England gamble on Buttler to do 'something special'

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How would Buttler fit into England’s side?

England have confirmed that Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes will return to the side for the third Test against India starting in Mohali on Saturday. Buttler comes in for Ben Duckett, who has been dropped, while Woakes replaces the injured Stuart Broad.

For Buttler it will be just his second first-class match since being dropped from the Test side against Pakistan in the UAE last year. He played once for Lancashire towards the end of 2016 season, having had plans to play Championship cricket earlier in the summer ended by a broken thumb.

“Jos is an extremely talented cricketer and we’ve all seen that in the one-day and Twenty20 format,” Alastair Cook, the England captain, said. “He’s right up there with the best short-form players in the world and he’s earned an opportunity to come and play here.

“It’s clearly not ideal because of circumstances and he hasn’t played a lot of red-ball cricket but sometimes when the pressure’s off and you just go out and play you can do something special.

Cook also said that using Buttler as wicketkeeper, and Bairstow as a specialist batsman after what has been a prolific year, was not discussed. “There was no temptation to give Jos the gloves back,” he said. “I think Jonny’s been outstanding and has settled in that role and done very well.

“But he had a glint in his eye when I said we’d like you to move up to five. It gives him more chance to bat. He bats at five and keeps at Yorkshire so he’s used to that role.”

Virat Kohli, the India captain, said he was surprised it had taken so long for England to bring Buttler back. “I was actually quite surprised to see him being left out after a couple of bad runs. I think he’s a very talented player and can do really well for England.”

The suggestion that Buttler has “earned” his recall will raise some eyebrows. While Buttler’s record in limited-overs cricket is very good – he is rated No. 12 in the official ICC ODI rankings and 20th in the T20I rankings – and his work ethic around the squad is excellent, he has hardly had an opportunity to push for a return in red-ball cricket.

He has not been able to prove that he has learned to build an innings or deal with some of the issues that saw him lose form. Buttler hasn’t so much earned his recall as won it by default, with Duckett and Gary Ballance having been dropped.

That raises questions about the balance of the squad on this section of the tour. The England camp were not committed to retaining the same squad from Bangladesh here so if they had come to a decision not to pick Ballance – and it appears they had – in India, it might have made sense to call up another player in his place.

Quite who that might have been is debatable. While England would love a player of Ian Bell’s talent and experience to have scored enough runs to justify his recall, it is hard to argue that he did.

Asked whether reinforcements might be called up before the final two Tests of the series, Cook replied: “I don’t think that will happen.”

Cook also had warm words for Broad, who produced an exceptional spell on the fourth morning in Visakhapatnam despite a foot injury. “You wouldn’t know that his foot was as bad as it was,” Cook said. “But the specialist’s advice is that there is a risk of it going totally and he would then be out for a period of time

“They were quite surprised how well he got through those four-and-a-half days after doing it in the third or fourth over of the match. If he played here and did more damage to the tendon in the second over then you’d look stupid.”

Describing the decision to drop Duckett as “a blip” in a promising young player’s career, Cook expressed confidence in his long-term future.

“Ben won’t be the only good player who has been dropped,” he said. “He has an England future, there’s no doubt about it, because he’s a very talented guy with a lot ahead of him.

“When I chatted to him he said he thought he was a pretty decent player of spin. And he is. But he just has an issue which unfortunately has been found out quite quickly which can happen in this part of the world in international cricket.

“He can go and address that and come again because he’s a very talented and exciting cricketer in all three forms. It’s just a blip in his career. He will have to work at his game, but he isn’t the first person who has to do that and he won’t be the last.”

Cook also confirmed that Zafar Ansari was not fit for selection but delayed naming a full side until he had taken the chance to inspect the pitch and decide whether a third spinner or fourth seamer would be more appropriate. On a dry, shaved surface though, it looks likely that Gareth Batty, the offspinner, will come into the side in place of Ansari.

Moeen Ali is to be promoted to No. 4 in the batting order and Jonny Bairstow to No. 5. Buttler will bat at No. 7. That means Moeen will have batted at every position in the top nine for England in Test cricket except at No. 3, which is where he bats for Worcestershire.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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