Jonny Bairstow’s been one of England’s few semi-competent batsmen in recent times. This has given rise to the very obvious conclusion that England’s batting woes are pretty much entirely down to him because if he wasn’t keeping wicket he’d be making even more runs.
Would Bairstow make more runs if he didn’t have to keep wicket?
Ali Martin points out that all five of Bairstow’s Test centuries have come in the first innings when England have batted first – so basically pre-squatting-and-catching.
For his part, Bairstow says that he’s batted better since he became keeper (he averages 29 without the gloves and 42 with them). He also made most of his billions of runs for Yorkshire while he was their wicketkeeper.
We have no idea what all of this means, but if any England player’s averaging 42 at the minute, that strikes us as being a massive win and maybe not an area that needs to be messed around with too much.
Who would keep wicket instead?
Jos Buttler is the obvious answer because he keeps wicket for the one-day sides. However, Buttler averages 30 when he keeps in Test cricket and 44 when he doesn’t. This feels like little more than displacement, like we’d still be having an ‘X should be freed from the gloves’ debate even once the change had been made.
Ben Foakes could also play. Pretty much everyone’s up for this on the basis of the Stokes, Foakes, Woakes thing. He can also bat and most of the Test batsmen can’t, so it’s hard to see how this would weaken the side.
So should Jonny Bairstow be freed from the wicketkeeping gloves?
If he’s got a broken finger, yes. If his fingers are intact, no, probably not.
Our reasoning runs like this: Jonny Bairstow’s not really dropped the ball very much in recent times and it really isn’t that unheard of for England to have a wicketkeeper who drops the ball fairly often.
We greatly value wicketkeepers who don’t (literally) drop the ball.