High hopes as England captain has clearly affected 'batsman' Jos Buttler

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Jos Buttler is not having a good time with the bat for England.

ICC

High hopes as England captain has clearly affected 'batsman' Jos Buttler

So far, since Jos Buttler took charge as England's limited-overs captain last month, he has not made any substantial impact in 12 attempts to inspire his side, not even once. However, the hope is he will grow into his role and rediscover his old-self with time, at least as a batsman if not skipper.

During IPL 2022, Jos Buttler was like a rockstar for the Rajasthan Royals with his impeccable hand-eye coordination and quick feet. The swashbuckling batter accumulated 863 runs at a strike rate of 149.05 and an average of 57.53, with four centuries and as many half-centuries. 

There, Buttler’s flat and low sixes were getting even better clean connections with the ball than his previous hittings at other competitions. Not to forget, his previous best IPL campaign came in 2018, when he enjoyed en route to reaching 548 runs, which was much lower than his latest aggregate.  

Considering Virat Kohli’s uncharacteristic form in the international circuit since 2020, many had predicted it would be Buttler’s cricketing world that everybody was set to live in post-IPL 2022. Adding to that, he is not a newbie in this sport. In fact, the impact he makes with such audacity so frequently at the highest level, particularly in limited-overs cricket, was compared with MS Dhoni’s idiosyncratic finishing skills at the 2019 World Cup. But out of nowhere, ever since he was appointed as Eoin Morgan’s successor for England, it all seems like every bit of charm around him has gone.

Buttler’s full-time captaincy tenure with England began in the best possible scenario. Riding on Jonny Bairstow’s heroics, they pulled off a miracle under Ben Stokes by chasing a record-breaking 378 against a star-studded Indian attack at Edgbaston, that too just a day ahead of the T20I series opener against the Men in Blue. But afterwards, whatever happened around English cricket can only be termed as utterly disappointing. 

On his first assignment as skipper, the then in-form Buttler got off to the worst possible start by falling for a golden duck. Then he scored five-ball four and nine-ball 18 in the next two outings. Thus, making little impact in a series that England lost by 2-1, the debate around ‘does the burden of captaincy affect Buttler’s batting’ started to get whispered among former players and pundits.

In the ODI leg against India just after the T20Is, Buttler’s tally of 93 runs at 80.34 did not match his lofty standards either. Thus, after failing to lead by example, England ended up as the losing side again by the same margin. But this time, the series defeat was more significant because they are the reigning world champions in this format. More importantly, it was only their third ODI series defeat at home since 2015.

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At this point, one may consider that it is still early days for Buttler to be judged. However, what followed in the next limited-overs series against South Africa did not justify the statement. In the ODI leg against the Proteas, Buttler could only manage 31 runs from three outings, and then 65 runs from three T20Is.

Now let us come to the only positive aspect of Buttler’s woes. All four series – two against India and two against South Africa – were played in less than a month. Sometimes, within a space of such a short span of time, that too against two quality sides, even potent lineups can fail to get positive results. These England results were simply synonymous with that case.

But England’s recent outcomes have no connection with Buttler’s slump. In T20s, he has already been entrusted the opening role permanently, and his duty is to get his side off to a flying start. But in all six combined attempts against two different opponents, he failed to prosper even once. Moreover, his batting records in the middle order in the 50-overs format against the same sides were not great either. Thus, there is little doubt about the fact that Buttler has yet to become an inspirational leader for England. He may not be too far behind, but surely, that has not happened yet.

"I think it is a reality check. We haven't played our best cricket by a long stretch and I don't think we have been able to impose ourselves. We can't live in the past and pat ourselves on the backs for the changes that have been made in English cricket and the successes we have had. It's about looking forward, trying to chase the best teams in the world and being at the forefront of that," Buttler told reporters after the South Africa series defeat, reported by Sky Sports.

"You don't want to overreact to situations but you could sense the frustration around the ground with the 'get on with it, England' chants. You don't want to be associated with that. It is the first time I have heard that for a very long time, so that frustration around the group shows we weren't managing to put on the show we want to put on. You can cope with losing but you want to make sure you stay true to what you believe in and I think we fell well short with the way we played.

"The disappointing thing was the way we went down. We lacked intent and confidence and didn't put the opposition under pressure. We never managed to fire shots and wrestle the initiative. I think that bit of timidness is probably the thing we are frustrated with most. We want to be a team that wants to be brave and take risks. We have to work out where that lack of consistency comes from. Whether it's over-confidence or lack of confidence, we have not been able to back up performances. As individuals and as a team we have not played our best. The first place I would look is myself. I want to lead from the front as captain and I know I haven't performed at the level I would like to," he added.

Ahead of the upcoming T20 World Cup in October, England still has 10 more fixtures to prepare themselves for the next big-ticket event. They are set to play seven of them in Pakistan, starting from mid-September and then, their next stern test before the tournament will be a three-match series against hosts Australia. Like almost every former English skipper had echoed after Morgan’s retirement, Buttler, with all sense, is the right man to take up the baton for their country. But with the way things are going on, that too on a continuous basis, it does not look bright for them, at least till now.

Let us re-witness your not-so-old vintage unencumbered version, Buttler. You already know all the tricks and drills.

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