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Mark Ramprakash: England management need to work out what to do with Jonny Bairstow

Jonny Bairstow at Dharamshala
Jonny Bairstow will win his 100th Test cap for England at Dharamsala in the fifth Test against India which starts on Thursday - Philip Brown/Popperfoto via Getty Images

Jonny Bairstow has “got some serious thinking to do” about whether to continue his Test career with England, Mark Ramprakash has said.

Bairstow will play his 100th Test in Dharamsala this week, but is averaging 21.3 in the series in India and is yet to make a half-century. Ramprakash, who played 54 Tests from 1991-2002 and later worked with Bairstow as England batting coach, urged England and Bairstow to have discussions about his future as a Test cricketer after the tour finishes.

“He’s got to really ask himself those questions at 34 years old, because he’s coming under some pressure with competition for places with those young batters,” Ramprakash told The Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club podcast.

“Jonny himself and then the management have got to work out what they want to do with him.

“He’ll have the option to go off and play loads of franchise cricket and still be very successful. If he wants to play Test cricket and does the required work, I still think he can be a force and be a very good senior player for England.

“But you know, sometimes you can come off it just one per cent and you don’t quite reach the standards that you set for yourself. And so I think between now and the start of when he’s going to start playing in the English season, he’s got some serious thinking to do.”

Slip practice at Dharamshala
Mark Ramprakash says Bairstow (centre) will have to question his own desire to carry on playing red-ball cricket before the domestic season starts in England - REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Ramprakash said that Bairstow, who will become the 17th man to play 100 Tests for England, will have to consider whether he wants to continue playing red-ball cricket or focus on the white-ball formats. Bairstow turns 36 shortly before the 2025-26 Ashes series in Australia.

“After this last Test match, I think he’s got to have a good think himself as to what he’s got left in the tank – energy-wise, desire-wise, hunger-wise to play Test cricket,” Ramprakash said. “It really examines you mentally, physically. Has he got enough in the tank to say: ‘Yes, I still want to hit the number of balls. I want to do the training required to be successful in Test cricket.’”

Ramprakash welcomed the greater continuity of selection under the current England regime, saying he would have benefited from such backing during his own career. Despite hitting 114 first-class centuries, and averaging an impressive 42.4 against Australia, his overall Test average was just 27.3.

“It was a bit of a revolving door,” he said. “You know, you said goodbye at the end of the Test. You weren’t so sure if you were going to see them the following week. I look back at those times and think, well, look, you had to take your opportunity and I didn’t. I didn’t take my opportunities to cement myself, to establish myself. And so, it was a stop-start career.”

Ramprakash believes there should always be room for players to bat in different styles, and was particularly pleased to see Joe Root’s return to form in Ranchi. After criticism for batting too expansively earlier in the series, Root took 219 balls to reach his century in the first innings.

“I was so happy to see him get back to being Joe Root, and play a fantastic innings,” Ramprakash added. “He delivers time and time again. But it was by being Joe Root and not something that he isn’t. So I thought that was smart cricket. I thought it was entertaining cricket.

“I hope that Ben Foakes for example is going to be authentic. He’s got to go and deliver what he does with the bat in his way, and you can’t expect him to go out and bat like Bairstow. That’s not the best of Ben Foakes. So I think there’s room within this style of play that each individual has to play to their strengths.”

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