Buttler eyes chance to press fading Test claims
Barely a month to go before England depart for their Ashes defence and the middle-order batting is in a mess. Regardless of whether it is of the selectors’ own making – and not all of it is – the players sense it.
There are places still to play for and their feeling is that the one-day series against West Indies, which starts on Tuesday, could yet play its part in who boards the plane for Australia. It has stirred Jos Buttler, for one, to contemplate a winter in Australia rather than plane hopping round various Twenty20 tournaments.
“As we have seen, any format of international cricket that you perform in gives you a chance to be selected in other formats,” he said. “For a lot of guys this one-day series is very good timing, it’s before a huge winter in all forms of the game and good performances won’t do you any harm.”
Buttler is a phenomenal one-day cricketer, a batsman to compare with any in the world, the power, timing and sheer talent indisputable. Whatever the old-fashioned purists cum curmudgeons may think, it is perverse that he has not yet translated these qualities into a substantial body of work in the longer form.
First to be anointed as successor to Matt Prior in the Test side, Buttler was dropped in favour of Jonny Bairstow because his batting became so indifferent. Bairstow has seized the opportunity and is probably going nowhere in the foreseeable future.
With Ben Foakes of Surrey hotly tipped for the reserve wicketkeeping berth, it is possible that the selectors have a longer term plan to promote Bairstow in a fragile lineup and relieve him of the gloves. Still only 27, Buttler’s chances of resurrecting his Test career may depend purely on his batting (and, it has to be said, his stupendous fielding).
Yet the key to longer form batting has somehow eluded him. In a first-class career that began in 2009 he has scored four hundreds, as many as he has in oneday internationals. In three matches this summer, he has again struggled. “I have known my own game in one-day cricket for a number of years,” he said. “In redball cricket it is still frustratingly something I’m trying to work out.”
He is mildly equivocal on the matter of the Ashes. There will be plenty of employment without the tension, in the reinstituted Bangladesh Premier League and perhaps in the Big Bash in Australia. “I was a child of the 2005 Ashes and that is still the best series of cricket ever and I was part of an Ashes series in 2015. For any English or Australian player you know what it’s all about and the Ashes is still the main thing.
“But there is so much exciting cricket going on worldwide now that you can be a part of. There is no point sitting at home worrying about why you don’t get picked or feeling sorry for yourself.”
Short-form specialist: Jos Buttler says he is still trying to work out red-ball cricket but has not given up hope of a Test recall