Ollie Robinson and Jonny Bairstow in England's 17-man squad for first two India Tests

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Ollie Robinson of England catches the ball during Day 1 of the First LV= Insurance Test Match between England and New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 02, 2021 in London, England - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Ollie Robinson of England catches the ball during Day 1 of the First LV= Insurance Test Match between England and New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 02, 2021 in London, England - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Ollie Robinson and Jonny Bairstow were both recalled by England on Wednesday for the first two Tests against India as part of an expanded 17-man squad to cover covid emergency.

Robinson is straight back in the fold after serving his three match suspension for historical racist tweets and resumes a Test career that showed so much promise on his debut at Lord’s in June.

For Bairstow this is the latest comeback in a career that looked over in Test cricket when he made three ducks in four innings at the end of the India tour in February.

All the players rested for the New Zealand series return apart from Chris Woakes whose miserable year continues with a bruised heel ruling him out.

Woakes has played just four games for England - two T20s and two ODIs - since the end of last summer due to a combination of rest and rotation as well as covid and injury.

Robinson claimed seven wickets on debut but was immediately suspended and a disciplinary case launched when racist and sexist tweets from his past emerged just hours after he and the England team had posed on the outfield wearing t-shirts with anti-discriminatory messages.

He then became an unwitting pawn in the culture wars as Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, called the punishment “over the top”, a view supported by the Prime Minister.

Robinson was banned for three matches that had been deemed already served because he missed the second New Zealand Test and two games for Sussex. He still has a five match suspended ban hanging over him.

With Jofra Archer another month away from full fitness after elbow surgery, Olly Stone ruled out for the season and Woakes injured, Robinson looks likely to play in the first Test at Trent Bridge on Aug 4.

The players will report to Nottingham on Saturday July 31 but are only available for two Hundred matches to minimise the covid risk.

Bairstow’s recall is yet another twist in a career that continues to defy predictions of its end.

His career in long form cricket looked over when his mind looked scrambled in India batting at No 3 and trying to carve a place as a specialist batsman.

England had chosen Jos Buttler as no1 and Ben Foakes his deputy for series in Sri Lanka and India. When Buttler went home after the first Test in Chennai, Foakes played the next three Tests.

Bairstow had been picked at no 3 in Sri Lanka and did reasonably well but agreed to a break as part of England’s controversial rest and rotation policy missing the first two matches in India with the result he was thrown back into Test cricket with no preparation on raging turners in Ahmedabad. It is no wonder he failed.

England's Jonny Bairstow, left, bats during the first day of fourth cricket test match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, March 4, 2021. - AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
England's Jonny Bairstow, left, bats during the first day of fourth cricket test match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, March 4, 2021. - AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

The decision to rest IPL players for the series against New Zealand was a convenient cover story because it is highly unlikely Bairstow would have made the squad signalling a change in direction. But then Foakes suffered a serious ankle injury slipping on the floor of the dressing room at the Oval and the situation changed.

James Bracey was first picked against New Zealand primarily as a specialist batsman, a potential top three option, but was pressed into keeping by Foakes’s injury before he was ready.

With Foakes still injured, and Bracey, who conceded 48 byes for Gloucestershire last week, unselectable, England had no choice but to turn to Bairstow again.

There is also the prospect of the Ashes too. Talks between the England & Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia over arrangements covering the players’ families this winter are ongoing.

The players fear they will have to go to Australia alone with the Australian government reducing the number of precious visas it hands out as the country combats the spread of the Delta variant.

Buttler is a committed family man and it is possible to imagine him putting them first and not playing an entire Ashes series. If that happens he will be backed by the ECB and Silverwood with both placing a strong emphasis on mental wellbeing.

So England need an experienced keeper-batsman in reserve and with doubts over Foakes’s ability to play pace, Bairstow is back.

 James Bracey of England is bowled by Tim Southee of New Zealand during Day 4 of the First LV= Insurance Test Match between England and New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 05, 2021 in London, England - Gareth Copley - ECB/ECB via Getty Images
James Bracey of England is bowled by Tim Southee of New Zealand during Day 4 of the First LV= Insurance Test Match between England and New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 05, 2021 in London, England - Gareth Copley - ECB/ECB via Getty Images

He too has had technical problems recently and averaged 23 in his last 22 Tests. It has been a gradual decline and blaming the selectors for shifting him up and down the order only stands up to so much scrutiny. Ultimately when playing for England, players have to take the chances they are given.

But with so many younger rivals failing to progress Bairstow is back and no doubt in the mood to prove wrong those who have written him off.

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