Jonny Bairstow might have been determined to keep hold of the wicket-keeping gloves, but I think England have made the right decision ahead of the fourth Test against India at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow.
Captain Joe Root explained handing over responsibility behind the stumps to Jos Buttler was the “safest thing to do” and I agree. There is no need to risk Bairstow’s fractured finger.
It only takes one ball to wobble and hit him awkwardly again for the injury to become more serious. It’s the best option for him to play as a specialist batsman and let Buttler keep for this game and then reassess.
Buttler is used to keeping for 50 overs and 20 overs and he’s now got adapt to doing it over a whole day. It is undoubtedly a step up for him, but it’s one he’s capable of making.
Bairstow will rightly be disappointed: he has been keeping wicket for a while and clearly feels he’s improved and that it helps his overall game.
Some people prefer to be in a position of extra responsibility where you are chief motivator, but that can suck a lot of energy out of you which can affect your batting.
He has been flexible previously and he opens the batting in one-day cricket, so like Root moving to No3 for the good of the side, it might not be what he wants personally but Bairstow needs to see the bigger picture.
England are 2-1 up in the series but are lacking solidity in the top order. They’re looking for consistency so hopefully Bairstow, who has been one of the best players over the last 18 months, can adapt and focus solely on his batting.
It could become a strength and be the answer to some of the team’s problems.
The Yorkshireman has played 57 Test matches. He has the experience and temperament to adjust his game and he is used to facing the second new ball anyway.
Bairstow’s a class player and a senior member of the squad, so he’s got to step up and take the responsibility and try to prevent the collapses that have dogged the side for some time.
I think there is a big difference between batting at No4 and No6 or No7, but going up one place isn’t a massive jump.
You do get a bit more time to rest in the middle order and you are more used to an older ball, but Bairstow’s move from No5 to No4 shouldn’t make much difference.
Aside from Bairstow’s role alteration, England have made two changes, bringing in Moeen Ali and Sam Curran for Ollie Pope and the injured Chris Woakes.
Pope is used to batting against the older ball at No6 for Surrey and was too high at No4, as he showed when flashing at deliveries outside off-stump under pressure at Trent Bridge.
The home side’s batting line-up may look at bit makeshift, with players not in their favoured positions, but the additions of Moeen and Curran mean they bat right down to Adil Rashid at No9.
Moeen is confident, coming off a double-hundred with Worcestershire, and Curran is underestimated as a batsman. His runs at Edgbaston were vital and I think he’ll develop into a batting all-rounder in time.
Of course England don’t want to have to rely on the lower order, but the strength is nice to have as a back-up if early wickets are lost, as has become a frequent occurrence.