England hero Jonny Bairstow credited his experiences in the Indian Premier League with giving him the “gears” to play the innings of his life at Trent Bridge.
Bairstow won a century of 77 balls to lead an exhilarating chase on day five in the second Test against New Zealand – the second fastest by an English player – and ended with a brilliant 136.
He scored seven sixes and 14 fours as he and captain Ben Stokes chased a hard target of 299 in just 50 overs.
Bairstow entered the series fresh from a Twenty20 stint at the IPL, where he played for the Punjab Kings rather than lining up for Yorkshire at the start of the county’s season.
The 32-year-old realizes that skipping the first-class domestic structure in favor of the franchise circuit isn’t a move everyone agrees on, but suggested his experiences in India were central to his heroism in Nottingham.
“A lot of people were saying that I shouldn’t be in the IPL and that I should play 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 schedule of everything around the world.
“Decisions are decisions and if I could say what I wanted then… it doesn’t matter. But there are elements where you’re playing against the best in the world at IPL. Being able to have those gears, being able to go and change them, change them, is important.
“We are very lucky 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 been through them in the past.
“Whether it’s IPL, whether it’s one-day cricket, whether it’s red ball cricket beforehand, you can summon nights like this.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Bairstow’s testing career seemed to be in the air and he went through the entire year of 2020 without a single appearance, while remaining an integral part of the cue-ball setup.
But he is enjoying a true renaissance this year, scoring hundreds of goals with the team in trouble in Sydney and Antigua before Tuesday’s burst of glory.
On every occasion, he’s scored races when it mattered most – a responsibility he seems to thrive on.
“The amount of pride I get from playing for England, and playing test cricket for England in the first place, is enormous,” he said.
“I am very proud of the fact that sometimes when things fall you have to get up when you can say your back is against the wall. This could be something you were born with, it could be something that you have deep down that springs from you in these moments. But for me as a cricketer it is something I am very proud of.”
Bairstow is one of several players who appear to have been reinvigorated by Stokes’ new leadership team and manager Brendon McCullum. He is the kind of proactive player who fits perfectly into the brand of fearless cricket they want to play.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played with many different captains and coaches over the last 10 years for England, and each of them has brought different good things from me,” he said.
“They’ve added to the experiences I’ve had along the way, but I’m excited for the next journey with Ben and Brendon. I am extremely excited about the vision that Ben and Brendon have, the way we are able to do our cricket, the enjoyment that everyone is having on the pitch.
“There weren’t really any details on Brendon. It’s more, ‘Live the game, take the game forward’”.