Former England captain Nasser Hussain has come out in defence of England opener Jonny Bairstow, who was criticised for claiming that people want the England team to fail at the ongoing ICC World Cup. Hosts England are in a precarious situation after three losses against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia.
They need to win their next couple of games starting with the tie against India at Edgbaston on Sunday (June 30).
“There are two types of sportsmen: Those that don't read the news, and isolate themselves from any kind of media, as they don't want any criticism to affect them, and those that do,” Hussain wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
“During my England career, Duncan Fletcher was predominantly a non-reader but others like me — recall my three-fingered salute to the press box upon scoring a one-day hundred against India at Lord's — would digest what was being said and take the attitude of: 'I'll bloody well show you.'
“This kind of reaction makes Bairstow what he is. He is not calm and reflective. His strength lies in proving people wrong. Look at when England left him out of the 50-over side and he carried drinks for Alex Hales and Jason Roy. He was constantly trying to show the selectors they had made the wrong call,” the former England captain said.
Bairstow has hit out after criticism from former England captain Michael Vaughan. “People were waiting for us to fail. They are not willing us on to win, in many ways, they are waiting for you to get that loss, so they can jump on your throat. It's a typical English thing to do, in every sport,” the England opener had said.
“He (Bairstow) has a somewhat unique way of getting across his rather abrasive views. The way he conducts himself is not everyone's cup of tea, and that probably goes for some players in the current England side,” Hussain felt.
“But I don't have a problem with players speaking their minds. It is better than bland cliches. People might contest whether his comments ring true but when you are in that kind of team environment, you tend to be emotional.
“My job now as a commentator and columnist is to be calm and reflective, yet it is important not to forget what pressure does to you as a player. This was a typical kind of Bairstow reaction,” the 51-year-old Hussain said.
Hussain, who was born in Madras and played 96 Tests and 88 ODIs for England, believes there is no where for the players to hide with social media around.
“One thing players tend to forget, or simply overlook, is the role the media plays. Its duty is not to be the cheerleader of the team, it is to call things as it sees them. The trouble is, with social media all encompassing, the modern cricketer cannot hide away from such opinions.
“Twenty years ago, you would ask the hotel receptionist to send up a bundle of newspapers to your room the next morning after you had got a hundred. Some players used to build themselves up in this way, reading all the nice things said about them,” he wrote in his column.
Hussain feels that the hosts should not lose self-belief heading into the must-win game against India. “This team has won lots of away series in different conditions. They are not one-dimensional. It is not, as some people are saying, that they have been caught out. It is that they have not adapted as well recently,” he wrote.
“England are doing it the hard way now. They will probably have to beat India twice to go on and win the World Cup.
“One reason I believe they can beat India is because despite the Indians' form so far, and their comfort in playing the old-fashioned style of ODI cricket, such adaptability should not be confused with an ability to play a different way. I am not sure they can go up if England do raise the bar in terms of a batting total,” Hussain felt.
He also urged England to exploit India’s weakness at the No. 4 position. “It must not be forgotten that Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni are three of the best players in ODI history but the loss of Shikhar Dhawan to injury, and moving of KL Rahul to open, has left a hole at No 4. This is one of the areas to be exploited. When batting, England have to target India's fifth bowler in Hardik Pandya. If it is a spinning pitch, he cannot be allowed to bowl his 10 overs for 40-50 runs. He has to ‘go’,” Hussain wrote.