Jonny Bairstow has defended England’s rotation policy despite it emerging that Sam Curran has been ruled out of the rest of the Test series in India because of logistical difficulties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Surrey all-rounder was rested after the tour of Sri Lanka last month, as part of the rotation policy, with a plan to bring him out in time for the final Test in Ahmedabad which begins on 4 March. Instead, Curran will now arrive in India with other limited‑overs players on a private charter flight in time for the Twenty20 and ODI matches. As there are no commercial flights between the UK and Ahmedabad, any journey would involve changing planes, a stopover and an increased risk of the player being exposed to Covid-19.
The latest setback follows the fallout over Joe Root’s clumsy wording around Moeen Ali’s departure and the subsequent apology by both Root and the England head coach, Chris Silverwood.
Chris Woakes is now due to fly back to the UK after the third Test, potentially having spent seven weeks in India and Sri Lanka without getting a game, his place now not being filled by Curran. Woakes was originally due to go home after the second Test and return for the ODIs, but will stay on for a further Test as cover.
Woakes, who is now expected to join Root in sitting out the three ODIs, was unlucky to have shared a taxi with Moeen from the West Midlands to Heathrow before departing for the Sri Lanka tour. Moeen tested positive on arrival in Sri Lanka and Woakes was deemed a close contact so had to isolate.
Yet Bairstow, back with England after his own time at home, defended the rotation system and pointed out the advantages of players having a break.
“The benefit is that you get to go home, sleep in your own bed, cook your own food, be with your family, and have a complete mental refresh,” he said. “You [the press] know how tough it was not being able to leave the hotel all summer, not being able to leave the hotel all winter, going down into a dining room and sitting at separate tables, not necessarily having the food you would choose to cook at home. So, getting home to get that mental and physical refresh is really important.
“There are 17 Tests coming in this calendar year, there’s all of the English summer, then I believe there is Bangladesh and Pakistan, then the T20 World Cup, then at the end of that the Ashes, so at some point people are going to have to have a bit of a break or you’ll have people in so many months or years being mentally and physically exhausted.”
Bairstow, who lost his red-ball contract last year, cancelled his proposed stint in the Big Bash in order to go with England to Sri Lanka. “There is a reason why I went to Sri Lanka, there’s a reason why I am here in India. That is to hopefully do well and play Test cricket for England. By doing well, you get rewarded by earning your contract back.”
Asked if he would have declined a rest had he been offered the choice, after tacking down his place at No 3 in Sri Lanka following 13 months away from red-ball cricket, he played a straight bat. “There are ifs and buts, I was told that it was my rest, I don’t know the conversations that have been had with Mo. Naturally you don’t want to leave because you’re playing, but if you’re physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, you may get injured, you may lose form.”
Sunrisers Hyderabad retained Bairstow for the 2021 IPL on Thursday, and he admitted he was keeping a keen eye on the auction, and some of the eye-watering amounts of money which made it “very hard for anyone to turn down”. He was delighted to see Moeen snapped up by Chennai Super Kings. “The qualities that Mo has are worth every penny and it is great to see him go for that amount,” Bairstow said.
He also stressed the benefits that come with playing IPL cricket. “If the guys are going to IPL and improving their skills, that doesn’t mean it’s just T20 skills. It’s improving their skills for ODI cricket and for Test cricket as well – playing alongside some of the best players in the world, not to mention in conditions similar to ones we are playing in currently and especially with a T20 World Cup coming up here in India. It covers all three formats.”