The announcement on Tuesday of England’s Test squad for next month’s tour of Sri Lanka saw both Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow missing from the 16-man squad.
While it was revealed that all-rounder Moeen was unavailable for selection as part of his continued break from Test cricket, national selector Ed Smith added that wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow had been “rested”. The 30-year-old had been dropped for the two-match series against New Zealand at the start of winter before returning to the side for the tour of South Africa, where he played in the first Test at Centurion.
The England pair were up for discussion on the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, with host Yas Rana joined by Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker and WCM magazine editor Jo Harman.
JH: I agree that Bairstow shouldn’t have been picked for New Zealand. I don’t think he should have come back into the Test side in South Africa. The situation is bizarre. I now feel a bit sorry for him. I can see the justification of picking [Keaton] Jennings over Bairstow as your back-up batsman [for the tour of Sri Lanka]. It just seems odd that they picked Bairstow for South Africa in the meantime.
YR: Neil Virani on Twitter asks: how does Bairstow go from being dropped in New Zealand, earning his way back with no red-ball games for South Africa, get 1 and 9, and then get rested for Sri Lanka? The management of Bairstow is odd, right?
PW: It would seem so. I find myself feeling quite sorry for the bloke as well. He’s been dragged from pillar to post. There is a subtext that because he is an “outsider” kind of character, that England have mismanaged him and not been quite sensitive to the holistic requirements of somebody like Jonny. B, whose record demands respect.
I wouldn’t say they have dealt with him particularly well this winter, and I would echo the same point for Moeen Ali as well. Moeen was passed over for a central contract in late September, having been taken out of the firing line in the Ashes and having spoken to the England set-up about the necessity for a rest. Burnout was rearing its head in quite an ugly way, by all accounts. I think England will be rueing their mistake now because Moeen Ali will not have played a Test match all winter.
Joe Root said in late November that he wanted him as part of his South Africa squad. But Moeen Ali, a more sensitive and evolved approach to managing this particular character, who’s given everything in six years for England, would have resulted in him feeling capable of playing in Sri Lanka where they need him. It casts shade over what’s going to happen in the summer with him as well. He’s also looking at it from a financial perspective, I would imagine, and recognising that without a contract he’s going to earn more money in the Pakistan Super League. It begs the question of what they’re going to do with him and with Bairstow come the summer.
They are two very precious players. Archer as well you can throw into the mix. You have to deal with individuals on a granular level now. Especially when there are any number of alternative options for them out there. On reflection, they could have handled both of those characters a lot better.
You can listen to the full episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast on the Podcast App or Spotify.