England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler expressed delight over Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer re-joining the England squad and labelled both cricketers as x-factor players who lift the entire side. Buttler further spoke of the necessity to post gargantuan first-innings total playing against India.
A week ago, England completed a second consecutive whitewash of Sri Lanka to take their tally of continuous away wins to five, and they did so without two of their best players. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. Both of whom have been in bubbles since July and were rested for the Sri Lanka Tests, but the duo will be back for the four-Test series versus India, which will decide the fate of multiple teams in the World Test Championship. Both Stokes and Archer arrived in Chennai, from England, a week ago, and got out of quarantine today, free to resume training.
Addressing a virtual press conference ahead of the first Test, Jos Buttler welcomed the addition of both superstars and labelled the duo as x-factor players who galvanize the entire team.
"He [Archer] is certainly an X-factor player. Fantastic to have Jofra back in the side. He will be excited for the big series in India," said Buttler during a virtual interaction with the media on Saturday.
"I think we have a few guys who can do quite amazing things with the ball obviously. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are two of the best seam bowlers to have ever played the game. Jofra obviously is a huge X-factor. Ben Stokes is truly a pretty good X-factor player.”
England would need every bit of that x-factor from Stokes, who has been the team’s best batsman since the start of 2019, averaging over 50. He was a part of the side that got blanked 4-0 in 2016, and in that tour, Stokes and England understood that a first-innings total of 450 will never be enough to topple India in their own backyard. Buttler emphasized the importance of posting astronomical first-innings scores in India and admitted that he and the boys learnt a harsh lesson four years ago.
"There are times when the ball seams and swings in England and a big first-innings score can be 300. But in India, if it's a fantastic batting wicket then a good score in the first innings is 600-650. Root was a good example of us doing that in Sri Lanka with a double hundred and a 180. He showed us that you have to make the most of your first innings.
"When we played India here four-five years ago, we scored 470, but India scored over 700 with Karun Nair scoring a triple-hundred. So it's a great education about what comprises of 'big first-innings runs' in India and having the mindset and application in doing that."
Buttler will keep wickets for England in the first Test, and, after coming under fire for dropping catches last summer, the 30-year-old’s glovework saw significant improvement in the Sri Lanka tour. Apart from being solid against the pacers, Buttler took multiple sharp catches off spinners, something he quite did not do against the Windies and Pakistan six months ago. The ODI vice-captain revealed that he enjoys keeping wickets to spinners in the sub-continent.
"Keeping wickets is a big challenge, the way it deteriorates for five days, less carry for the seam bowlers than what we know in England or South Africa or Australia. You need to stand closer, and the chances are very quick-reactive chances.
“And obviously, the challenge standing up to the spinners, with the pitches turning. But it's also a great place to keep wickets because you feel like you're always in the game. Wicketkeeping in spinning conditions is a lot of fun,” the 30-year-old said.
Why Buttler will only be keeping wickets in the first Test is because he has, rather controversially, been rested for the last three games to manage his workload. The ECB have come under fire for their decision to ‘rest’ players versus India, but Buttler rushed to the defence of the board and insisted that it would be impossible for players to function efficiently without exiting bubble life every now and then.
"At times there is frustration because you want to see your best players on show all the time. (But) it is just not possible with the amount of cricket and amount of time spent in bubbles to keep people healthy doing that. It is important to look after yourselves. With so much uncertainty, I find it tough," he said.