Alec Stewart on Bairstow's perseverance, Cook's lean patch and the abundance of homegrown talents
The Specsavers England-India Test series is brilliantly poised at the moment, with the hosts having won the first two games and India having retailed back with a thumping win in return as well. With the series at 2-1 and with two more games to go, everyone is back to where they were at the beginning of the series, considering both sides' possibilities at achieving a series win.
Among the many experts talking on the situation, was former England cricketer Alec Stewart who said that India can achieve great highs if they follow the current trend under captain Virat Kohli. While Stewart praised India's effort, he was not one to overlook England's preparations ahead of the upcoming match of the series. Among the many things that Stewart addressed, were England's chances with Jonny Bairstow, the rise of new talents inOllie Pope and Sam Curran, and Alastair Cook's lean phase.
Stewart deeply backed Jonny Bairstow, who said in a recent press meet that he is reluctant to give up keeping, while the team management was forcing him to try and play as a specialist batsman. He is likely to play only as a batsman in the fourth Test starting on Thursday due to a finger injury in the left hand, but the "setback" has not deterred his plan on doing wicket-keeping on a longer basis.
“I fully understand he doesn’t want to give up keeping, and expect him to carry on. He wants to keep wickets as long as he performs to the right level. And his batting and keeping have improved, he has done very well in the last 18 months," Stewart said before adding: “If the selectors decide, it is down to them. I know Jonny wants to keep as well and his level is outstanding. Like everyone else, he too wants to perform and keep and bat to the best of his ability. When you have both skills, why would you not want to do both?”
Stewart then went on to say how delighted he was, that under him at the helm of administration, the Surrey Cricket Club have nurtured a lot of new talent - all-rounder Sam Curran and batsman Ollie Pope, both picked by England in the ongoing series, are Surrey players -with another batsman Rory Burns is next in line for contention. Curran even went on to become the man of the match in the first game of the series at Edgbaston.
Finally, he dismissed all questions or doubt about Alastair Cook's abilities. Cook is England’s all-time highest run-getter in the Test cricket format, and he has been more effective against India than several other sides till date. However, in the current series, he has been more or less a failure in terms of run-getting, and the lean patch that he is going through has made several people doubt his place in the side. But Stewart has a different opinion.
“He is a wonderful performer. If I had a say, he will be in my side till he decides to call it a day," he concluded.
The fourth match of the series will get underway at the Ageas Rose Bowl in Southampton, from tomorrow, August 30 onwards.