Jonny Bairstow has spoken of his excitement at the looming return of international cricket, adding he’s hopeful of earning a Test recall for the three-match series against the West Indies.
England’s return to action will take place behind closed doors, with the first Test being held at The Ageas Bowl from July 8, before two further Tests at Emirates Old Trafford.
Bairstow was dropped from the Test team for the tour of New Zealand over the winter, while he scored just 10 runs in his only game in the subsequent series against South Africa – an opening defeat in Centurion – but is back in contention, selected among England’s 55-man back-to-training group.
Asked how much he wanted to play Test cricket again? “Massively,” Bairstow told Sky Sports News. “I’m looking forward to getting back in the camp, it’s going to be great.
“I’ve only played a few games this winter, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
“I trained very, very hard leading into the South Africa series. Obviously the selection then was the selection but I carried on training really hard throughout.
“It has been an enjoyable break that I’ve been able to have, because you’re able to reset and refresh, but I’m now really excited to be back in.
“I need to get into camp, knuckle down and score the runs I need to score to hopefully be on that team sheet.”
A lean spell with the bat in 2019 – 334 runs across 19 Test innings, at an average of 18.55 – contributed to Bairstow losing his spot in the side, but his wicketkeeping has improved greatly since first being given the job on a permanent basis in 2015.
Bairstow is hopeful of regaining the gloves at some point, adding: “I’m looking forward to keeping wicket again. It has been something that I’ve really enjoyed doing over many years; I’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into it.
“I’d like to think that my performances with my gloves, people haven’t been speaking about them, means that I’ve been doing a good thing with them.
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“With regard to my glove-work, I’ve been really happy with that over a period of time now. When that opportunity arises again, I’ll hopefully be able to take it.”
Bairstow’s preparations ahead of the West Indies series ramp up this week as he heads up to Durham on Wednesday to train against the fast bowling of Mark Wood and Ben Stokes, having so far faced throw-downs in the nets at Headingley.
It’s not the usual preparation for a home Test series, nor will the series itself be the norm, with no crowds in attendance, but Bairstow doesn’t think the lack of atmosphere will take away from the competitive action.
“Of course it’s still going to be as intense,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll be able to take the intensity away; you’ve got two teams that are wanting to win.
“After such a layoff of cricket, there’s going to be two teams excited about the prospect of getting back out onto the field.
“It’s going to be exactly the same; there’s still going to be the internal drivers driving all of the players, rather than getting it from the crowd or anything like that
“It’s going to be internally that gets you through, saying ‘right, this is where we want to be and how we want to be playing’. That’s the exciting thing about it.”