Jonny Bairstow is eagerly awaiting a master class with the man he describes as “the best all-rounder there has ever been” as he struggles to make his first Test appearance in over a year. The great Jacques Kallis of South Africa has entered the England camp as a consulting coach on a tour to Sri Lanka and boasts one of the most glittering international cricket resumes ever assembled.
With 13,289 Test runs, just behind Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, the 45-year-old is not only third in the all-time best list, but has also taken 292 wickets and 200 catches in the format. Kallis remains the third highest running scorer in Test cricket (Gareth Copley/PA) The tireless ability of Kallis to score in all situations, including nine centuries at the number three spot that Bairstow is likely to be remembered, makes him the ideal mentor for a man after a period of limited-overs specialization looking to re-establish himself in the team. Like Kallis, Bairstow was asked to play many different roles for his country – up and down the order and between all three formats, with and without wicketkeeping gloves. “It’s absolutely brilliant. I think it’s a fantastic addition, someone of Jacques’ calibre,” he said, welcoming with great enthusiasm the appointment. “With the things he’s done in the game, in my eyes he’s the best all-rounder there’s ever been. Someone who has been at the top of the rankings, caught absolute flies at slip and taken so many wickets as well. “You could talk to him about so many different aspects. I’m very curious to spend some time with him to learn how he went about this process. Because it is an art in itself to string all three parts together so successfully over such a long period of time. He said, “It’s great to have Jacques around, and I’m really looking forward to spending some time with him, listening to what he has and working with him,” This is also the first day of an internal squad game at Hambantota, with a Joe Root eleven and a Jos Buttler eleven playing 50 overs each before the second day’s play on Saturday. Bairstow has resigned himself to the idea that his last chance will come in the front row with England backing Buttler as first-choice gloveman and Ben Foakes as back-up. The 31-year-old has played a game in just six games. Last time I played in Sri Lanka, I scored a hundred for three as a batsman. I’ve played there a few times and I’ve done okay in general. It’s going to be fun to play in three locations. It’s going to be a great opportunity in some ways, and there’s no better place to score runs,” Bairstow says. If he succeeds, it could only give his red-ball career the boost it needs to see him through to the Ashes series next winter, but his future chances could be further harmed by a dry spell. “I’ve played a long time now, I’ve played 70 tests, and people keep saying ‘points to prove’ or this and t. “With the work I’ve put into my game and the runs I have in the tank over the next three, four, five or however many years, I believe I can make a big contribution to English cricket in the Test arena. I’ve proved that in the past. I’m excited about what’s to come with my red-ball stuff and this is a good place to be.”