Jonny Bairstow vows to play all three formats ‘as long as possible’, in wake of Ben Stokes’ ODI retirement


Jonny Bairstow has vowed to continue as a three-format international cricketer but added his voice to those of his team-mates who have expressed their displeasure at a packed calendar.
Over the last week, the workloads of international cricketers have come under scrutiny, particularly in England after Ben Stokes urged the authorities to stop considering players as “cars” following his retirement from ODI cricket.
“You can’t just fill us up and we’ll go out there and be ready to be fuelled up again,” Stokes said, in the hope that his words would be a wake-up call to create a more manageable schedule. Overnight, Australia batter Usman Khawaja described the physical and mental demands of giving yourself to all international and franchise cricket as “tough”.

As it stands, Bairstow will be the only player to represent England in all three formats this summer. He played the four Tests against New Zealand and India, followed by ODIs against India and South Africa, and is currently part of the squad for the three-match T20i series against the Proteas which begins next week. He is also due to play in the first three games of The Hundred for Welsh Fire.

Bairstow knows full well how brutal the fixture programme is. However, from his perspective, aged 32 and now a vital cog at No.5 in the Test team, as well as ODI opener and T20i middle-order batter, he still wants it all.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad that I’m one of the last all-format players,” Bairstow told Sky Sports on Friday ahead of the second ODI against South Africa at Emirates Old Trafford. “But naturally there are challenges, we’ve seen that over a period of time now. We only had to look at the Test series this summer when there was the one-day squad in Holland at the same time. I think even if you look at the back end of this summer as well, there are the seven T20s in Pakistan that pretty much overlap with the last Test match. And it even goes back to the last World Cup where then you fly straight to the Ashes with a week’s preparation after quarantining, then straight into the Test match.

“But you know me well enough now: I’ll be trying to play all of them for as long as possible. I’ll be going all out for as long as I can. There might come a time when you do have to make a decision for different reasons, but that’s part and parcel of life and cricket, but in the near future I can’t see me making a choice because I’m loving being part of all three squads. They’re all individual squads and they’re great to be a part of. It’s exciting. You go into a new one and you’ve got a freshness and new faces and energy around them, because you’re going into a new format.”

Bairstow also added to the sentiments of Stokes and Joe Root, who said the on-field product will suffer if players have to drop formats entirely, or if there is simply more rotation in squads. However, Bairstow was also resigned to the fact that, until their words are heeded by the England and Wales Cricket Board, there is little else they can do.

“I don’t think we have a choice, do we?” he said. “The schedule is the schedule. It’s difficult to say if you want to play less but Stokesy has a point in some ways about the overlapping games that there are. There used to be lead-ins to series and training days before games, but there are back-to-back games coming up now.

They are trying to fit in different things like the Hundred and everything else. It’s a tricky job for everyone, but Ben mentioned a car and re-fuelling, didn’t he, which I thought was a good analogy. But yes, it does have certain impacts, and if you’re playing everything at full intensity it will take it out of people.”



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