Jos Buttler is coming of age in England’s Test side, and the mould-breaking gloveman insists there is still plenty more for him to offer in time for the Ashes.
Entering the Test arena almost a year ago against India, it was hard to know what to expect from a then 23-year-old with an already glowing one-day record and a reputation of smashing the white-ball around to all parts of the park.
But three fifties in his last five tests – including a stand-out 73 in England’s otherwise dismal second-innings batting display at Headingley on last week – and a Test average currently standing at over 52 shows that Buttler could well have a huge role to play when the Ashes start in just over four weeks’ time.
And rather than emulating the likes of former England hero Alec Stewart, who plied his trade from the top of the order while keeping wicket, Buttler sees himself more in the mould of Matt Prior and is relishing the diversity batting at No.7 offers him.
“I think I understood my one-day game a lot better than I did red-ball cricket to start with,” said Buttler, who last week launched Royal London’s summer of cricket, which includes the first Royal London One Day International, starting on Tuesday June 9 against New Zealand.
“For a long time I saw them as two different games, whereas now I’m trying to just play one game and have the same kind of mindset.
“That seems to have given me a lot more success, and given where I bat in the side you have to be ready to face a variety of different situations.
“Sometimes we might be 400-5 and you have the licence to go out and play exciting cricket, or at 100-5 and you need to either counter-attack or dig in.
“Then there are times you are trying to save the game, and as I’ve matured I’ve begun to enjoy those situations understand them more as well.
“I’ve added some maturity to my game in terms of being able to change paces of playing, and knowing what my strike-rate should be.
“The Test game ebbs and flows as well; someone may bowl very well at you or you may come up against someone you really want to attack, and you need to understand that flow.”
Buttler’s wicket-keeping credentials were questioned on his Test arrival, having served primarily as Craig Kieswetter’s deputy in his time at Somerset.
But his 2013 move to Lancashire transformed him into a frontline county gloveman, and he believes his improvement shows he can be the long-term successor to Prior behind the stumps under new England coach Trevor Bayliss.
He said: “I’m a work in progress with the gloves. I know that and I made the move to Lancashire in order to keep wicket more.
“My biggest frustration is that I’m not 35 years old and have 400 games of wicket-keeping to fall back on – I’m still learning.
“For England I’m coming up against situations that I’ve not experienced before as a wicket-keeper but you’ve got to expect that at 24 years old.
“All I can do is keep working as hard as I can and gaining more experience.”
For the time being however, Buttler will focus his attention on the Royal London One-Day Series against a New Zealand side led by swashbuckling skipper Brendon McCullum.
The Kiwis put in a remarkable performance at a World Cup that highlighted just how far behind the trend England were, and Buttler admits the new-look side can learn a lot from their opponents.
“You have to be brutally honest and say we were getting it wrong at the World Cup,” said Buttler, who also launched a brand new ECB grassroots cricket competition, the Royal London Gilbert Cup, which will see hundreds of Under 11s from across the country compete in an 8-a-side soft ball cricket competition throughout the season, culminating in a grand finale to be played at Lord’s during the interval of the One-Day Cup final in September.
“If we batted our best we were just about getting up to par and asking a lot of our bowling attack.
“We have to be looking at scores of 350 and upwards now. That’s the way the game is going, and in years to come we will be looking back at the World Cup just gone as a turning point.
“Obviously New Zealand were finalists, and Brendon McCullum changed the game in many respects the way he captained and came out to bat.
“Their brand of cricket was great to watch, but a couple of years ago you’d say they may not have played that way.
“That is important for England; we’ve seen another side do it and we can go in exactly the same direction.
“It’s very exciting for us to go up immediately against such a good one-day side, and it will give the new guys in the side a good indication of what international 50-over cricket is about.
“Obviously we want to win the series but whatever happens it can be a great learning curve, and everyone who has been picked is talking about wanting to play good cricket.”
Jos Buttler was speaking at the launch of the Royal London Gilbert Cup, a new grassroots U11 cricket tournament. www.royallondoncricket.com
Image courtesy of England Cricket via YouTube, whth thanks.