Bairstow eyes England wicketkeeper role ahead of West Indies Tests


London (AFP)

Jonny Bairstow believes he can regain his role as England's Test wicketkeeper as players prepare to go head-to-head for a place in the side to face the West Indies.

England are gearing up for a three-Test series against the Caribbean side next month that will mark the return of international cricket after the coronavirus shutdown.

With no first-class matches in the run-up to the series, they will use warm-up games at Southampton, the venue for the first Test, starting on July 8, to assess players' form.

Bairstow was dropped from last year's tour of New Zealand, with England selection chief Ed Smith indicating his international future was as a specialist batsman.

He played just one Test in South Africa in December and was rested from the tour of Sri Lanka, with long-time rival wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and gloveman Ben Foakes selected instead, before the coronavirus cut short that trip in March.

But while the 30-year-old multi-format international said he wanted to play Test cricket again, he also made clear his preferred role.

"Over a period of time, I've been really happy with my 'keeping," Bairstow said Tuesday in a conference call.

"That was the bit at the start of my career that people questioned but people have stopped speaking about it over the last couple of years.

"I've looked at the stats and my stats are very good. So there's no reason why that isn't an area I want to be coming back into."

The son of the late former Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper David Bairstow, Jonny has been England's wicketkeeper in 48 of his 70 Tests.

Bairstow, however, averaged just 18 with the bat in his last seven matches with the gloves.

How England see his future could become clearer when Smith announces on Wednesday a squad slimmed down from an initial 55-man training group for next month's Tests.

- Pace attack -

Bairstow will be working on his batting during a net session at Durham on Wednesday when he faces England quicks Ben Stokes and Mark Wood in preparation for a lively West Indies attack.

Bairstow said being dropped as England's wicketkeeper had stung.

"You can only be judged on your last performances and I like to think they were good and I hope they will get me back in the side as long as I score enough runs," he said.

Bairstow, feeling refreshed after a lengthy absence due to the COVID-19 shutdown, has no doubts about the competitiveness of England's upcoming camp.

"We've got some guys that can bowl at serious pace, we've got guys that are wanting to be proving themselves so I don't think the intensity side of things is going to be a problem," he said.

Nor does Bairstow believe the West Indies will benefit in a series where there will be no spectators on health grounds.

"I think it's a level playing field," he said. "It's the internal motivators that you will really see come through when these games are played behind closed doors."