Kevin Pietersen has claimed England have made a ‘massive mistake’ by resting Jonny Bairstow for the first two Tests against India.
Bairstow will not be involved in the first half of England’s four-match series in India after being rested as part of the ECB’s rotation policy.
With England playing 17 Test matches in 2021 and competing for the T20 World Cup at the end of the year, multi-format players will be rested as the ECB aim to avoid burnout.
But Pietersen disagrees with the timing of Bairstow’s withdrawal, telling Betway: ‘I understand that players need to rest, but Jonny Bairstow is someone you simply have to include for a Test series in India.
‘One of the keys to winning a series over there is scoring big runs, so not going in with one of your best players of spin is a massive mistake. There will be other chances for him to rest – this is a series when England need him.
‘It’s not just that he’s a good player of spin, but that he is accustomed to Indian conditions. When you tour India, you can become frightened because all the chat about how difficult it’s going to be is in your head.
‘There are other elements of touring India that can be difficult for English players, too – the culture is amazing, but it is something that you need to get used to.
‘You need to be on top of all of those things so that you can go out and bat with a clear mind. Bairstow has played in the IPL and he is much-loved there because of his performances for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
‘Yes, he’s a good player of spin, but he will love India, he will feel at home in India, and that would have been a crucial ingredient for a top three that is otherwise lacking that experience.’
India pulled off a remarkable series win in Australia recently and will be buoyed by the return of captain and star batsman Virat Kohli, who missed most of the trip for paternity leave.
Kohli has amassed 7,318 runs from 87 Test matches, averaging over 53 in red-ball cricket for India with 27 centuries to his name.
‘From an Indian perspective, they are in such a good place at the moment that it’s hard to pick out too many areas of weakness,’ Pietersen added.
‘The big talking point throughout this series is going to be Virat Kohli coming back into the side as captain. People have wondered about him returning as skipper, considering that he now has the added responsibility of being a dad.
‘I know from experience that becoming a father can be a difficult moment in your career. Previously, you are able simply to focus on batting and captaincy, whereas there is now a fair amount more going on in your life.
‘Ajinkya Rahane was outstanding when he stood in as captain in Australia, too – he was so calm, patient and decisive. But Kohli will want to be captain, and to lead from the front.
‘He’s a superstar, unbelievable, and – with a point to prove, after his side won a big series without him – he will want to go big.’
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