England captain Joe Root has confirmed that Ben Foakes will be their wicketkeeper for the remaining three Tests against India. As per the skipper, Jonny Bairstow may make the side in the next game as a specialist batsman. Foakes has received the nod after Jos Buttler returned home to spend time with his family.
England’s decision to keep Bairstow away for the opening two Tests has resulted in intense debate. So much so that legendary batsman Geoffrey Boycott slammed the management, saying a break has been “forced” on the 31-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman.
Joe Root, though, spoke in favour of giving Foakes a long run behind the stumps.
“I don’t think it changes much, really. Foakes is here to keep, he’s going to be our wicketkeeper for the rest of this tour if he stays fit. Jonny is a fine player, a fine batter in his own right, and he will come in as an option with the bat,” Joe Root responded to a question by Sportskeeda during a virtual media conference on Friday (February 12).
Ben Foakes, who was the Man of the Series on his debut tour in 2018, will play a Test match for the first time since January 2019. Joe Root said Foakes had enough time to prepare for this opportunity and is yearning to perform at the highest level.
“The thing with Ben is quite a unique scenario, he knew that Jos would be going home after the first Test, so he’s been able to prepare and get ready for this game, for a good while now...He’ll be desperate to come back in and do well, and he’s a fine player in his own right, he’s a brilliant gloveman, he’s proven that he can score runs at Test match level and is a fine batsman,” Joe Root added.
Ben Foakes amassed a staggering 277 runs at an average of 69.25 in three away Tests versus Sri Lanka in 2018. However, the incumbent Jos Buttler’s consistent performances have resulted in Foakes playing just five Tests since then.
“Competition for places is what drives the standards high” – Joe Root
England have suddenly found themselves in the centre of the debate surrounding squad rotation. But the hallmark of champion sides is to have a bench strength on par with the first-choice players.
Quizzed about potential selection headaches, Joe Root hailed the competition within the side and stated it augurs well for the team in the long run. The 30-year-old further expressed delight over his teammates sticking together and helping each other out irrespective of some of them missing the final cut.
“Competition for places is what drives the standards high. And now for him [Foakes] to come in and hopefully do well, and have an impact on this series is really good for us as a team. Because it means that everyone’s going to keep working hard and try to push the levels of one another higher, and that’s how we see a team grow.
“And I suppose the good thing about the environment that we’ve got is the genuine enjoyment of one another’s success, you can see it on the guys’ faces, you can see them working together as well – in and around practice – and benefitting from sharing ideas and talking through different methods of going about situations and techniques. That’s a really exciting place to be in,” Joe Root, who smashed a match-winning 218 in the first Test, explained.
England have replaced Jos Buttler (went home), James Anderson (rest), Dom Bess (form) and Jofra Archer (elbow injury) with Ben Foakes, Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes respectively in the 12-member squad for the second Test.