JONNY BAIRSTOW sought guarantees that Yorkshire’s ambition matched his own before signing a new contract.
The England star has penned a three-year deal that will keep him at the club until the end of 2021, ending speculation concerning his future.
Bairstow wanted assurances that Yorkshire remain as ambitious as he is after three seasons without a trophy and following a raft of high-profile departures, including England pace bowler Liam Plunkett to Surrey and batsman Alex Lees to Durham.
Bairstow admitted in August that he was “disappointed” that such players had been allowed to leave, with pace bowler Jack Brooks – the club’s leading wicket-taker in four of the last five seasons – another big-name exit after Somerset offered a three-year contract that Yorkshire were unwilling to match on the grounds that he will be 37 by the time it expires.
The retirement of Andrew Hodd, Bairstow’s wicketkeeping understudy, plus the summer-long saga surrounding England leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who only signed a new one-year contract with Yorkshire in September, added to the perception of what director of cricket Martyn Moxon openly admitted was that of “a club in turmoil potentially”.
Moxon challenged that perception by insisting that there were sound cricketing reasons for each departure, just as he said that there were for the recruitment of pace bowler Mat Pilans from Surrey and leg-spinner Josh Poysden from Warwickshire, of whom Yorkshire’s supporters have yet to see the best.
Moxon said that Yorkshire are in transition, moulding a new group around such exciting young talents as Harry Brook, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Ben Coad and Matty Fisher, a point he emphasised in contracts talks with Bairstow, which began before the end of last season but have only now concluded due to Bairstow being on tour with England.
“He (Jonny) showed an interest in the direction the club were looking to take in the coming years,” said Moxon. “There have been a few personnel changes, but he just wanted to be sure that our plans for the future matched his and his desire to be involved in a winning team.
“I believe, and the club believe, that we’ve got a bit of a process that we’re going through and we’re in a bit of a transitional period, but we’ve got some exciting and talented young players that we need to give opportunities to in order to ensure that Yorkshire are competitive for the future.”
Bairstow, who this week flies to the West Indies for the Test series that starts on January 23, said in a club statement that he is delighted that matters have been resolved.
Hopefully, we can build on last year because there are still things we need to do in order to get back to the top of the County Championship. We did quite well in one-day cricket but, at the end of the day, we want to be winning competitions.Jonny Bairstow
“I’m very pleased to have signed my extension,” he said. “It has taken a little while to get it sorted with a few bits going on, but I’m really pleased to have signed.
“Hopefully we can build on last year because there are still things we need to do in order to get back to the top of the County Championship. We did quite well in one-day cricket, but, at the end of the day, we want to be winning competitions.”
Bairstow said that the Yorkshire fans influenced his decision to re-sign.
“The fans in Yorkshire never go anywhere, and they are the people you want to keep impressing and play for,” he said. “They are the people putting their hands in their back pockets and using their money to come and watch us play. That’s why we play the game, to entertain the people that want to come and watch.”
Bairstow, 29, follows Test captain Joe Root in signing a new three-year deal with the club, although neither play much due to international commitments.
Bairstow is unavailable for the start of next season after instead joining Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.
“At the moment I only play a few games a year (for Yorkshire), and I’m sure there are plenty of people saying that I should be playing more,” he said.
“But with the international schedule the way it is – look at this summer and the Ashes, a World Cup and we go again straight after that – it’s a hectic schedule; it’s not just physically exhausting, it’s mentally demanding as well with all the pressures that come with it.
“I always enjoy coming back, but it’s going to be really different this year, losing a few of the guys and potentially playing against some of the people you’ve had some fantastic memories playing with at Yorkshire. But it’s an opportunity to create some new ones with the new faces we’ve got in at the club.”
Moxon believes that it is better to have Bairstow occasionally than not at all.
“Although we might not see too much of him in playing terms, for him to be associated with the club is great,” he said.
“He’s proved himself to be world-class and it’s important he’s playing for Yorkshire now and nobody else.”