The Established Players Get Rewarded, But It 'Doors Not Closed' Is For Bairstow > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Incumbent players rewarded but 'doors not closed' for Bairstow

"No one doubts he's a very good cricketer across formats for England. No doors are closed for Jonny" - Ed Smith.

Jonny Bairstow failed to make the cut for England's 13-man squad but that doesn't close the doors on him in Test cricket, chief selector Ed Smith assured, adding that the 30-year-old's presence in the white-ball bio-bubble is the "best arrangement" in this cricket season unlike any other.

Smith admitted that it was quite a unique squad to pick in the midst of this pandemic, given how in the absence of first-class cricket the selection panel had to work with "very little new evidence." That meant greater reward for players who performed well in England's 3-1 series victory in South Africa, including Jos Buttler, the "man in possession" of the 'keeping gloves and to whom England extend "full support."

"No one doubts he's a very good cricketer across formats for England. No doors are closed for Jonny," Smith said. "We're fully aware of what he can do in Test cricket, and of course we're fully aware of his talent in all forms of the game. It's also the case that we are where we were. When Covid-19 caused a suspension of cricket, Jos Buttler was the man in possession - still is the man in possession - and has our full support as England's 'keeper-batsman. And Ben Foakes was the deputy on the tour of Sri Lanka. That's where it is today.

"I wouldn't make any presumptions about Jonny Bairstow, in terms of anything being blocked for Jonny. There's a wide understanding of how good Jonny is when he's at his best, and that's not going to be forgotten. Jonny's a very talented player, and has played some very fine innings across England formats."

Bairstow, who was a part of the 30-man training group in Southampton recently, has had his diminishing red-ball stocks on display for a while. He wasn't picked for England's tour of New Zealand last year, and only played one Test as a specialist batsman on the tour of South Africa -- incidentally in the only Test England lost on that tour. He wasn't even a part of England's squad to Sri Lanka earlier this year, which in a way rounds up his near future as a white-ball specialist. And the hassles of bio-bubbles in these pandemic times seems to have exacerbated the divide for Bairstow.

"It's also the case that Jonny is in the white-ball team, and has had an exceptional spell of form in white-ball cricket," Smith said. "There's cricket to be played there. It seemed the best arrangement for Jonny to move over to the white-ball bubble and to stick with the consistency of where we were."

Smith argued similarly in the case of Moeen Ali, who's coming back from a self-imposed Test cricket sabbatical and who loses out to Dom Bess, the incumbent spinner who was "in possession" of the job before Covid-19 wreaked havoc.

"Moeen being available is good news for the talent in the spin department. It's also the case that Dom Bess did very well in South Africa, and Jack Leach has had spells in recent months when he's been England's spinner, and illness and injury have been very unfortunate for Jack. But we're glad that Moeen is available again. But yes, no change: Dom Bess is in possession, and Jack Leach takes the reserve spot.

"With Moeen and Jonny, obviously part of the calculation is that they have been in the white ball squad and been very good performers in white ball cricket, you know if they're not in the 11 here obviously it's good that they're playing cricket in the white-ball team."

Another interesting dimension to the first-Test squad is the absence of Joe Root, who'll be away due to personal reasons, clearing the decks for Ben Stokes to become England's 81st Test captain on July 8. Having an all-rounder at the helm hasn't augured well for England in the past, and it's a bit of a scary prospect when Ian Botham, to whom Stokes is more often than not compared to, substantiates that. Botham captained in 12 Test matches in 1980-81 and England failed to win a single game, not to mention his batting average of 13.14 and bowling average of 33.08 during this time.

So are England worried? No, Smith said.

"I wouldn't have any comment to make about historical comparisons. I can only say what I see which is someone who is giving full attention to his own game, full attention to the team and also looking forward to, and excited about the challenge. I wouldn't be weighed down by historical comparisons," Smith said.

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