Jonny Bairstow looks set to sit out this year’s Indian Premier League, with his recovery from a badly broken leg now focused on England’s Ashes campaign.
The Yorkshire batter saw a career-best run of form cut short at the end of last summer when a freak accident on a golf course 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 has been working hard on his rehabilitation, including net practice at Headingley and a gradual return to running work. But his spell on the sidelines has already stretched past the six-month mark and, with the IPL due to start in less than two weeks, reports suggest he will not be joining up with the Punjab Kings.
While Bairstow’s progress suggests he would be fit enough to play some part in the eight-week tournament, an early decision would allow the franchise to source an overseas replacement ahead of the competition while also freeing up Bairstow to focus on his country.
Head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes have both made it clear Bairstow will be welcomed back into the Test side with open arms following his heroics in 2022. He hit six Test centuries in the calendar year, including four in the space of five innings to underpin the team’s startling upturn in form.
The matter of where he slots in is not as straightforward given the rampant success of his replacement in the number five spot, fellow Yorkshireman Harry Brook, and skipping the IPL would allow him to settle straight back into the demands of red-ball cricket with Yorkshire.
He will now be targeting a comeback in the County Championship, before a pre-Ashes Test against Ireland at the Kia Oval in early June.
McCullum is also confident the trip will not threaten Stokes’ impact on the Ashes, trusting CSK to protect their asset.
“I don’t think he’s jeopardising it,” McCullum said after Stokes winced his way through England’s last Test in Wellington.
“The Chennai set-up is excellent in looking after their players and they’ve a very good medical team and he will be well looked after. I’ve no concerns that the skipper will be totally looked after.”