Buttler can challenge Dhoni as white-ball game’s greatest player
Batsman has the brain to go with array of strokes and is able to win matches on his own from any position
Jos Buttler is developing into England’s M S Dhoni, and I have long said he is our best-ever white-ball cricketer. Kevin Pietersen and Graham Gooch were great one-day players, but in my time watching the game, I have never seen a better English white-ball batsman than Buttler.
What sets him apart is not just his vast array of strokes, but his tempo. Against Australia on Sunday, he went up and down the gears as the situation demanded. He started slowly, then he got a move on and then he scaled it back, picking his moments to play the big shots and take a risk.
He is excellent when a new batsman comes in. He goes down the gears, allows his partner to settle in, ensuring England do not lose another wicket and have two new players at the crease.
He understands when his partner needs a helping hand and can hit out when the team require a boundary. I have not seen an England player with so many boundary options. Most can hit a length ball both sides of the wicket, but he can hit it 360 degrees. We did not see a trick shot on Sunday, just pure, orthodox batting. When he plays like that, he is making high-risk shots low-risk.
Buttler is in the handful of players in the world who can win a game for his team. He is alongside AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Aaron Finch, David Warner and Chris Gayle. There is very little the opposition can do when those players put in a really top-quality performance.
Even against Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, Buttler wins the game when on form. Normally, players need a helping hand, but Buttler can win a game on his own.
He has improved because he now understands how to control his emotions better. The more you play T20 cricket, and the more times you put yourself in tense situations, the better you become at dealing with the pressure.
Buttler believes he can win from any position of difficulty. He knows when to attack, when to sit in, which bowlers to take on, which ones to back off from.
Opponents have to take risks to get him out. Australia spread the field, which let him play his game. If you let him knock the ball into gaps, when he knows he can hit a boundary at will, it is game over. You have to force him into playing a high-risk shot to make a mistake.
I would be very aggressive towards him. Fast yorkers or bouncers into his head. He is so good at moving the ball around. He never stands in the same position for two balls running, he is always shimmying around the crease, going off side or leg side. You just have to go at him hard with the new ball when he is opening.
Dhoni is the best white-ball player I have seen because of how he could read situations, keep wicket and captain. I think Buttler, in time, is going to put himself into Dhoni’s category. His keeping is not quite as good, so he has work to do there. Being behind the stumps is the best place to read the game from. It must help your batting to have kept on a pitch before you bat. You have 20 overs of seeing the ball coming through.
Buttler’s Test form has helped. It was the final piece of his mental confidence. You want to be an all-format cricketer. Knowing he is a regular pick in all formats will be huge for his white-ball game, too.
Buttler is an outstanding opener in T20. I just worry about this England team in the middle of an innings if he gets out early. He can play in the middle order better than anybody, and we have enough other players who can hit out at the top.
I understand the argument for him opening is that if he can get to the 10th over he can go on to make a hundred. But I just do not know if others can play his role from the 10-over mark.
If he plays like he did on Sunday and England have a good Twenty20 World Cup next year then it will have worked, but it is the only question I have over this team. Can they find another Buttler in the middle?
Mr Versatile: Jos Buttler can go up and down the gears as a game situation demands