Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire coach, was the latest to give the pot a stir when he implicitly criticised the England management for not allowing Jonny Bairstow to represent his county from the start of this season.
After Yorkshire had beaten Warwickshire by an innings at Edgbaston in their second championship game, having lost their first against Hampshire, Gale said: “I can see why someone like Rooty [Joe Root] would want a rest given the amount of cricket he’s played. But Jonny has played one one-day international since Christmas. I think he’s played three days of cricket.
“For me, he should have been available right from the first game of the season. He had enough time off from the end of the West Indies trip. I felt he should have been available.”
Last week it was Nottinghamshire who were critical of the England hierarchy for not allowing Stuart Broad to play in their second championship match, having bowled only 21 overs in the first. This prompted the England team director, Andrew Strauss, to explain that the workloads of Broad and James Anderson had been carefully decided by the medical staff, ahead of seven Tests this summer followed by a short break before the Ashes: 12 Tests in six months from early July.
A need for more communication seems to be necessary. It is not sufficient for England and Wales Cricket Board officials to sit down with the England player concerned to work out his schedule, but for them to explain it to his county afterwards, along with providing all the medical data that informed their decision.
In Bairstow’s case, it was more necessary than usual that the ECB should be open with all concerned, given that it had allowed him to enter the Indian Premier League auction. The point here is that Bairstow, if he had won an IPL contract, would have had to keep in at least five games to surpass the 96 overs for one day of championship cricket.
He featured in this same argument last September, when Yorkshire went into their final championship game needing to beat Middlesex to win a hat-trick of titles for the first time since they did so in 1968. Gale criticised Adil Rashid for not wanting to play; then, during the game which Middlesex won to take the title, noises were made that Bairstow wanted to play but the England management would not let him.
Bairstow could have played but the England management were right to keep him fresh for the tour of Bangladesh which started the following week. The physical strain on a wicketkeeper, who has to do almost 600 squats a day when in the field, aside from batting, is enormous.
Bairstow had to play seven Tests in eight weeks in Bangladesh and India, and would have faded faster than he did if he had kept wicket for Yorkshire the week before the tour. As it was, his shot on the last afternoon in Chennai was that of a tired man, when a face-saving draw was in sight.
Both Bairstow and Root will be available for Yorkshire’s next championship match which starts against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl on Friday. Bairstow, along with Root, can also expect to be part of England’s squad for the Champions Trophy in June.