: after a modest debut series, in which he scored 38 runs at an average of 12.66, Bairstow would get another series, and then another, and then another, because continuity of selection has been one of the foundations of England's 21st-century improvement. These, however, are not ordinary circumstances. Selection is rarely just about who you think will score most runs or take most wickets in the next game; the medium- and long-term invariably come into consideration. But the South Africa series is possibly England's biggest since the 2005 Ashes, and as such justifies a certain myopia.

In 2005, England won despite a negligible contribution from a young Ian Bell, who was eaten alive by Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Bell averaged 17.10 in the series and ended with a pair at the Oval. England cannot really afford a walking wicket in this series, and South Africa's pace attack have the capacity to terrorise a young batsman.

Bairstow's temperament seems essentially sound, but the heightened circumstances of such a huge series will test it to the full. Of greater concern was his innings in the second Test, when Kemar Roach's bouncer left him dazed and confused. It's too early to say Bairstow doesn't like it up him; equally, it would be either naïve or negligent to ignore the problems he had in that innings, especially with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel waiting.

There is a legitimate perception that it might damage Bairstow's long-term development to drop him now, yet a traumatic series against South Africa would do even more harm. England may have to be cruel to be kind. There seems little doubt that Bairstow's time will come eventually. Two outrageous innings – 41 not out off 21 balls against India on his England debut, and 60 not out from 46 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi – attest to a rare talent.

The obvious candidate to replace Bairstow would be the ill-fated Ravi Bopara, who has missed the last two Test series because of injury. This is where any discussion of consistency of selection becomes muddier. Bairstow was only in the side because of Bopara's injury. Given that Bopara is not established himself, it's hard to know quite what the selectorial etiquette is in such situations. Some might be tempted to write Bopara's Test career off, citing all those injuries as a sign that some things just aren't meant to be, but that would not be fair: this is a man's career, a man's life, and Bopara deserves a fair crack every bit as much as Bairstow.

Not that he would be a safe bet against South Africa, either. He has only played one Test since the summer of 2009, when he was overwhelmed by the Australians and averaged 15 from four Ashes Tests. He was 24 then and is 27 now. He has five years and 88 international appearances on Bairstow, which could be vital against South Africa. This will be cricket for grown-ups. The decision might come down to who scores the most runs in the one-day games between now and the first Test. The Spin's instinct is that Bopara should play. He is far from a sure thing, but he is less of an unsure thing.