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Jos Buttler: England's Test cricket messiah


Jos_Buttler_England_Test_cricketIt is no secret that England used to have stern views about a T20-specialist playing in the Test whites. Their scepticism was even more pronounced when it involved the IPL - a tournament that many Englishmen felt hampered the growth of domestic county cricket in their nation. Hence, when Kevin Pietersen opted to take part in the cash-rich tournament in India, then England coach Andy Flower aired his fierce thoughts on allowing England’s premier player to skip first-class cricket and ply his trade in another country.

A definite dividing line has existed between the followers of traditional cricket and the “slam-bang” version of the game. However, the initiative of new chief selector Ed Smith brought sweeping changes in the way cricket was viewed in England. The selection of Jos Buttler on the back of his IPL form - where he had scored 5 consecutive fifties for his Rajasthan Royals franchise to average 54 - was an important step.

Four first-class games in the last 17 months where he averaged only 17 are hardly numbers that call out for national selection. 18 Tests, the last of which came in England’s tour to India last year, is not something that warrants a number 7 position in the team either.

In the last ten years, England has played 127 Tests and played a specialist non-bowling or a non-keeping batsman at number 7 only 4 times and on all of those occasions, the batsman Buttler. With Flower overseeing proceedings as a temporary director of the England side in the England-Pakistan series as well, the onus was on Smith’s choice Buttler to stake a claim and help dissolve the rigid notions that a T20 player cannot taste success in the longest format.

As Buttler scraped through a clean-bowled from an inside edge in the first ball of his comeback at Lord’s, it was not surprising to see some smirk at the gamble that had been taken. However, a knock of adaptability and patience in the second innings, with England at 110 for 6, managed to change all of that. His 67 was a result of his temperament and his fearlessness, neither of which the County Championship could have imparted to him.

His Man-of-the-Match Award and match-winning 80 in the second Test further put to rest questions of his suitability. What was most remarkable in the knock was the way he transformed from an attacker to a stoic defender before the stumps on Day 2, and then from a cautious player the next morning to an attacker by the end of his innings. Equipped with a positive mindset and a sound technique, Buttler showed the way to play against seaming and reverse-swinging deliveries to his more illustrious teammates, who had gone 8 Tests without a win.

In the first game, he batted from outside the crease to nullify the swing bowling of Mohammad Abbas, who terrorised the other Englishmen. Buttler’s average point of contact with the ball was 2.14 meters ahead of the stumps, compared to his teammates who made contact 1.82 meters ahead of the stumps against pace. While staying back in the crease to play the swinging ball late gives the batsman more time to watch the ball, standing out of the crease reduces the risk of the late swing that has done so many batsmen in.

While at the crease, Buttler showed immense maturity and patience, something that seemed lacking amongst his teammates. The motivational words “F*** IT” written on top of his bat handle, like the “swing thought” in golf, was proof of a cricketer who lives by the mantra while smashing balls on the field, in a way that has made him the most complete T20 batsman after AB de Villiers.

“It’s just something that reminds me of what my best mindset is. When I’m playing cricket – and probably in life as well. It puts cricket in perspective. When you nick off, does it really matter? It’s just a good reminder when I’m in the middle, when I’m questioning myself, and it brings me back to a good place.”

They are words that remind Buttler the colour of the ball hardly matters. They are words that tell him that the world’s ideas of how a Test player should bat is of no importance. Buttler should play like Buttler, smashing and showing his positive intent in every delivery - something that Shane Warne, his mentor at Rajasthan Royals, advised him before he departed from India.

On the non-strikers end at Headingley, he kept shadow-practising his now-famous straight drive that had fetched him much success in India. A few balls later, he struck a Mohammad Abbas fuller delivery just as he intended. Pitched outside the off-stump, Buttler, displaying his skills from years of playing squash, smote it for a boundary to begin a storm of carnage of a type hardly associated with Test cricket. Four, six, one, one, one, four, four, dot, four, six, four. 35 in 11.

As he walked away a hero, unbeaten, he sent out a rather powerful message, especially to the likes of Flower: it is anything but wise to segregate the pool of cricket. Fishes of all variety, with all kinds of techniques, can swim together. And maybe, just maybe, England can face a stern Test calendar with the same f*** it attitude that the messiah has brought along with him.


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