How Jos Buttler has brought a bit of culture to England’s Test team

We’ve always said that Jos Buttler seems much, much safer at the crease – and a far more reassuring presence for England fans – when he’s just standing there spanking sixes, all bionic eyes and adamantium wrists.

We wrote about this in 2015 and Buttler himself seems to have been paraphrasing us all week when explaining his recent Test competence.

Bat like Buttler

Buttler’s unique selling point is surprisingly reliable irresponsible batting. For most batsmen, risk increases exponentially with every attempted step up in scoring rate, whereas for Buttler, the relationship appears to be more linear.

When Buttler scores twice as quickly, he is perhaps twice as likely to get out. If anyone else tries to do the same, they’re about ten times more likely to get out.

Jos Buttler’s version of risky batting isn’t really all that risky when weighed against the likely returns, so it’s best if he feels that it is a legitimate and acceptable option.

“Fuck it”

During the last Test, TV coverage gave us a glimpse of the message “fuck it” on the top of Buttler’s bat handle.

We can already sense the meaning of the message being subtly twisted as people hear about it second and third hand.

What the message isn’t: Jos Buttler is not a carefree T20 specialist who doesn’t give a shit, expressing to the world how little he cares.

What the message is: Jos Buttler cares slightly too much and the message is a reminder to himself that only when he feels liberated can he give a proper account of himself.

(The ‘fuck it’ thing has been covered in loads of place this week. Our favourite piece was Ali Martin’s, because starting a mainstream media article with ‘Fuck it’ really unbalances any readers who don’t know why you’re saying it. An article that starts ‘Fuck it’ could go in a very surprising direction. Every time we’ve read ‘fuck it’ in one of these articles, we’ve heard it in a John Goodman voice in our mind’s ear. It’s funny to imagine that the full message might be ‘Fuck it, dude. Let’s go bowling,’ because bowling is one cricket thing that Jos Buttler has very rarely done. (Career record: two overs, no wickets for 12 runs.))

No, really – bat like Buttler

The other thing that happened in the last Test was that other people started batting like Jos Buttler.

That isn’t to say that Alastair Cook started ramping yorkers through his eyelashes. It was just that everyone started batting way out of their crease to negate the Pakistan bowlers’ swing and seam.

The results were ostensibly unspectacular, but most batsmen got some runs – which isn’t something you’ve often been able to say about England in recent times.

It strikes us that having a diverse batting line-up is very healthy as it means the team as a whole has access to a wider variety of ideas about how to score runs in any given set of circumstances.

As the divide between England’s red and white ball teams has become more pronounced, the Test team in particular has become a sterile monoculture of first-class specialists. Test cricket is the format in which you must be most adaptable and having different voices and different ideas within the team cannot be a bad thing.


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29 Appeals

  1. Having Buttler in the team will also likely bring new people to test cricket in a way that Cook can’t and that can only be a good thing.

    England’s team is richer for having him in it with license to play.

    • Yes, absolutely.

      I can’t help but be incredibly annoyed at Stuart Board for taking on that hook and thereby probably robbing us of half an hour of Buttler in full fuck-it mode. A quick 150 not out before lunch would’ve been pointless and glorious.

    • King Cricket

      June 5, 2018 at 7:38 pm

      It’s tricky though because there is also great joy in seeing Stuart Broad play his low percentage but always spectacular hook shot.

  2. I don’t think I have ever wanted someone to succeed at Test cricket more than I want Buttler. Firstly, because it will be awesome – that last half hour of his innings on Sunday was brilliant. Secondly, it will help Test cricket keep that image of relevancy – you want the best T20 players to be succeeding at Test cricket too (eg De Villiers, Kohli) and vice versa (Williamson).

    But mostly because of the things you say above. Root is great. Cook is/was great. Bell was great. Atherton, Stewart, Thorpe, all great. But the only Test genius England have had in my lifetime is KP. He altered what you thought was possible and even how the game could be played, and there is no way that didn’t rub off on the players he played with.

    I’d noticed the fact that Buttler was the only one miles out of his crease and walking either down the wicket or across to the off side at Lord’s and that everyone was doing it in the 2nd Test too. That felt quite KP like.

    • You said Bell WAS great.

      You meant Bell IS great, of course.

      Don’t worry. We all make mistakes.

    • Wanting certain players to succeed is, for me, a fundamental part of the cricket loving experience. There are numerous, nuanced and often irrational factors which decide who is the object of desire, not necessarily including how important his success would be to the team. Like your favourite band, though, I think the intensity of this investment of passion peaks in your teens. I too would love Buttler to make a success of test cricket, but I find myself feeling a little sad that I will never want it with the same fervour as I felt for, say, Martyn Moxon or Paul Jarvis in their day.

      • Dom Bess and Chris Woakes seem to have replaced the players I want to succeed for the time being.

      • Not quite as beautiful, but irrationally wanting people to fail is also a key aspect for me. I have no idea why, but it almost pleases me when Malan or Billings fail. They both seem like lovely chaps, Billings especially, I just don’t like them.

      • Disgraceful thought, Steve.

        Write 100 lines…

        …or whatever the modern equivalent is, now that computers have rendered replicating lines on a page a simple and rapidly implementable task.

  3. Overall it was a much more intelligent and thoughtful performance by England, batting and bowling. Much as Pakistan were excellent in the first test, we played like total morons in all aspects, and that’s usually not a recipe for success.

    Buttler his the ball more cleanly and sweetly than any other England player I have ever seen. It’s an amazing talent and he has to be allowed a few failures and a poor run of form at some point – in the long run it’ll be worth it.

  4. I was hoping this was going to be about him picking up a dahi habit while in Jaipur or something.

  5. So what does this say about Ed Smith’s instincts?

    • I did enjoy one of Ed’s lines about the Buttler pick, which went along the lines of “Buttler averaged 32 in tests but everyone we picked since has averaged 25”

  6. Culture. eh?

    I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the difference between a bowl of decent yoghurt and the Australian cricket team.

  7. Surely you mean if anyone else tries to do the same, they are about 8 times likely to get out? (Or 7.39 times if you want to get rid of the “about”). We can’t have math errors. Not on this site, not now. I can only assume you were drinking when you wrote that paragraph.

  8. I’ve been wondering if England manages the mental /softer side of its players in the best way possible. Right from Ramprakash, Hick and even Bell, to the inglorious exits of Trescothick, Trott, Swann, Monty, KP, Freddie’s rapid devolution; Strauss looked shot, Root doesn’t seem to enjoy captaincy, Stokes looks increasingly sullen, right down to the best piece of advice for Buttler being ‘Fuck it’ on his bat handle.

  9. Following on from that: who was the last England player who had a ‘full’ career and retired on their own terms?

    • Strauss pretty much did didn’t he? Retired from ODI cricket after a World Cup and then did at least choose to retire from Test cricket even if it did feel a bit jumping before he was pushed.

      Collingwood in Tests I suppose, although he was gradually removed from ODIs. Seem to remember him basically being a mascot in the 2011 World Cup

      Certainly hasn’t been the wonderful blaze of glory farewell of a Hussain or Stewart in a good while though

    • Should happen for Cook, Anderson and Broad.

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