Jonny Bairstow left DEVASTATED after being dropped for England's tour of New Zealand as Ed Smith heads to Leeds to explain omission in person
It is a measure of how badly Jonny Bairstow took his shock omission from England’s Test squad to tour New Zealand that Ed Smith feels the need to travel to Leeds tomorrow to explain the reasons in person.
And the hurt Bairstow clearly feels will only be exacerbated by Smith’s veiled suggestions at Lord’s yesterday that his Test future lies solely with the bat and without the wicketkeeping gloves he so cherishes.
There have been suggestions all summer that England had started to believe they were overly indulging the wishes of a gifted but complex character who has been something of a man apart during a season of spectacular World Cup success and Ashes parity.
Jonny Bairstow has been dropped by England for their two-Test tour of New Zealand
Bairstow has averaged just 18 with the bat since replacing Ben Foakes as wicketkeeper
National selector Ed Smith has suggested Bairstow's future could be as a specialist batsman
Smith will point to Bairstow’s average of just 18 in the seven Tests since he reclaimed the gloves from Ben Foakes, who had thrived both as a keeper and batsman in Sri Lanka last winter, as all the evidence needed for yesterday’s bold call.
And, perhaps, England were conscious of the possibility that Bairstow may have travelled around New Zealand like a bear with a sore head if he had been picked as a specialist batsman rather than in the all-round role he believes brings the best from him.
‘Since returning to the gloves Jonny’s had a more difficult spell with the bat,’ said Smith yesterday at Lord’s. ‘The most important thing to focus on there is that he was first picked for England as an outstanding batsman.’
Smith has emphasised that Bairstow was originally called up as 'an outstanding batsman'
And when asked if that meant Bairstow’s future lies without the gloves Smith would only say: ‘I wouldn’t specify that but I do believe Jonny has the potential to be a top Test player again.’
Foakes is desperately unlucky not to travel now despite a modest season with Surrey but has been placed on stand-by by England as Jos Buttler is now the only keeper in the squad. Ollie Pope, who looks certain to start the Test series in the middle order, is the emergency keeper within the 15-man party.
Clearly the picture was complicated for a selection panel who vowed to pick their strongest Test squad by Joe Root’s desire to return to No4 following a difficult Ashes series in the No3 position he had resisted for so long.
Joe Root's likely move to No4 means there is no middle order place for Bairstow
That necessitated a ‘more specialist’ top three with no middle order place for Bairstow and the promotion of two uncapped openers in Warwickshire’s Dom Sibley, whose sheer weight of first division runs demanded his call-up, and Kent’s Zak Crawley.
Sibley, who had made 1,324 championship runs this season before the final round of matches, looks sure to play in the first Test at Mount Maunganui on November 21 alongside Rory Burns, with Joe Denly moving to three.
‘This is the start of a new cycle,’ said Smith. ‘We’ve watched Sibley very closely and we wanted to pick him and he’s justified that. He has a very clear method and knows exactly what he’s doing. He has the ability to bat for long periods and he’s produced a lot in terms of runs. He has the right temperament and attitude.
Dominic Sibley has been called up by England after scoring 1,324 Championship runs this term
‘Zak is a very determined young man who has impressed people inside the teams he’s played for and also opponents. He is committed to being a top-class batsman and he is a strong character. We believe he will be a good player in the future.’
The other batting loser is Jason Roy, who is discarded after just four Tests in trying circumstances this summer with only one of them being in the middle order position that better suited him. ‘The door is not closed on Jason,’ insisted Smith.
There are also two newcomers among the bowlers with the Lancashire pair of Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson joining a forward looking squad.
Lancashire bowler Saqib Mahmood has been handed a chance to impress in New Zealand
Mahmood's Lancashire team-mate Matt Parkinson has also been handed a call-up
Mahmood gets his chance because of injuries to Jimmy Anderson and Mark Wood, who will both go on an overseas bowling camp to try to prove their fitness for the tour of South Africa over Christmas and the New Year.
And leg-spinner Parkinson, described as a ‘feisty’ character by Smith, gets the nod over Somerset’s Dom Bess, Hampshire’s Mason Crane and Surrey’s Amar Virdi for the back-up spin bowler’s role to Jack leach in the self-imposed absence of Moeen Ali.
England have, as first revealed by Sportsmail, decided to rest the bulk of their big guns for the five-match Twenty20 series in New Zealand that precedes the Tests, with Mahmood and Parkinson joining other newcomers in Somerset pair Tom Banton and Lewis Gregory and Worcestershire’s box of bowling tricks Pat Brown.
There are also recalls for James Vince and Dawid Malan, two batsmen discarded from Test cricket but still considered good enough for a depleted Twenty20 squad starting the build-up to next year’s short-form World Cup under captain Eoin Morgan.
The sole all-format player, ironically, to feature in the Twenty20 squad is Bairstow, who will then have to leave New Zealand just as the Test team he has been part of for the last four years arrives in the country.
And Bairstow is not even guaranteed the Twenty20 keeping gloves in the absence of the rested Buttler as Sam Billings is also in the squad. ‘That will be down to the captain,’ said Smith.
Clearly there is much for Bairstow to ponder. And much for Smith to explain to him during what might be a frosty meeting in Leeds tomorrow.