England to select an ideal wicket-keeper batter, a headache the Poms won't mind

Options galore for team England to fill in the wicket-keeper batter slot

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Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes, Oliver Pope and Jos Buttler
Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes, Oliver Pope and Jos Buttler. (Photo Source: Philip Brown/Popperfoto/Popperfoto via Getty Images, MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images, MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images and Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

At the moment England are on a roll across formats. In the red ball format too, the team faces no dearth of either talent or resources. Sample this: the English team has at least four wicketkeeper batters, and all of them deserve a place in the side.

Bairstow is making a return to international cricket after an injury forced him out of action. Towards the end of the summer of 2022, the immensely talented wicketkeeper batter broke his limb. The absence of Bairstow meant that another gifted wicketkeeper batter Ben Foakes made a comeback into the national side. 

Apart from Bairstow and Foakes, England have two more wicketkeeper batters who can walk into any international side. Yes, Jos Buttler and Oliver John Douglas Pope. One is tempted to add Sam Billings to the list too, but his game is more suited for the white ball formats (ODIs and T20Is).

With Bairstow all set to return to international cricket, the England selectors have a nice headache to deal with. What to do with players like Ben Foakes, Jos Buttler and Oliver Pope? Though it is quite evident now that both Buttler and Billings are mostly considered for ODIs and T20Is, the real issue is about Foakes and Pope.

For now, England wicketkeeper Foakes seems undeterred about Bairstow’s return at the moment. There is every chance that Bairstow will get a nod ahead of Foakes, but the latter is focusing on controllable.

Jos Buttler, who has gained immense popularity in the white ball formats, has featured in 57 Tests for England, scoring close to 3000 runs laced with two centuries and 18 fifties at a batting average of about 32. His highest score in Tests is 152. In any other team such an average for a wicket keeper would be more than acceptable, but not for England. That is why Buttler’s poor performance during the Ashes and in subsequent foreign tours meant he felt out of favour with the selection committee.

Considering their exploits in white ball cricket, one can afford to leave both Sam Billings and Jos Buttler out of contention so far as the position of wicket keeper batter in Tests is concerned. The real contest is amongst Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes and Oliver Pope.

Wearing a selector’s cap for a moment, even Pope can be out of the race for he has cemented his spot in the batting line-up purely as a batter. The 25-year-old cricketer has amassed 1817 runs in 34 Tests, laced with three centuries and 11 fifties. Although his average is still in the early 30s, he has shown promise and scored runs in some tough conditions.

That essentially narrows down the contest between Bairstow and Foakes. It is often said about Foakes that he is a proper wicketkeeper first and a batter later. Born in Essex in 1993, this 30-year-old prolific cricketer from England is a man for the crisis. In 19 Tests, he has made 899 runs laced with two centuries and four fifties at 33.29.

Among all, Jonny Bairstow has to be the first choice wicketkeeper batter. His record speaks for itself. Numbers seldom lie. Jonathan Marc Bairstow belongs to a cricketing family. He is the son of England’s former wicketkeeper batter David Bairstow. In 89 Tests, this combative wicketkeeper batter has amassed 5482 runs, 12 centuries and 23 fifties at a batting average of 37 plus.

Ideally, the debate ends here. Bairstow has to be picked ahead of everyone else. But then, the current form also plays a part when it comes to selection. Bairstow, an important cog in the batting wheel of England, was not part of England’s recent test squad due to an injury and yet England did not miss the big unit one bit.

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