‘You know me Nass, that fire is always in my belly!’ Jonny Bairstow speaks to Nasser Hussain
He was at the forefront of transformation in England’s Test cricket with two of the greatest centuries of the modern era against New Zealand.
Now, on the eve of England’s ‘final’ test against India, Jonny Bairstow sat down in Edgbaston to talk to SPORTSMAIL’S Nasser Hussain about Bazball, to prove people wrong – and that tea was being made by the legendary Mary Berry…
Nasser Hussein: You’ve done a lot in your career, Jonny. The World Cup victory and so many other highlights. Where is the price of the last month?
Johnny Baierstow: Yes there have been some great times but I think the way we approach our cricket is really exciting. I really hope it catches people’s attention. That’s exactly what we want to do.
We were inspired to play cricket as children and we want to inspire the next generation to come see and play the game.
Jonny Bairstow reached stunning centuries in the second and third Test against New Zealand
Bairstow sealed victory over New Zealand in the third Test in style – hitting a huge six in the stands at Headingley
Hussein: You must be excited about the way you hit them?
Bairstow: Yes I am really satisfied. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but since participating in the third Test of the Ashes at the MCG so far, it’s been a lot of fun.
It’s not like I’ve come back and gone, ‘Okay, this is what I need to change’. I’m just trying to take the complexity out of hitting and keep it as simple as possible.
You know as well as anyone, Nass, that this is a simple game that gets complicated by those of us who play it. I try to stay as clear as possible and have no doubts about my skills or the way I play my percussion.
The way we play now there will be times when it won’t work out – but if we keep this up long enough we will win many cricket matches.
Hussein: I think Bazball is a perfect fit for you if it means playing cricket positively but not recklessly. Not a minute has gone by these last three tests that I thought you were reckless in beating…
Bairstow said the brand of cricket England are currently playing is ‘really exciting’
Bairstow: It just looks like being busy and bringing the momentum back to the bowler. Like you say, I didn’t go out and struggle or anything. I like to think it’s calculated.
Hussein: It’s very calculated. Which hundred gave you more pleasure? That hour after tea at Trent Bridge was just ‘Wow’. But Headingley must have been incredibly special to you for so many different reasons.
Bairstow: It was two very different innings. What were we when I went to Headingley, 20 to three? (17 for three). Compared to chasing a target on Trent Bridge when we needed 160 in the last session. But they were both very nice.
There have been a couple of times I’ve scored points while we were a few wickets down and that gives you a lot of fun, to dig in and scrap for your team. That’s what Test cricket is all about. To find that inner dog to get you through those tough times. But we needed those runs in the last session at Trent Bridge and it was, ‘Okay, let’s go win this game’.
The Yorkshireman also praised the captaincy of Ben Stokes, who succeeded Joe Root in the tough job
Hussein: You and Ben were at Trent Bridge. Just like it has been a few times…
Bairstow: We’ve been doing it for a few years, haven’t we? There wasn’t really much said between us in the middle. We trust each other’s games now to just go and play, which is a really good thing to have. You don’t have to say things all the time.
Hussein: How is Ben as a captain? He seemed excited for you when you went to 100 in Headingley.
Bairstow: He’s been really good. Tactically very good on the pitch and off he has been clear what he wants from the boys. He hadn’t had a lot of captaincy before he took over, but he has gained a lot of experience both on and off the pitch which he has been able to bring together to lead this side.
Bairstow was a key member of the England team that dramatically won the 2019 World Cup
The relationship he and Brendon already have can only grow over time. We must not forget that this is still in its infancy. It’s been a fantastic couple of weeks, but we have to keep building and learning as a group. It can only get better.
Hussein: You showed your class, Jonny, after Trent Bridge when you came to speak to Sky and told us not to forget the previous regime and what they’ve been through. It’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘Wow’ of the moment.
Bairstow: As I told you back then, it would be remiss of people to forget the success that Joe Root and Chris Silverwood had.
We’ve all been through those times when both formats wanted their best team and Joe was often without his best side.
The English star said it would be remiss of people to forget the success under Root
I think I’m right when I say, in terms of wins, is Joe the most successful England captain ever? And to maintain his humility when going through such difficult times during Covid was a huge honor for him and Chris.
Hussein: It’s incredible to think that before this series, there were still people questioning your place. I know you tried to shut out the noise, but you also did your best when you had to prove a point.
Do you still have that fire in your belly to prove people wrong?
Bairstow: I don’t know what people were saying, but I had scored a few hundred in the winter. So it’s up to them.
You know my character, Nass, that fire is always in my belly. My appetite to play Test cricket for England will never cease and the passion, the will and the need are certainly there.
You know how much it means to me and I’m very proud of that. All I can say is that it’s nice to have everyone’s support.
Bairstow (left) is thriving under new coach Brendon McCullum and his ‘Baz-ball’ style of play
Hussein: I also know how much wicketkeeping has meant to you. Is it something you would like to do again or do you feel really comfortable now at five and that’s it?
Bairstow: If the opportunity arises again, I’d be happy to do it. I stayed with Headingley for a few sessions and it was a lot of fun.
I look back to when I lost the gloves in 2019 and apparently it was because of my at bat, but look, I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years and when it comes again it’s great.
If not, I’m happy and will keep trying to score as many points as possible.
Hussein: Are you a statistics guy? Want to push your average to 40? Want to play 100 Tests? You are now at 86.
Bairstow: You can look at it in different ways. If I had been statistically, I wouldn’t have come out 25 times hitting the numbers 10 and 11. There are ways to contribute to winning Test Cricket matches that may not be the best for your average.
Bairstow hopes to continue his good form in the rescheduled fifth test against India
Numbers are great, but when you contribute to winning games, that’s the most important thing. But of course I want to have an average of 40 at the end of my career, that would be nice.
I don’t want to look too far ahead but your ambition as a child is to play 100 Tests for England and if I got there it would mean a lot. That would be very special.
Hussein: You now have a one-time test against India. Six months ago it would be unfinished business, but this is more like England and what you’re doing now than India.
Bairstow: It is continuing that journey. We will concentrate and try our best to win another game of cricket. Playing against India is always a fantastic challenge and it should be a lot of fun.
Hussein: And where does Mary Berry fit into Bazball? (Jonny filmed a TV show with the former Great British Bake Off star in Edgbaston on Tuesday.)
Bairstow: (laughs) What an absolute legend of a person she is! We had such a nice afternoon and then she made us this tea with smoked salmon, wild rice and asparagus. It was pleasant.
Hussein: You do remember being a Yorkie, don’t you?
Bairstow: I know! Who would have thought? I should be eating sausage and mash!