Rory Burns may miss Sri Lanka tour for birth of first child

Opener admits to finding life in the bubble strange, as January arrival clashes with likely dates

Rory Burns raises his bat for a century, Surrey v Sussex, Bob Willis Trophy, Kia Oval, September 7, 2020

Rory Burns raises his bat for a century  •  Getty Images

Rory Burns has indicated he may choose to miss England's tour of Sri Lanka in January, so that he can attend the birth of his first child.
Although the dates of the Sri Lanka tour are not yet known (the ECB was due to confirm them this week but had to postpone the announcement) the two-Test series is likely to begin in the middle of the month, with the team set to depart on January 2.
And given the expectation of strict Covid-19 protocols in Sri Lanka and India, where England are also due to tour in the new year, it is unclear whether Burns would be able either to leave the tour early or arrive in the country late.
"I'm not too sure at the minute," Burns told London's Evening Standard. "I'm waiting to see what the dates are. I don't know them yet, so it's a judgment call closer to the time.
"I'm not sure [whether he would miss a Test]. I'd like to be there for the birth, especially with it being the first one. I will need to decide a bit closer to the time, when there's a little bit more knowledge of what's going on."
Burns had also been due to miss England's postponed tour of Sri Lanka in March, after damaging ankle ligaments while playing football during the preceding South Africa series.
However, he played a full part in all six of England's summer Tests against West Indies and Pakistan, albeit with mixed success, as he followed a haul of 234 runs at 46.80 in the former series with 20 runs at 5.00 in the latter. In the same interview, he conceded that the strictures of England's bio-secure environment may have played a part in that downturn in form.
"The summer was short and sharp and it just got away from me at times," he said. "It was great to win both series. [Against] West Indies I played quite nicely, Pakistan I think I got some good balls. Suddenly, the summer's done.
"Bubble life was different. It's not something I personally enjoyed that much. I like getting out and about a bit more, to do different things. It seems rugby has learned from that, they've been getting in and out of the bubble. That's quite important.
"When I have played my best, it's when cricket's not been the be-all and end-all," he added. "I found that you couldn't get away from cricket. You walk from one end of the ground to the other.
"I like to go for a coffee, see a mate or my missus; refreshing yourself by not thinking cricket -- and that's a lot harder to do in the bubble setting. That was the main challenge for me. It sounds quite trivial, but everyone's experiencing this period differently."
Should Burns decide not to join the Sri Lanka tour, the England management are sure to take a sympathetic view of the situation - the captain, Joe Root, missed the first Test of last summer to attend the birth of his second child, with Ben Stokes taking over as captain.
However, he would be inviting pressure for his place at the top of the order, with Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley having demonstrated their aptitude for the role in the past 12 months, and with Keaton Jennings also a possibility for selection, having enjoyed previous success as an opener in Asian conditions.
Jonny Bairstow, who last played a Test in South Africa 12 months ago, is also expected to earn a recall for the Sri Lanka trip, having pulled out of his Big Bash deal with Melbourne Stars, while Jofra Archer - a mainstay of England's Test bubble in the summer - is likely to be rested ahead of an arduous 12 months across formats.
"I'm not sure what's happening in Sri Lanka, but I know at least I'll be home for Christmas," Archer told Sky Sports, prior to his departure from England's current South Africa tour. "And whatever happens I should be well refreshed to take on whatever is going on in the new year.
"The guys here have given us their full backing. If anyone is saying they want to get out of the bubble, they will try their best to accommodate it. We have a T20 World Cup coming up, and an Ashes, so I think we'll prioritise the tournaments coming up."