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Jonny Bairstow may not be ready to return to action for another two months according Yorkshire head coach Ottis Gibson, but the England batter still expects to be fit for the start of the Test summer.
Bairstow was in career-best form last year when a freak accident on the golf course in September left him with three separate fractures in his left fibula, as well as a dislocated ankle and ligament injuries.
The 33-year-old had an operation to insert a metal plate and recently withdrew from the Indian Premier League as he stepped up his rehabilitation.
He is hoping to be back on Test duty for the first time in nine months when England host Ireland at Lord’s on June 1, a tune-up for the hotly-anticipated series against Australia, and would ideally make his first-class comeback in Yorkshire’s LV= County Championship matches against Glamorgan and Durham starting on May 4 and May 11.
The schedule is taken over by the Vitality Blast after those fixtures, meaning limited red-ball options, but Gibson offered a cautious assessment of the recovery timeline.
“I’ve had a conversation with him and the medical team, who’ve done a great job, they think by the end of May he should be in position to play cricket,” he said.
“He should be available to play games by the middle to end of May. He’s had a horrific injury but he’s tracking well. He’s running up and down and he can run in straight lines, but he’s not doing much lateral stuff yet. The medical team will let us know how far along he is but he is expecting, when I’ve spoken to him, to be in a position to play in England’s first Test. That’s what he is aiming for.”
Bairstow has indicated he would like to resume wicketkeeping duties as and when he does return to the Yorkshire XI – giving him another route back into the England side.
His sensational run of Test form last summer, when he smashed four brilliant centuries, came as a specialist batter but fellow Yorkshireman Harry Brook has excelled at number five since stepping up in Bairstow’s absence over the winter.
There has been no formal requests from the international set-up, but Yorkshire are willing to help out the cause.
“Part of the job in county cricket is to prepare players for England. If England put in a request then we’d be crazy not to accommodate them, especially in an Ashes year,” said Gibson.
“We will certainly try to accommodate that request, if and when it comes.”
I think Jonny realises there is competition for places. He had his best year ever for England but you know what it’s like, someone comes into the side and it’s hard to get back.
Former England bowler Darren Gough, managing director at Headingley, admitted that Bairstow needed to maximise his chances of slipping seamlessly back into the Test team.
“I think Jonny realises there is competition for places. He had his best year ever for England but you know what it’s like, someone comes into the side and it’s hard to get back,” he said.
“He probably wants to give himself as many opportunities as he can. He’s a top player, he’s in a good place mentally with his game and he’s worked out where he wants to be and where he wants to go.
“It’s just a case of him getting fit, which is not easy coming back from that injury. Whether he plays for us in one game, two games or none of the games before England we’ll see where that goes. He’s not fit yet but he’s working hard and going well.
“Communication is the key and we haven’t heard anything from England yet, but I think Jonny has said he’d like to keep.”
Regular gloveman Jonny Tattersall is also willing to stand aside for the greater good.
He said: “I understand it’s professional sport and Jonny is an international player. He is that for a reason and if he needs certain things to prepare for England, so be it.
“If that means I have to step aside to let Jonny take the gloves, that’s fine. If we’re winning games of cricket, to me it doesn’t matter.”
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