Picking Jonny Bairstow over Ben Foakes is 'right call' for England: Michael Atherton

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Former England captain Michael Atherton believes picking Jonny Bairstow over Ben Foakes is the right call taken by the Test team think-tank for the one-off Test against Ireland and possibly, for the highly-anticipated Ashes.

Bairstow has been out of cricketing action for England since September last year after breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle in a freak incident at a golf course. In his absence, Foakes impressed as a wicketkeeper-batter in England’s away Test series in Pakistan and New Zealand.

With young batter Harry Brook scoring 809 runs in 10 Test innings, including four centuries at an average of 80.9 and making himself undroppable, England’s selectors chose Bairstow, who scored four centuries in five Test innings last year against New Zealand and India, over Foakes.

“I think it is the right call and I think that is the minority view from testing the water on social media. The problem for wicketkeepers is only one person can do the job and Foakes, of course, is an outstanding wicketkeeper and he has done pretty well for England.”

“But Jonny Bairstow, the way that he played last summer, Brendon McCullum had said that once he is fit he is going to get back into the team. He has proven himself to be an outstanding wicketkeeper-batter in the years he did it. He did it in 49 Test matches for England but hasn’t done it really since 2019,” Atherton was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

Bairstow recently returned to competitive cricket by scoring 97 runs off 88 balls for Yorkshire’s second XI, before playing two county championship matches for his club against Durham and Glamorgan.

“That is the issue really, it is a fitness issue. He had a very bad break of his leg when he fell on the golf course and wicketkeeping is a physically arduous thing over five days. So you have to take it on trust that he is fully fit to do the job.”

“He has come back for Yorkshire and done a bit of keeping but not that much and the medical staff clearly know more than I do. Once he is fit, I think it is right he is back in the team and that is the only way to get him back in the team.

“You can’t move Harry Brook from No 5 given how Brook had played over the winter months so, as tough as it is on Ben Foakes, I think it is the right call,” added Atherton.

Atherton believes Foakes can remain hopeful for an England Test call-up if there’s an injury issue within the side either against Ireland or in The Ashes. “The silver lining for Ben Foakes is that he is very much there should anything happen.”

“If Bairstow gets injured then Foakes comes in clearly and England’s next tour after the Ashes is to the sub-continent and they might go for a different balance of the team there with two or three spinners maybe in the team.”

“They might think Ben Foakes is the man to take that role then. “It is not the last of Ben Foakes I am sure and he has proved himself to be a top-class keeper when he has played.”



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