XtraTime Web Desk: Jonny Bairstow, the 28-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman has been one of the reasons why England have been so destructive in the powerplays in the ICC World Cup 2019. Not just fierce hitting, he has been consistent throughout. But the life of Bairstow now co-authored a book — A Clear Blue Sky. The book reveals a lot about Jonny’s younger life and also throws light on why his father, the renowned former cricketer David Bairstow committed suicide.
On his father’s suicide
“First, the bare, stark fact. The matter of public record. My dad David Bairstow was only 46 years and 126 days old when he committed suicide almost 20 years ago. My mum Janet, my sister Becky and I found him when we returned home at 8.30 pm on one of those typically lampblack and cold January nights. He had hanged himself from the staircase.
“Now, the speculation, the what-ifs, the what-might-have-beens, the guesswork.”
“Everything seemed normal to me. They say that infants can pick up a minute shift of mood at home, alerting them when something is a little off. I’d gone past the stage of infancy — I was a young child — but the eight-year-old me had registered nothing untoward.
“To me, my dad was just my dad, as ebullient and as energetic as ever. I never saw him down or doubtful, or fretful about either himself or our future. I had no inkling that anything was wrong. He didn’t seem like a man full of distractions to me.
“In the morning I said goodbye to him and walked to school with Becky, the Christmas holidays over and a new term beginning.”
“In the early evening my mum took me to football training at Leeds United, bringing Becky too. That our lives changed irrevocably while the three of us were away seemed to me — then as well as now — inconceivable and incomprehensible.
“The inquest into my dad’s death, which I didn’t attend, heard evidence about his mental state. That he’d been suffering from depression and stress. That he’d seen both his own doctor and a consultant psychiatrist.
“That he’d experienced extreme mood swings, veering between the dramatically high and dramatically low, leaving my mum unsure about ‘which version of him would come through the door’. That he’d been for a drink at one of his favourite pubs a few hours before he died (though the toxicology report revealed no extravagant level of alcohol in his system).
“That he’d been concerned about my mum’s health and the treatment she was undergoing for breast cancer, diagnosed less than three months before and far more aggressive than even she appreciated at the time.
“She’d had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then chemotherapy again. She was wearing a wig because her hair had fallen out. I didn’t know — but I learnt later — that the hospital became more concerned about my dad’s emotional state than my mum’s.
“He was afraid she was going to die. He was also afraid of how he would cope — and what would happen to us — if she did.”
Did Jonny forgive his father?
No one could have blamed young Jonny had he blamed his father for the incident, but Jonny was a man of sterner material. The toughness that remains a hallmark of the Bairstow brand of cricket was imbibed in Jonny at a young age. He had no option.
“I was only ever briefly angry with my dad for leaving us. It happened shortly after his death, when things were at their darkest and the grief in me was raw and at its worst. The feeling came and went again, wiped away because I realised he loved us, and I realised, too, how desperate he must have been to make the choice he did.
“But I’ve never had to forgive my dad because I’ve never believed there was anything to forgive him for in the first place.
“I do, nevertheless, think about what my dad’s death denied us. All the matches, as an honoured guest, that he could have watched me play in. All the birthday parties, all the holidays and all the Christmases he’s missed with my mum and Becky and me.