Jonny Bairstow is one of the most naturally talented English cricketers in recent years. His ability to alter games with his disruptive batting or take vital catches behind the stumps means he is an integral part of the English cricket team.
However, a new biography, A Clear Blue Sky, ghost-written with Duncan Hamilton, enlightens the reader upon the hard road Bairstow has had to travel to attain a cemented position in the England team as they seek to regain the Ashes down under this winter versus the dreaded Australians.
Bairstow, is the son of a cricketer, he is from Yorkshire, cricket is in his blood, and yet it was an event when he was 8 that has created the basis of his desire and will to succeed on the world stage. When Jonny and his sister, Becca, came home one night to see their father David had hung himself, their world unravelled. At the same time, their mother was undergoing cancer treatment, you could be forgiven for the young Bairstow going off the rails and becoming just a statistic in crime and welfare. However, the next day, Jonny and his sister went to school, education and learning has been a mainstay in his still young life; the need to carry on as normal was key to building character and as he says in the book, he had to grow up fast.
I mention the young life of Bairstow, who still has a long career of himself should injuries not come to the fore, and yet you wonder why are we reading a book about him now when a glorious winter could be on the horizon. Does the misery of his father's suicide explain enough why he has become a celebrated professional? Does the benefit of good education at schools that embraced sports explain his ability to translate to an international calibre athlete? Or does the fact he have a recognisable name scream of nepotism or luck?
Naysayers may say, you make your own luck, but the ghost written portion of the novel reads as an opportunity for Hamilton to tell the story of how Yorkshire had to tread water for years of mediocrity before the hiring of Jason Gillespie and a bevy of young talent - Bairstow, current England captain Joe Root, Gary Balance, Adil Rashid - helped them to the County Championship.
Bairstow has benefited from being one of the cricketers who has had cross-over/transitional skills from sports he has played throughout his development - football for explosive speed, hockey for hand-eye co-ordination and golf for playing under pressure. Hamilton goes to lengths to show the success of individuals like Bairstow within a system based upon central contracts allowing personal as well as professional development along with his peer Ben Stokes.
The book does at times read like a love letter for Yorkshire cricket and a by-gone era of when David Bairstow played, while the psychological and emotional stress has been abundant on the young wicketkeeper it should nevertheless be applauded at how he carries himself from day to day to perform at the highest level.
Unlike Stokes, who seems to have the shadow of controversy follow him, Bairstow appears to keep a clear head and avoid such vices eager to improve his game and become a vital part of a successful team in all three formats of the game - Test matches, ODI's and T20s. The lessons and obstacles you overcome in your youth are the foundation for you as an adult, many sportsmen should look at the evidence of Jonny Bairstow to see what results can come to fruition through a combination of support, belief and talent.
A Clear Blue Sky is out now from HarperCollins across all formats