tThe stage is set for Jos Buttler. He turned 32 last month and is at his peak as a T20 batsman heading into the World Cup in Australia, his first as captain of England. He’s mentally matured after a calf injury and if he finds his best form, he has the potential to win the trophy almost single-handedly.
He spent England’s recent tour to Pakistan bowling balls and carrying drinks but is expected to return to the team in Perth on Sunday, for the first of four warm-up matches – three against Australia and one more against Pakistan – before the main event. Even for a team with England’s batting resources, his return will be transformative.
“I’ve had confidence in my game for a while,” Butler told Cricinfo. “I feel I have a good experience and a good understanding of the T20 game.” Earlier this year he produced one of the all-time greatest IPL seasons, scoring 863 runs including a record four centuries, and his career record now compares favorably with the all-time greats of the format.
When Butler broke out in Somerset more than a decade ago, it was his innovation that set it apart. He played the most daring shots English cricket had seen since Kevin Pietersen, reverse spinners and paddling seamers to create gaps and leave the opposition captains feeling one player short.
But since he began opening the batting more regularly in 2018, he’s become more orthodox, especially against the new ball. At the World Cup, you’re more likely to see Butler find a hole in the side ring with a back-foot punch or a cap drive than shuffling outside his sloping torso and skating on his short leg.
“I changed because of where I fought,” he says. “When you open the batting, you don’t need to risk as much to get the same reward. Obviously in a powerplay, there are only two players outside the 30-yard circle, so the pitchers’ hands are tied in that sense, and if you beat the pitch it won’t be There is no one on the border to stop them.
“You don’t have to take such big risks in the powerplay to be able to score at a certain rate. It’s a really good thing about my game that I’ve been in the middle order for a long time and now a fair bit in the top of the order too: I feel like I can try to marry my zone The game is the highest attempted bat for a long time in a T20 game.”
Butler has enjoyed remarkable and sustained success at the top of the rankings. Chris Gayle is universally accepted as the T20’s GOAT but Butler has the superior record as an opener: he’s more consistent (averaging 43.04 against Gayle’s 37.94) and more devastating (hitting 149.34 against Gayle’s 146.67).
In the IPL, he came close to batting perfection as he took Rajasthan Royals to their first final since 2008. “I had some really good conversations with Kumar Sangakkara [Royals’ director of cricket] About waiting for the time you feel like it, and understanding that you can still catch up if you need to,” Butler recalls.
“That period might come within five balls, but sometimes it might take 15 or 20 balls. We talked about not worrying about it, knowing I could catch up later if I had to, and that I could play differently once I got more comfortable with it. wrinkle.
“I think a lot of it has to do with swallowing your ego like a whack: not feeling like you’re there having to prove anything, but just playing what’s in front of you and what’s needed that day; not looking back and thinking ‘I ran yesterday, I have to go and do the exact same thing’.” Today.’ She’s very much playing the game in front of you.”
There were two distinct features of Butler’s approach to India. The first was a tendency to give himself three runs to go before accelerating through the second half of the powerplay, a method guided by circumstances and the Royals’ lack of hitting depth, with Trent Boult often carding into the eighth.
“Early in the tournament I could feel the ball swinging a lot, so I felt it was a tough time to bat for the first couple of matches,” he says. “So, tactically, it was about trying to get through that period of time, not taking too much risk when the ball was moving and then taking advantage on the back end of the powerplay if there was less movement. Risk management is a big part of hitting.”
Another was his ruthless targeting of bowlers, particularly when he spotted an inexperienced bowler he felt he could knock out. During his 17 innings, there were 12 occasions when Butler scored 15 or more points in one go, and four times when he scored 20 or more.
“It was definitely something I thought about more: those big overs, the confidence in my six-hit ability; looking at the West Indian players and, in general, how they got to more than six-overs compared to other teams. I saw that as a huge positive and a way to take the pressure off myself.” : to know that I have the ability to hit sixes.
“Perhaps it means I don’t risk as much on certain stages because I feel that at any stage of the round I can hit sixes in a row and look at what takes me in my score and stroke rate. I’m not more than I did in the past, or I’m waiting for the ball that’s in my area.”
Butler also changed his method during the chase, presenting a target in terms of the number of bounds he needed to reach the target rather than worrying about the required rate. “I’ve heard some players talk about it like ‘There are eight overs left, if we hit five sixes in that time, we’ll win the game.’ It’s just a different way of thinking.
“He actually came from Darren Bravo in the Bangladesh Premier League. He was in my squad and I remember him running out and saying that to Marlon Samuels. I hadn’t thought about that before. I was always thinking about how many runs we needed per over. I just found it was a way to take the pressure off” .
The next step in the evolution of T20 batting, Butler suggests, may be the refusal of individual batsmen to remain on strike when they believe the match is in their favour. “It’s something you see towards the end of innings quite a bit – [MS] Donnie’s used to it – but you’ll probably see that in early innings, too.”
“I am sure it will happen often: when someone does it with good success, it gives others confidence,” he adds. “The question is who wants to be the first mover.” Don’t bet on him being the butler himself. – Cricinfo