The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) clarified that wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow will join the squad only after the second Test against India and not after the first Test as was earlier stated by England batting coach Graham Thorpe.
“To clarify, the plan is still for Jonny Bairstow to return for the third and fourth Test and not the second Test. Along with Sam Curran and Mark Wood,” said the ECB in its statement.
Thorpe, during an interaction with the media on Friday, said that Bairstow will be joining the team after the first Test.
England’s decision to rest Bairstow for the first two Tests was criticised by a number of former players. He was England’s second-highest run scorer behind captain Joe Root during their last series in Sri Lanka which they won 2-0. Bairstow had scored 139 runs across four innings in the two-Test series at an average of 46.33.
Bairstow, along with fast bowler Wood and all-rounder Curran, had been rested for the first two Tests as part of England’s rotation system.
Head coach Chris Silverwood has defended the decision. “I’m perfectly happy with the system we’re using at the moment. I stand by it,” he had told reporters.
“We’ve got to look after our people. We’re spending a lot of time locked in hotel rooms inside bio-secure bubbles and it’s not easy,” he said.
However, former England captains Nasser Hussain, Kevin Pietersen, and Michael Vaughan criticised the move to not field the best XI against India. Hussain has said that England have to play with their best team as they cannot bully India at the latter’s home, particularly since the hosts come into the series on the back of a 2-1 win in Australia.
“They are a tough side. I think (Virat) Kohli has instilled that. Make no mistake, at home, they are a formidable outfit. Maybe it is because I was brought up in India and I’ve always seen India vs England as one of the great series – all I would have asked is turn up to Chennai with your best 13 to 15 players,” said Hussain.
Pietersen said that it is “disrespectful” to England fans and India if the visitors don’t play their best XI. “Big debate on whether England have picked their best team to play India in the 1st Test. Winning in India is as good a feeling as winning in Australia. It’s disrespectful to England fans & also BCCI to not play your best team. Bairstow has to play! Broad/Anderson have to play!” Pietersen said in a tweet.
Vaughan said that Bairstow was the only player in England’s top three looking comfortable in sub-continent conditions. “The only player in England’s top three that’s playing the sub continent conditions with any control or calmness is resting for the first two Tests against the best Team in world at home #India !!! The world is officially mad,” said Vaughan in a tweet.
The first two Tests of the four-match series are to be played in Chennai, before the series moves to Ahmedabad. The third Test will be a day-night encounter, beginning February 24.