Jonny Bairstow - a part of Yorkshire's cricketing heritage
PUBLISHED: 13:45 15 July 2016 | UPDATED: 13:45 15 July 2016
Jonny Bairstow has followed his father into the Yorkshire and England cricket teams and is now one of a new breed of powerful, big-hitting players changing the face of the game. He speaks to Martin Pilkington
There can be few players more rooted in Yorkshire cricket than Jonny Bairstow. The red-haired wicket-keeper batsman first made sporting waves when at St Peter’s School in York, his performances there in 2007 winning him the Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year award. Jonny was still a teenager when he made his debut for the county that his late father David similarly represented with distinction. He has helped the white rose side win the County Championship for the last two years and if he needed to feel any more at home, his mother works at the Headingley ground.
He spoke to Yorkshire Life as he prepared to play in the first Investec-sponsored Test of this summer, at Headingley, somewhere clearly special to him. ‘It’s a fantastic place to come and play, and somewhere I’ve aspired to play for the county and for England,’ he says. ‘I was lucky enough a couple of seasons ago to play Test cricket here as well, so coming back after a couple of years is really exciting.
‘It’s brilliant for me and Joe Root to be playing here. Joe and I have played together since we were very young – it’s good to have someone with you that you’ve batted with and played with all the way through your career, it really helps.’
Perhaps it is just as well for English cricket that the sport is in Jonny’s blood more than any other, as during his schooldays it was only one of several options for him – he represented Leeds United’s Academy side as a right back; was fly half for Yorkshire Schools in rugby union; and played first team hockey for Leeds Met.
‘Sport was and is a major part of my life,’ he says. ‘Whether that be during the summer or the winter. So even away from cricket, doing other things, it’s kind of sports orientated. In my time off it could be playing golf or going to the horse racing – sport in different forms is something I’ve always really enjoyed and that has happily given me so many different experiences.’
Given his family background, and having become an integral part of Yorkshire’s success in recent years, he’s aware of the game being so much a part of the area’s psyche. ‘In Yorkshire there’s a deep history and heritage in the county cricket club, so that plays into it,’ he says. ‘And I believe it also has the largest number of cricket clubs of any county in England, which obviously helps – it’s a participation sport here.
‘And it’s definitely part of our jobs as professional county cricketers, and as people playing for England at Headingley, to inspire the next generation and help them come through and want to play cricket for Yorkshire.’
Headingley is not the only ground in the county that is special to the 26-year-old. ‘Scarborough has a massive place in my heart, it’s amazing,’ he adds. ‘We’re very fortunate that we get to play the festival there each year and the two first-class games at Scarborough as well as the one-day match. It’s really important to us to get over there, where there are fantastic crowds throughout the games early on in the season and at the festival. The pitch at Scarborough is excellent too, which is always helpful and it’s a bit more relaxed – but at the same time the cricket played over there is still very, very tough.’
As an international cricketer, he now gets to spend the winter and autumn in a few places slightly sunnier even than Scarborough, though he acknowledges that there are downsides to time away from home. ‘The weather is obviously pretty good when we’re touring. Generally during the wintertime, although Yorkshire can be a very picturesque county and a very beautiful place, it can also be quite bleak, so I guess warm weather is one of the pluses to the life – spending quite a bit of time in Cape Town this winter was rather pleasurable – but then you don’t get to see the beauty of it when you have the frosts that cover the Yorkshire landscape and the snow on the moors and the hills – those are things I definitely miss.’
Bairstow plays a straight bat to questions about the likelihood of Yorkshire winning the County Championship for the third year in a row. ‘We’ve got as good a chance as any,’ he says. ‘We know how tough it’s going to be, but at the same time we’re confident in our own abilities and so if we get on a little roll then I don’t see why we can’t do it.’
He’s too modest to say so himself, but with the batting form he has shown early in the season it’s likely he’ll make more appearances for his country than his county, his own aggressive style fitting perfectly with how the national side is determined to go about their game now.
‘We’ve obviously seen how things have evolved, and our reaction to that is evident in the way the team has gone about its business recently, you only have to look at the last 12 months and at the brand of cricket we’ve played. The way that we’re developing as a side and playing our cricket is only going to be positive, which is good for English cricket going forward.’ And for Yorkshire’s. w
Jonny Bairstow spoke to Yorkshire Life courtesy of Investec, the title sponsor of Test cricket in England.