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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Us Open -

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

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