England hero Jonny Bairstow has credited his experiences in the Indian Premier League with giving him the “gears” to play the innings of his life at Trent Bridge.
Bairstow blitzed a 77-ball century to lead a rousing day-five chase in the second Test against New Zealand – the second fastest ever by an English player – and finished with a brilliant 136.
He struck seven sixes and 14 fours as he and captain Ben Stokes chased down a stiff target of 299 in just 50 overs.
Bairstow headed into the series fresh from a stint of Twenty20 hitting at the IPL, where he played for Punjab Kings, rather than lining up for Yorkshire at the start of the county season.
The 32-year-old realises that skipping the domestic first-class structure in favour of the franchise circuit is not a move that everyone agrees with, but has suggested his experiences in India were key to his heroics in Nottingham.
“There was a lot of people that were saying I should not be at the IPL and I should be playing county cricket,” he said after his game-changing efforts.
“Yes, people say it would be fantastic if you had four games of red-ball cricket under your belt (before a Test series) but, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen with the current scheduling of everything around the world.
“Decisions are decisions and if I could say what I wanted to then… never mind. But there are elements to it where you are playing against the best in the world at the IPL. Being able to have those gears, to be able to go and switch them up, switch them down, is important.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to play in some of the best competitions against the best players in the world. So when it comes to pressure situations, the more you’re able to put yourself under those pressure situations, the better, because you’ve gone through them in the past.
“Whether that be in the IPL, whether that be in one-day cricket, whether that be in red-ball cricket previously, you are able to call upon evenings like that.”
It is not long since Bairstow’s Test career appeared to be up in the air and he went the whole of 2020 without a single appearance while he remained an integral part of the white-ball set-up.
But he is enjoying a true renaissance this year, scoring outstanding hundreds with the team in trouble at Sydney and Antigua before Tuesday’s blaze of glory.
On each occasion he has scored runs when it mattered most – a responsibility he appears to thrive on.
“The amount of pride that it gives me to play for England, and to play Test cricket for England first and foremost, is huge,” he said.
“I’m hugely proud of the fact that sometimes when the chips are down, you have to stand up, when you can say backs are against a wall. That might be something that you’re born with, it might be something that you have deep down that springs out of you at those moments. But, for me as a cricketer, that’s something I’m very proud of.”
Bairstow is one of several players who appear to have been reinvigorated by the new leadership team of Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. He is the kind of proactive player who fits the brand of fearless cricket they want to play to a tee.
“I’m fortunate enough to have played under lots of different captains and coaches over the last 10 years for England, and each of them has brought different good bits out of me,” he said.
“They’ve added to the experiences that I’ve had along the way but I’m excited for the next journey with Ben and Brendon. I’m extremely excited about what vision Ben and Brendon have, the way in which we’re able to go about our cricket, the enjoyment that everyone’s having on the field.
“There’s not really been any specifics from Brendon. It’s more, ‘Take the game on, take the game forward’.”