Have England overhyped Jos Buttler?

You’d think that there would be near total unanimity amongst England fans towards one of their rising stars, Jos Buttler. He’s an aggressive batsman who looks in tune with the demands of modern cricket, yet his wicket keeping is at times sloppy and remains a work in progress. He showed both comments to be true during England’s recent ODI series win over New Zealand.

Jos Buttler's batting alone warrants his selection in England's ODI team

Jos Buttler’s batting alone warrants his selection in England’s ODI team

He blazed an ultra-aggressive century in the first fixture; a Man of the Match 126 that propelled England towards their first ever 400+ score. In the fourth, he put down a relatively straightforward chance diving to his left off Brendon McCullum.

That followed on from a howler of a missed stumping in the final Test of England’s Caribbean tour, when Jermaine Blackwood, on four, charged out to attempt to slog Joe Root, only to charge past the delivery. He was in no man’s land as the ball ricocheted off Buttler’s gloves for a bye. Blackwood went on to score 47* in a match winning partnership with Darren Bravo. It was a pivotal moment.

I felt keenly sorry for Buttler. He is a terrific batsman with an attacking élan that has been missing from England’s game in the past 18 months or so. He doesn’t bat with fear, rather optimism. If you were drafting a World ODI XI, his name warrants, at the very least, serious consideration.

Yet England have been a bit hasty with him in Test cricket. In the weeks before his Test debut at Southampton against India last summer, England captain Alastair Cook declared that he was not ready for Test cricket. As regards his keeping, that is still true.

His batting, too, has been hampered by a selection policy that saw him bat as low as eight in the Caribbean. That, plainly, is ridiculous. If he is to play in the Test XI, you have to play to his strongest suit; his batting. His return of 474 runs in eight Tests at an average of 52.66 represents the highest average of any player in history with over 400 runs, yet to register a century.

And he won’t get too many opportunities batting at eight.

Whilst he is a leading light of the ODI revolution currently sweeping through the England side, his keeping, if that is to be his long term role, would have been better served with some practice keeping for his County, Lancashire. That, after all, was the sole reason for him leaving his home County, Somerset.

Craig Kieswetter was the preferred gloveman of the Cider Boys. Buttler was forced to move north to get exposure to keeping in four day cricket. He was swiftly making his Test debut before he’d even sized up his gloves at Lancashire. Instead he has been left to learn his trade on the most demanding platform of them all: Test cricket.

That scarcely seems fair. Given that England have 17 Tests this year, could they not have selected a short-term specialist? Someone like James Foster? He could bat at eight and he wouldn’t have missed the stumping of Blackwood.

That would have given Buttler time to play red ball cricket for Lancashire and focus on batting at his brilliant best in England’s ODI side.

Buttler's keeping is far from the finished product. It seems unfair that he should be learning his trade in Test cricket and batting down the order

Buttler’s keeping is far from the finished product. It seems unfair that he should be learning his trade in Test cricket and batting down the order

Is Buttler going to be England’s long term ODI keeper, though? He merits inclusion on his batting alone. Sam Billings has been brought into the side and is a competent keeper as well. Jonny Bairstow, England’s hero in the New Zealand decider, was drafted in to replace Buttler and is the better keeper.

This wouldn’t be a bad direction for England, and Buttler, to move in. The likes of McCullum and Kumar Sangakkara only batted to their full potential upon surrendering the gloves. To allow Buttler to fully focus on his batting would be beneficial in the long term, even if it could result in his omission from the Test team in the short term. What sort of batsman could he become with full exposure to the Big Bash and IPL, though?

To answer the question at the top, England have overhyped Buttler’s keeping. In doing so, they have under-hyped his batting. There is plenty of room for an England ODI XI with both Bairstow and Buttler in it. There is little point in an England Test XI with Buttler batting at eight.

By Miles Reucroft

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5 comments on “Have England overhyped Jos Buttler?

  1. Buttler is a fine player but, yes, he has been over hyped.
    His abilities as a ruthless hitter are not in question but I think he needs time to develop a batting style more nuanced to suit circumstances.
    There are some signs that he is making progress with his batting in the longer form of the game; however there is no doubt in my mind that Bairstow is the better batsman, as opposed to hitter. Anyone who saw Bairstow’s prettily fluent century against HAMPSHIRE or his magnificent hundred against MIDDLESEX on a very challenging wicket will be in no doubt about his immense abilities. He must be very close to selection for the Test team as a specialist batsman.
    I was delighted that he vindicated himself against New Zealand in the recent one day international at Chester-le-street. That performance may have a positive effect on Buttler, if he recognises that his position in the team is under some threat.
    It occurs to me that there may be room in the 50 over side for both players.
    Buttler’s wicket keeping is modest. There was little to separate he, Kieswetter and Bairstow at one time. In the past year or so, I have seen considerable improvements in Bairstow’s keeping. Some indication of that was evident when he played last Saturday for England. He is far from the finished article and there are several better keepers in the County Championship; however, he is, now, a better keeper than Buttler.
    So what’s to be done?
    In this apparently shiny new age of attacking cricket Buttler must play. He will be a more obvious choice in all forms of the game if he can add a little more circumspection to his massive power hitting.
    In the longer form of the game there is no significant argument yet to deny Buttler his place in the team. Nevertheless, his performances must come under scrutiny and a case for Jonny Bairstow may well gather a head of steam. He is very special.
    In the 50 over game there is surely a case to play both of them. If that happens, I would select Bairstow to keep wicket and expect Buttler to bat a little higher up the order. I would make a similar case for the 20 over game.

    Buttler is a very fine cricketer; an exceptional talent – but there is another hugely talented player who has been ignored in the over hyping of Buttler. Perhaps the time has come to give Bairstow his due – and his place in the sun.

  2. Some very interesting comments and observations.

    I for one feel that Buttler’s name should be amongst the first on the team sheet across all formats. Having had the pleasure to witness first hand his sublime hundred at Lords against Sri Lanka last summer this guy is a remarkable talent. He isn’t a biffer or a slugger like some of the big ODI specialists and has far more about him that say Maxwell for instance who lacks technical ability. He plays proper shots and his timing is exceptional.

    The instance in the West Indies was unfortunate and one that a more experienced keeper may well have taken advantage of. However, I still don’t think England would have changed the result had that wicket fell and if we’re discussing missed chances for England in the field is there anyone not culpable? This trip to Spain with Bayliss I am expecting to be solid fielding drills. The number of dropped chances is beyond ridiculous now and focusing on one chance I think misses the point that across the board it isn’t good enough. This is apparently one of Bayliss’ strengths and expectations will only increase now.

    With regards to bairstow I think he is also a talent and I think will be a big part of the test side but not just yet. He has had 14 tests already and his problems with the short ball as well as his deficiencies against the yorker meant that he needed to go away, address the problems, score loads of runs in the championship and then get another go. I really rate JB but I think he’ll take Ballance’s place and Root eventually makes the move to 3.

    Buttler batting at 8 is ridiculous but until they work out whether Cook backs Moeen or Rashid the England line up will be disjointed. A 5,6,7 of Root, Stokes and Buttler is mouth watering ahead of the summer.

    There is no doubt that Buttler still has considerable work to do on his keeping and the central contracts again hinder player’s development and experience. He is completely worth backing though whilst he learns. If he was Australian he’d be guaranteed a place for the next few years. Gilchrist dropped chances and missed stumpings initially and he didn’t turn out too badly.

    There is some genuine talent coming through in this country at the moment as we have seen against New Zealand over the last couple of weeks. I think it’s time to start focusing on the positives rather than looking at a couple of mistakes.

  3. I see a future for Buttler in Tests as well, but he’s not ready for the present. A short-term solution of an experienced keeper for this most challenging of years should have been brought in, with Buttler the long-term successor. Bairstow has been sent away to work on his game in County cricket – and it has worked. The same should be applied to Buttler. In the long run, it will benefit everybody. He’s an automatic selection for the ODI side and rightly so since his batting demands his inclusion. In Tests, that just is not the case right now. It is unfair on him to expect him to learn his trade in Test cricket. It is also ridiculous. It also diminishes the worth of County cricket since the only reason he moved to Lancashire was to gain wicket keeping experience; experience he has since mostly gained whilst playing Test cricket.

  4. Madness.

    Is this simply because of the dropped catch? Again I watched Buttler recently against New Zealand in the Test Series and his keeping was outstanding. England conceded 60 extras in that innings and without Buttler and his quite phenomenal diving takes down leg side there would have been over 100 extras.

    Why can he not learn his trade in test cricket? Plenty have done this over the years and whilst I think its lovely that you’re thinking of him throughout this I have a feeling he would strongly disagree.

    Again I reiterate why are we debating a player’s place in the test side when I think he would walk into almost every other test playing nations side. I could understand it if there was genuinely a world class keeper being kept out of the side but there isn’t. Bairstow has improved but his keeping in the Ashes in Australia was poor, along with his batting which is why he isn’t in the current side. Buttler is and should remain there for a long time.

  5. I would have gone with a short term solution – James Foster. He’s 35, knows his game, is an exceptional keeper and his batting is good enough for a Test no8. Be England’s keeper for 2015, then reassess the situation.

    This is not just about a single dropped catch. Buttler’s work standing back is improving, but his work standing up to the stumps remains sloppy. His move to Lancashire was engineered to improve his keeping, it should have remained that way. He’s 24, learning a difficult craft. He could come back at 25 and be England’s keeper/batsman for 10 years. What’s the hurry? Draft in a specialist keeper for the interim, whilst England bat so deep anyway with Moeen Ali as the chosen spinner.