Silverwood defends sending Bairstow, Wood and Curran home

England head coach Chris Silverwood defends sending Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran home ahead of tour to India, insisting the decision is ‘pro-active’ with a need to ‘rest and rotate’ after Sri Lanka series victory

  • England have opted to send three players home after their series win in Sri Lanka
  • Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran will not play in the tour to India
  • Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns come in to Joe Root’s Test squad
  • Chris Silverwood says the decision is in the best long-term interests of the team

Chris Silverwood takes a weakened squad to India on Wednesday insisting England are right to rest players for one of the toughest assignments in international cricket.

The decision to send Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran home from the triumph in Sri Lanka together with the revelation that Jos Buttler will play in only the first of four Tests in India has raised eyebrows at the start of a momentous year of Test cricket.

And it has not gone unnoticed among supporters that England’s best multi-format players still plan to spend an extended spell in this year’s Indian Premier League in April and May even though they will miss Test matches.

England coach Chris Silverwood urged the need to look after the players with rest this year

Bowlers Mark Wood (L) and Sam Curran (R) have both gone home after the Sri Lanka series

But Silverwood, who has made an outstanding start as head coach with four Test series wins in a row after an initial defeat in New Zealand, is happy with the situation as he welcomes back Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns.

‘We’ve decided to rest and rotate because we need to look after the players,’ said Silverwood on Tuesday before moving on to Chennai from Galle. ‘We’re spending a lot of time in hotel rooms inside bio-secure bubbles and it’s not easy. I do believe we have to be pro-active rather than wait until there’s a problem.’

It is England’s willingness to let contracted cricketers cash in on IPL riches in a year when, with 17 Tests, a Twenty20 World Cup and other white-ball commitments, they will be busier than ever that makes the issue such a contentious one.

‘The players can’t be with us all the time because it’s not the world we live in,’ said Silverwood. ‘I’m perfectly happy with the system at the moment. I’d just ask supporters to understand why we are doing this. We’re acting in the best interests of the players and to get the best out of them long-term.’

It is the timing of England’s decision to rest Bairstow for the first two Tests in Chennai, just after he had regained his red-ball place after a year’s absence and played a significant part in the 2-0 victory over Sri Lanka, that seems strange.

The timing of the decision to rest Jonny Bairstow has been questioned due to his good form

Admittedly, England awarded Bairstow just a white-ball contract in the last round of deals so he has a stronger case than some for going to the IPL, especially as it should act as decent preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup, also in India, in October.

Even so, he showed himself to be one of England’s best red-ball players of spin in the two Tests in Galle in the absence of Stokes, Burns and the injured Ollie Pope and he will be missed for those first two matches in India.

Bairstow said on Tuesday he had ‘mixed’ feelings about missing out again so soon after seemingly re-establishing himself in the Test side but added he has no complaints about the timing of his England rest.

‘If they hadn’t given me the break now, then when?’ said Bairstow, who has been retained by Sunrisers Hyderabad for this year’s IPL. ‘It’s the way of the world at the moment and there’s no-one who plays all three formats doing the whole tour.

‘It’s tricky,’ Bairstow told the Evening Standard. ‘It’s a huge summer and winter and sadly you can’t do everything. You do need to get out of the bubble and see loved ones.’

And Silverwood conceded on Tuesday that the progress Bairstow made in Galle will not mean he automatically returns to the Test side when he eventually arrives in India ahead of the third Test in Ahmedabad.

‘Jonny asked me how I felt he played and I told him he did very well,’ said Silverwood. ‘I was pleased with him but we don’t make any guarantees. I do think it’s right he has a rest but when he comes back into the group it will come down to selection again.’

Those players who will on Wednesday join Stokes, Archer and Burns in quarantine in Chennai arrive in India in good spirits but knowing how hard a task they have ahead.

‘We’re going with our eyes open because we know it’s going to be a tough challenge,’ said Silverwood. ‘It’s the start of nine Tests against India before Australia and it’s going to be a great experience.

Silverwood will welcome Jofra Archer back into the fold, along with Ben Stokes and Rory Burns

‘Do I think we can beat them? Yes, but we know it’s going to be a hard-fought contest. If we do come through this series with a victory our confidence will go through the roof but we’re going to have to be at the top of our game to do it.’

It could hardly have gone better so far for the former England bowling coach who was promoted when Trevor Bayliss returned home to Australia. 

‘I’m loving every minute because it’s a dream job,’ added Silverwood. ‘The most pleasing thing is seeing our plans in place and the guys having success with them and enjoying themselves.’

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