I wondered if I’d walk again, let alone play cricket: Bairstow opens up on his broken leg


Jonny Bairstow stopped smiling, just for a moment, when he contemplated the severity of the injury that shattered him just when he was riding the crest of a particularly high wave.

‘I did wonder whether I’d be able to walk again, jog again, run again and play cricket again,’ said Bairstow as he reflected on the badly broken left leg and dislocated ankle he suffered freakishly when slipping at his local golf course after the summer of his life.

‘Yes, there were dark times. So many things go through your head until you can get back playing. It’s like if you fall off your bike and hurt yourself. You’re thinking about that until you get back on it because of the bad memories. You wonder, is it going to feel the same?’

Bairstow was holding court at Old Trafford at the launch of the ECB partnership with Radox having got back on his metaphorical bike by both batting and, significantly, keeping wicket for Yorkshire in a second team game and two Championship matches.

He is delighted to report that playing cricket really did feel the same again and he is back in the England picture at the start of an Ashes summer when he hopes to carry on where he left off last year before he was so rudely interrupted by a cruel twist of fate.

Jonny Bairstow is delighted to back playing cricket after recovering from a horror injury

Jonny Bairstow is delighted to back playing cricket after recovering from a horror injury

Bairstow was the first face of ‘Bazball’, with four spectacular centuries last summer

Bairstow was the first face of ‘Bazball’, with four spectacular centuries last summer

Bairstow 'feels' for Ben Foakes after the wicketkeeper was dropped to make way for him

Bairstow ‘feels’ for Ben Foakes after the wicketkeeper was dropped to make way for him

‘It does feel a long time since the injury,’ continued Bairstow. ‘It was actually quite nerve-racking when I came back with the second XI. It was like I was 16 again and making my debut. But it’s been fine. There has been no reaction to the leg and it’s fun being back. That’s how I’ve looked at it. Great fun. And I’ve missed it.’

Rarely can there have been a more stark example of Kipling’s twin imposters. The triumph of being the first face of ‘Bazball’, with four spectacular centuries last summer in winning causes was followed by that disaster on the golf course and a grim winter.

‘Last summer was going so well,’ said Bairstow. ‘Then the injury happened the day after I was told I’d be opening in the T20 World Cup. I went through a lot of emotions watching the lads win it but of course there was a lot of pride.

‘Even when you’re injured you’re still part of the group. The boys have been brilliant, staying in contact and keeping me in the loop. The odd Face-time with the lads talking utter rubbish. Now I’m excited again. It’s going to be a new challenge and I can’t wait.’

That challenge, with Bairstow back in the dual role of keeper-batsman he relished before equally thriving as a specialist batter, will come somewhat controversially at the expense of Ben Foakes who has made way rather than most people’s choice in Zak Crawley.

‘I haven’t had a chance to speak to Ben yet but I’m sure I will do,’ said Bairstow. ‘I’ve been in that situation so I can absolutely feel for him. It’s the nature of sport. It’s not me making those decisions. Ben has been a big part of the last 12 months and there’s no doubt he’ll be back playing for England at some point.’

Now it will be Bairstow behind the stumps against Ireland and then Australia where he is confident his reconstructed left leg will stand up to the strain. ‘I don’t actually think it’s any different to fielding,’ he maintained. ‘You sprint, dive and change direction in the field. You’re squatting as a keeper and moving laterally but you’re not running at 25ks an hour to the boundary. It’s a different kind of fitness.’

But there will be a legacy to what was a very serious injury. ‘People have said to me ‘you’re limping’,’ said Bairstow. ‘But there will be little limps, little aches and pains. When there’s trauma there’s going to be an adaptation to the way your body moves.

‘But that’s ok. There’s a lot of confidence about this summer. The last time I played against South Africa last summer I was part of a special group doing special things. That remains the same. Can we carry on the way we have been against the Aussies? There will certainly be a belief we can. I guess we’ll find out in the next two months!’

Jimmy feels good, so we do too! 

There was more positivity at Old Trafford and it came from Jimmy Anderson, who confirmed the injury he suffered last week was a minor one. 

‘I feel good,’ said Anderson. ‘It was just a little groin strain and it’s a 10-day recovery period. I will be fit to face Ireland but whether I play or not remains to be seen because I’m desperate to play in the Ashes.’ 

The whole of English cricket will echo the sentiment…

Let’s hope backing Zak works out 

… but spare a thought in all this for Crawley. Yes, by any established cricketing logic, he is very lucky to still have an England place as the Ashes approach. 

But it is hardly his fault he has been backed so emphatically and it is harsh for him to bear the brunt of that negative reaction towards England’s latest selection.

Zak Crawley will seek to repay the faith of the England management during the Ashes

Zak Crawley will seek to repay the faith of the England management during the Ashes

The key now is for Crawley to make the most of his good fortune and prove Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum right in their judgment of him.

‘My failings in international cricket have been from putting too much pressure on myself,’ Crawley told the BBC. ‘That is the only reason. Whenever I have gone out there with the right attitude I’ve done well.

‘I have done a lot of thinking about my game, especially in the last couple of months. I look back at times I’ve played well and it’s when I’ve taken expectation away from myself and just played. If I do that then the scores will come.’

Crawley is a good player and a good man. It would be wonderful for himself and the England team if he really can justify that extensive backing with those big scores this summer.



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