Ganguly: England have to get Buttler in
Jos Buttler looks set to return to England’s Test side as a specialist batsman. Buttler, who was dropped as wicketkeeper a year ago, has only played one first-class game since but such is the England management’s belief in his ability – and, just as importantly, the modest form of the alternative options – that he looks certain to be recalled for the third Test against India in Mohali.
The man to make way will be Ben Duckett. While the England coach, Trevor Bayliss, remains a believer in Duckett’s natural talent, his struggles against spin appear to have convinced the team management that to subject him to further exposure could damage his long-term development. He has scored 18 runs in the three innings he has played in the series against India and seen a technical weakness against quality offspin from R Ashwin exposed in merciless fashion.
There are only two spare batsmen in the squad: Gary Ballance, who was dropped after the Bangladesh portion of the tour, and Buttler.
For all Buttler’s ability, he has an oddly modest record in red-ball cricket. He only once reached 30 in his last 12 Test innings (his highest score in that period was 42) and he has a first-class average of 32.07; notably lower than Chris Woakes’.
But the team management have long believed that his problem was temperamental rather than technical. They hope that he will take the confidence he shows in limited-overs cricket into the longest format and will encourage him to play in that same positive manner.
“The one thing with Jos,” Bayliss said, “is that if he plays the same way as he does in one-day cricket, I think that’s the way ahead for him; red ball or white ball. I think he’s starting to get his head around that fact.
“He’s in the top echelon of destructive batters when it comes to white-ball cricket, and there’s no reason – if he can get his head around playing against a red ball – that he can’t do the same and put the pressure back on the opposition.”
Buttler’s lack of match practice is far from ideal. He played in one red-ball warm-up match in Bangladesh a month ago (he scored 4 in his only innings and was dropped once as well), but it remains an irony that a nation that plays as much and appears to plan ahead as England should find itself in such a position.
This predicament was created by an odd combination of events, though. First Buttler was encouraged to play in the IPL and then, just as he would have embarked upon a spell of County Championship cricket with Lancashire, he sustained a thumb injury in a T20 match against Worcestershire. But Bayliss hopes that his form in the nets can be transferred to a Test.
“He’s certainly hitting the ball very well in the nets,” Bayliss said. “Yes, we would have liked him to have a hit-out at some stage, but it is what it is these days. We’ve no time to fit one in. If he does come in I think he’ll give it his best shot.”
While Duckett looks certain to be dropped, Bayliss remains an admirer of his ability and his work-ethic and maintained that, aged 22, he has time to come again.
“I think he’s got a special talent,” Bayliss said. “Whether he plays the next match or not, I think he’ll play a lot more for England. Every level you get to, you go up. It gets harder and harder, and the step is bigger. Ben’s working harder than anyone in the nets to try to fix things up, getting himself into a position that he is confident enough to score runs.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo