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Punjab Kings sweating on Bairstow's availability

Kings still waiting for medical clearance from ECB as England batter recovers from freak leg injury

Matt Roller and Nagraj Gollapudi
Jonny Bairstow was retained by Punjab Kings ahead of the upcoming season  •  BCCI

Jonny Bairstow was retained by Punjab Kings ahead of the upcoming season  •  BCCI

Will Jonny Bairstow be fit to play the IPL? Punjab Kings are waiting anxiously for an answer to that question, with the IPL getting underway in about three weeks. ESPNcricinfo has learned that Kings are waiting for medical clearance from ECB on Bairstow, who is recovering from the freak leg injury he suffered last September.
Bairstow broke his left leg and dislocated his ankle on September 2, days before the third and final Test of England's home series against South Africa. He slipped while playing golf with friends in Yorkshire, suffering multiple fractures in his fibula, which required a plate to be inserted when he underwent surgery in London a few days later, and also sustained ligament damage.
He has since missed all the cricket England have played, including the T20 World Cup where he was meant to open with his captain Jos Buttler. He has also missed tours to Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh, as well as the ILT20 where he was due to play for Abu Dhabi Knight Riders.
The ECB's timeline had previously suggested that Bairstow could make his return at the IPL, which starts on March 31. Bairstow has been in constant touch with Kings' medical staff, who are believed to be optimistic about his progress.
However, the franchise needs definitive clearance from the ECB, and is waiting to hear if Bairstow will be fully or partially available for IPL, as well as what sort of workload he can handle. While Kings await confirmation from the ECB, they have shortlisted a handful of possible replacements, but have not yet finalised a player.
Bairstow recently started running again for the first time, posting a video on his Instagram page on February 27 showing him completing some 30-second intervals on a running track. He is understood to be progressing as planned. At this stage, his participation in the Ashes - which starts at Edgbaston on June 16 - is not in doubt.
The injury snapped a spectacular run of form in Test cricket for Bairstow: in ten Tests in 2022, he had scored 1061 runs, and was the leading scorer in the format. He still ended 2022 fourth on that list, and had the most centuries for the calendar year, with six.
Kings retained Bairstow this season, having bought him at the 2022 mega auction for INR 6.75 crore (US$ 825,000 approx.). Last year, he scored 253 runs in 11 innings, averaging 23 with a strike rate of 144.57, with two half-centuries.
Bairstow is one of three England players at Kings, with Liam Livingstone and Sam Curran. Livingstone, who is on track to return from his own knee injury at the IPL, was retained after impressing in 2022, while Kings made Curran the costliest buy in IPL history, paying INR 18.50 crore (US$ 2.256 million approx.) at the latest auction in December.