Repeat display could turn this into Buttler’s last Test
Jos Buttler is at a stage where if he does not start performing quickly, England will have to turn to Ben Foakes. He cannot afford another week like he and England have just had in Southampton. He was inconsistent with the bat and behind the stumps, and England lost again. Any repeat and it could be his last Test.
I suspect he will be given the series because I think England will win the second Test, but Foakes is the better keeper and you cannot tell me he would not score the same amount of runs as Buttler has been managing recently.
The reason England have stuck with Buttler is the belief and hope he will fire like he does in one-day cricket.
Everyone wants Buttler to do well. He has more support than any other player. I have not met one person who does not want him to succeed. We all know he is a great lad, the perfect team man and hugely talented, but that does not mean he must be picked. He has to deliver.
Fundamentally, it reminds me of my white-ball career. I never thought I had the ability to play the white-ball game properly. I did not wake up in the morning desperately wanting to improve as a white-ball batsman. I was a red-ball player. I just wonder whether Buttler is asking himself if red-ball cricket is for him. We might also be getting to the stage where the selectors will think the same if he does not improve.
In the first innings in Southampton, he batted with the best balance and composure that I had seen from him for a long time in Test cricket. His head was over that front knee, solid as a rock. That is what you require. Just because he is coming in at No 7, he does not have to change his game. But in the second innings he came in and England were on the attack. He had seen Ben Stokes and Zak Crawley hit a few to the boundaries with the second new ball. It looked to me as if Jos came out on roller blades.
Even if you are trying to put the foot down, 95 per cent of the time in Test cricket you have to get yourself in.
My advice to him is to stick to the basics for the first 20 balls. Play the way he did in
I believe mental toughness means delivering the basics under pressure
the first innings in terms of mindset and balance. Hang in to stay in for those first 20 balls.
I heard Brian Lara say recently that in English conditions he used to give himself 20-30 balls to get in, regardless of the situation. If one of the greats of the game is giving himself 20-30 balls, why would anyone think that Buttler can crash it from ball one? It is impossible. It looked to me that in the second innings he came out trying to go after the bowlers. The fact is, in Test cricket he has not proved to be good enough to do that from ball one. There are slips in place. There are also greater consequences for making mistakes. He will be analysed more. In one-day cricket, players are encouraged to play shots from ball one. They can bat with freedom and, generally, without consequences if they mess it up.
But in Test cricket, players are analysed far more. People ask why a certain shot was played at a certain time – what was going through the batsman’s mind?
I believe mental toughness means delivering the basics under pressure. It is easy to be flamboyant and risky under pressure. You can say you are trying to swing the momentum your way. Nonsense. The best players produce the basics under pressure on a regular ball-by-ball basis. When they do that, they have success. Those that come out and are flamboyant are inconsistent and eventually lose their place.
Only Jos can get this right. Do I think he can change and be more consistent? Yes. The dropped catch in the second innings was a mind issue. He has the technical ability to take the catch, but his mind was not on it. He can change that. He has made similar mistakes behind the stumps in Test cricket, but generally his keeping has been pretty solid recently.
Let’s stop talking about ideal platforms for a No 7, and also end any comparisons with Adam Gilchrist. It is wrong and unhealthy for people to compare anyone to Gilchrist. Nobody in the modern game is close to replicating him. There is no ideal time to bat for Buttler; all he has to do is take it ball by ball and not think about the scoreboard. Whether he comes in at 50 for five or 300 for five, he still has to give himself that platform. It might help this week that he is not vicecaptain. He needs to play without any extra responsibility and concentrate on the basics of batting. That way he can save his place in the team.
Risky: Jos Buttler’s attacking approach in the second innings cost him his wicket too cheaply