In cricket, the question of what has been achieved is often dwarfed by the question of how. Which is why the story of Jonny Bairstow needs retelling. Unfamiliar to most of us Indians, the 21-year-old from Yorkshire arrived on the big stage and bashed India's bowlers to bits in wet-weather conditions in Cardiff.
It was Bairstow's England debut. The robustly-built boy announced himself by coolly bashing his fifth delivery in the England jersey into the cloudy skies over midwicket. Sophia Gardens isn't a particularly big ground, and two more deliveries were launched by him into the river behind the park.
Mind you, this was a tense finish. And there wasn't the slightest trace of nerves on Bairstow's face. India kept bowling at him, he kept bashing them to the boundary, collecting 41 off 21, making it a memorable debut.
Bairstow is the son of former England wicketkeeper David Bairstow, who committed suicide in 1998 after suffering from depression and financial troubles. Jonny was eight at the time.
Wisden has this obituary of him.
[...] Yorkshire's affairs swirled turbulently around him, Bairstow was always there: loud, combative, combustible. "He wasn't a great wicket-keeper and he wasn't a great batsman," said his team-mate Phil Carrick, "but he was a great cricketer."
His fighting qualities overrode any technical deficiencies, and he did equal a world record by taking 11 catches against Derbyshire at Scarborough in 1981. But he was at his best when batting in one-day games when victory was improbable but just short of impossible: in the Benson and Hedges Cup at Derby in 1981, he was joined by Mark Johnson, the No. 11 and a debutant, with Yorkshire 80 short of victory. Bairstow hit nine sixes in an innings that left everyone on the ground aghast; Yorkshire won with Bairstow on 103, and Johnson four. He was picked for the Oval Test against India in 1979, made a brisk 59 in the second innings, and went to Australia for the post-Packer tour that winter. Though Bob Taylor played in the Tests, Bairstow was a regular in the one-day games, and played a succession of small but vital innings. Most famously, Graham Stevenson walked out to join him at the SCG with 35 wanted from six overs. "Evening, lad," said Bairstow. "We can piss this." Which they duly did.
While Jonny has made his ODI debut against India, David made his Test debut at the Oval — a game now remembered for Sunil Gavaskar's 221. David finished as one of the most prolific keepers of all time with 1099 First Class dismissals. Eight years after he'd finished, his troubles got the better him.
Following his father's footsteps, Jonny is Yorkshire's first-choice wicketkeeper now. His England career has received a jump-start. Jonathan Angew wrote of Bairstow's performance: "I thought the way India's Rahul Dravid shook him by the hand suggested even he thought that was pretty special and I'm sure that was what he was saying to Bairstow at the end."
Tougher challenges await Jonny — especially when they tour India next month. But till then, he's given cricket lovers something to rave about with this wonderful debut.