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With England crashing to an embarrassing defeat against India at Lord’s, Matt Prior, the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman has withdrawn citing fitness issues. Bharath Ramaraj explores whether his replacement, Jos Buttler can be the man who can turn things around for England in the Test series.
In 2010, when a 19-year-old from Taunton, Jos Buttler, walked to bat for his County, Somerset, in a List A game against Sussex at his home ground, opposition ranks seemed to be all over the hosts like a rash. Buttler though, played with frills and flourish of a 50-Test veteran who has lorded over the 22-yard strip for many years. Experienced bowlers like James Kirtley, Robin Martin-Jenkins, Naved-ul-Hasan Rana tried every trick in the trade, but were left gasping for breath as the wonder-kid was unstoppable. Somerset eventually, chased down the target of 292 runs in a mere 38.3 overs!
As Buttler weaved his magic with the willow, the sprinkling of skill and ability to handle the pressure was evident. James Hildreth – a fine player himself had a stupefied look on his face, while watching the 19-year-old bat from the the end that day. In short, the youngster just soared through the wild blue yonder and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to leave Sussex in a state of daze.
Buttler now has a trunk full of match winning knocks to his name in the shorter formats of the game. Recently, he even notched up the fastest hundred by an Englishman in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against Sri Lanka. With wicketkeeper-batsman, Matt Prior going through a bad patch, the clamour for Buttler’s inclusion in the Test squad increased. Eventually, Prior withdrew before the third Test against India at Southampton. It resulted in Buttler replacing him.
So, can Buttler, whose favourite player is Kevin Pietersen turnaround England’s fortunes like his idol? For all his magnificence in the abridged versions of the game, he still has a few question marks against his name in four-day cricket. His First-Class average stands at 33.32 which for primarily a batsman who can keep wickets isn’t great.
Craig Kieswetter, who himself is well short of being called the best wicketkeeper in England was preferred to Buttler at Somerset. Now it gives an inkling that Butler is still a work-in-progress as a wicketkeeper. With Lancashire struggling to find a replacement for the veteran, Luke Sutton and Gareth Cross not being able to make his presence felt, the County signed Buttler. It has at least meant that Buttler can play as batsman cum wicketkeeper.
Jos Buttler has abundance of talent, as he can play shots in a 360 degree-arc. However, he is still like a rough diamond that needs to be polished. Now, it would be unfair to expect him to be a messiah of English cricket and help them to level the series by winning the third Test at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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