Jonny Bairstow is under pressure. The Yorkshireman has been short of runs in the series and some fans are calling for him to be replaced.
But Bairstow is not the only England batsmen trudging through a bare patch so why has he suffered the majority of the criticism?
Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior have all struggled against the Australian bowlers. At times Trott has looked in better touch than the stats suggest and he, like Cook and Prior have a formidable record to fall back on.
Cook and Prior also benefit from being captain and vice-captain respectively. Bairstow is a young gun with an inauspicious Test record thus far and other than his proficiency in the field has no other factor to save him from the fans’ grumblings.
The nature of Bairstow’s dismissals in the series has made him an easy target at times. When the Australian seam-bowlers have bowled full and straight at him he has played across the ball, with the bat coming from the direction of the slips and finishing toward mid-on.
Bairstow is not the first batsman guilty of not playing straight but at Test level expectations of technique are high. Whatever the reason is for Bairstow’s unpopularity amongst some England fans right now is irrelevant, the fact is he is. And he would do well to ignore it.
Bairstow is not the first England player to come under fire from his own fans. In fact the England player that needs replacing is a constant. England fans love to see their team win but they love to moan more. And who could blame them?
The players are supremely talented sportsmen in great physical shape that are to be admired and envied in equal measure. As fans we do this by cheering the heroic performances and criticising those not performing at the best of their abilities.
The problem is these England days are actually quite good and so criticism is dished out somewhat carelessly. Bairstow’s current situation is a good example.
The last England batsman to be hounded out of the team was Nick Compton, held responsible of the team’s slow scoring rate in the away and home series against New Zealand. Now many of the fans that ousted Compton are calling for him to replace the attack-minded Bairstow for the 5th Test at the Oval. Both are fine players.
As bizarre as it may seem after his Durham exploits, Stuart Broad was the target of fans who labelled him ineffective and toothless. Stranger still, player of the series in waiting Ian Bell faced calls for him to make way for a younger prospect (Bairstow, perhaps) before the current series. Stranger even still was the amount of stick Trott copped during the ICC Champion’s Trophy when he starred with the bat at every opportunity. Every time a limited overs series begins the criticism of Trott resurfaces and every time he answers with runs by the bucketful.
I’m not calling for a nicey-nicey applauding of all efforts; fans pay their money and they have a right to criticise whomever they wish. I’m merely asking for some consistency and reasoning, criticism for analytical purposes not just for the sake of it, and above all a basic understanding of the nature of cricket as a sport. Players have flaws.
Form fluctuates. That’s what makes sport so compelling. Even internet darlings like James Anderson and Graeme Swann have bad games, bad series.
It is amazing how many fans, who at the begin of the summer could recall every shot of Bairstow’s 95 against Steyn, Morkel and Philander at Lord’s last year, now remember it as ‘a few runs’.
Bairstow may not be cut out for Test cricket but he certainly has the talent to warrant a decent run at it. Of course he should seek to improve his game and iron out his technical imperfections but he should listen only to advice from his teammates and coaches.
P.S If you are one of these fickle fans with a memory limited to three Test matches this next request is directed at you. If during the Oval Test Jonny Bairstow chops across one and is bowled, Broad tries to reincarnate ‘the enforcer’, Trott scores at under a run a ball or Bell flirts with one outside off-stump and you feel the need notify the world of Twitter, please come up with something other than x or y is rubbish.
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