Jonny Bairstow unsure if he will retain his role as England’s wicketkeeper in India

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Jonny Bairstow is yet to learn whether he will retain his role as England’s wicketkeeper in their five-Test series in India, with Ben Foakes recalled to the 16-man squad that will fly to the UAE next week ahead of the first Test in Hyderabad on January 25.

Bairstow kept wicket in all six Tests that England played in the 2023 home summer – one against Ireland, five against Australia – but is not guaranteed to start with the gloves in India. He started the Ashes with an error-strewn performance at Edgbaston but improved as the summer wore on, finishing the series with 23 catches and a stumping.

Rob Key, England’s managing director, said when announcing England’s squad that Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum would make a decision based on “balance of the side… all kinds of contributing factors” and highlighted the differences between keeping wicket in England and India.

“I’ve not spoken to anyone about that,” Bairstow said in an interview with Sky Sports. “As long as I’m over there, as long as I’m fit and firing, the selection decisions will be taken out of my hands. But look, I’m fairly happy with where I’m at, whether I’m keeping, batting or whatever it is.”

Foakes kept wicket in three of England’s four Tests in their most recent series in India, in early 2021, and was first-choice wicketkeeper for the first year of the Stokes and McCullum regime before losing his place last summer. He was recalled last month for the India tour and will fly to Abu Dhabi next week for a training camp along with the rest of the squad.

After England’s exit from the World Cup, Key implored Bairstow to “get himself into a position where he can go and take on an Indian Test”. He said he found the past six weeks “really valuable” in continuing to recover from the freak injury that ruled him out last winter.

“I’ve been getting my ankle right, just training in the gym pretty hard, catching up with friends and family,” Bairstow said. “Having come back from the injury that I had, it was a pretty full-on summer… it’s been great to just have a bit of a refresh, have a bit of time with the family and just to make sure the ankle is as good as it can be.”

Bairstow made three ducks in four innings on England’s 2021 tour to India, playing the final two Tests of the series on spinning pitches in Ahmedabad. He warned India that preparing similar surfaces might neutralise their seam attack, and said that England’s task will be to adapt to whatever conditions they are faced with.

“India can produce different pitches: it doesn’t have to turn,” he said. “We’ve seen how potent their seam attack has been recently. Look, I’m sure the pitches will turn: it’s whether or not they’ll turn from day one, which potentially negates a bit of their strength in their seam attack. We know how strong they are.

“There’s been a lot of talk around Bazball and the probably majority of it has been from you guys [the media]. Look, it’s a positive way of playing cricket. It’s a way in which we’re trying to entertain people that are watching. In India, we know the conditions are going to be slightly different… it’ll be a case of, can we adapt quick enough and well enough to the conditions, and play suitably?”

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