'He is one of my favourites... he is a class act.'
Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards rates a batsman it's fair to say that
he may have something, and it's hard to argue with the great man when considering the extraordinary hand-eye talents of Jos Buttler. Richards
himself was one of the first players to walk outside his off stump to
the faster bowlers and flick the ball from his toes to the fine leg
boundary. Buttler plays a new age, supercharged version of the same
shot, and perhaps King Viv recognises his fearlessness.
Buttler, in this early phase of his international career, either
dominates or gets out.
In the generational turnover of
talent England are in a downward cycle, and it's compounded by their rigid perception of what that talent should look like. A new way is coming, and
it's only natural that players will make themselves known in a different
manner - David Warner and Steve Smith are at the leading edge of the
England cannot afford to waste Jos Buttler, and by encouraging
him to keep wicket they are not adding to his value but confining it. He should give it up.
Anyone wanting to bat seriously in the top order in Test cricket can't
keep wicket too. The matches are too close together, the series
condensed by the demands of other formats. Even the masterly de
Villiers can get no higher than five with
the gloves, and, like Sangakkara, he's surely going to jettison them
Buttler is a long way removed from such company but
there is a glint of something special, as Richards has said. England
have tacitly acknowledged an impending future of prosaic batting in
their urge to have Eoin Morgan play Test cricket again. A top order that
one day contains him and Buttler crackles in a different way.
The only prosaic part of Buttler's game is his keeping. It's
painful to watch his unsuitable physique put through its stresses and
his restrained character forced into its cheerleader role. The real
giveaway though, is the sound. The ball whispers its way into the gloves
of a natural keeper. In the West Indies, outfield throws smacked into Buttler's and then shivered uncomfortably
down the stump mikes.
England have an odd attitude to keepers. For a side that believes
in the advantage of marginal gains, they don't see them as coming from
behind the sticks (I have an alternative theory). Graeme Swann, just out of the dressing room, probably gave
away the current view on Buttler's position when he said on radio last
week: 'Jos Buttler is not ready for the Test side as a keeper or a
batsman... Jos needs two
or three years with Lancashire. I think it could set him back to throw
him in now.'
This at least is true. He should be offered
the chance to fulfill his potential as a batsman, starting with a season
of opportunity in first class cricket along with his international
white ball commitments. England need to look again at Craig Kieswetter
and also Steve Davies, who might become genuinely effective at seven in
Test cricket and who are superior keepers.
Most of all, Andy Flower, in his position of almost unprecedented
influence over coaching and theory, could think hard about exactly how
the new generation of batsman are going to manifest themselves. It will
almost certainly be in T20 cricket and the criteria for judging Test
match potential should shift along with that.
always be the de Villiers and the Kohlis, the Sangas and the Pujaras,
who are to the manor born. But the last decade has brought Pietersen,
Warner, Steve Smith, Eoin Morgan, Shikhar Dhawan and others that began
far less conventionally.
When the notion of David Warner wearing the Baggy Green was
inducing not only
ridicule but indignance, Virender Sehwag, avatar of modern batsmanship, said that he'd be a better Test player than he was a T20 hitter. 'All
the fielders are around the
bat,' Sehwag told Warner. 'If the ball's there in your zone, you're still
going to hit it.
You're going to have ample opportunities to score runs. You've always
got to respect the good ball, but you've got to punish the ball you
He wasn't far wrong, was he? It's not a
bad place for Buttler and Flower to begin.