Will Jos Buttler prove that the best Test teams contain the best T20 players?

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That’s a terrible headline. It labels Jos Buttler a T20 player when a key aspect of the point we’re about to make is that players shouldn’t be categorised.

Over at Wisden, we’ve picked up almost exactly where we left off earlier in the week, arguing that England’s Test team would do well to draw on a wider range of experiences.

Take a look back on most of the recent Test debutants and first-class performances have generally been trumping international white ball performances as a selection criterion. The team has become more specialised and more focused and while that may seem like a positive, we’re saying that it also makes it homogenous and that homogenous means worse.

In recent times, adaptability and innovation have come to be seen as being synonymous with ramp shots and reverse sweeps because these things are ‘new’ and easy to identify.

But that’s not the case. Flexibility, improvisation and lateral thinking are not the sole preserve of T20 cricket. The truth is that the shortest format is the one in which players face the narrowest variety of conditions and match situations, whereas Test cricket is the one in which they must adapt the most.

Successful Test teams need people who can come up with solutions to problems on the fly and if all the free thinkers are drifting towards T20, Test teams would do well to try and reclaim a few of them.

Here’s the Wisden link again so that you can read similar sentiments expressed in a greater number of words.



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  1. I suppose it depends how to define “the best”. There are probably three categories of “the best”.

    The best dozen or so players
    eg Buttler, Rashid Khan, Kohli, De Villiers
    These players should be able to transfer their skills over, and in a lot of cases already have. Test cricket probably really needs them to both be able to and want to succeed at long format.

    Proper T20 specialists
    eg Narine, Russell, Lynn
    Players that forever reason are only really interested in developing T20 skills. Nothing wrong with that, but Narine is a fairly good example of someone that exclusively works on skills that will benefit him in short format. These players are usually underwhelming if they are ever given a chance in Test cricket

    Then there is a grey area in the middle – good T20 players that get franchise gigs but aren’t specialists. England alone have a huge list of them, Roy and Willey being prime examples. I do think it will be fascinating over the next few years as to which group players like that move into, I fear it will be the second one.

    1. Roy has always felt a bit more like a T20 batsman, a bit sloggy, a bit closer to Lynn than de Villiers, tinder if you will; whereas Buttler has promised greater things. I wouldn’t be sorry to lose Roy from F.C. cricket any more than I would, say, Colin Ingram.

      Willey is less of a cut-and-dried case. I’d have thought his left-arm swing would be too slow for Tests, but they’re playing Sam Curran now and Willey’s probably a better bat in any form of the game…

  2. The King seems in thrall to the Buttler these days, with 67% of the last three long-format pieces about JCB.

    I’m sticking with the tried and trusted ‘too much cricket’ argument – that’s one of the key factors that’s forcing players to specialise, along with the constant switching between formats, and marginalising the long format into April/May and September for the more lucrative (perhaps because it gets the chance to be?) LO stuff. Hey, it’s the money after all, isn’t it?

    No test cricket for (almost all of) June and July for two consecutive years? That really is insane.

    PS. the new(?) King Cricket on Twitter sidebar feature is a great way for us non-twitterers to keep up with importance regal tweetings. Maybe work have changed something which means I can now view it though.

    1. No, we added it this morning as a test.

      Glad to hear you like it, but long-term we reckon you’ll be unimpressed. It’ll mostly just be repeated links back to stuff you’ve already read.

  3. I think of it like this:

    supposing we have rare and prized skill of cooking mutton biryani. But is very specialized, takes lots of patience to let the mutton and spice flavors soak and mix with each other and also it is usually passed down within families and not open. To top it all it is also unhealthy and doctors advise to cutdown on its consumption

    since good quality mutton biryani is rarely available, there is a proliferation of cheaper quality of chicken biryani and which is usually prepared quicker by just mixing masala and rice last minute unlike traditional mutton biryani. It is also healthier because white meat (of course white meat is bland unlike red meat but still it is atleast meat)

    then we have a quickie, the “vegetable biryani”. Traditionalists claim that this is not “biryani” at all. But it is quicker to prepare, healthier, so it is distributed more widely despite all objections and tasting like garbage and violating all the cannons of cuisinary preparations.

    Now suppose there is an international mutton biryani cooking challenge at country level. If the number of specialist mutton biryani cooks are limited would you give opportunities to veg biryani cooks also in the mutton biryani cooking team?

    1. Is this the best analogy on King Cricket? It must be in with a shout, surely? Up there with Ian Bell the Wooden Spoon.

      1. So did CSK move to the Taj Krishna because that hotel allowed them to eat Rayudu’s home-cooked biryani…

        …or did they move there because word reached CSK that the Taj Krishna’s chef’s biryani is the cat’s pyjamas?

        The Hindustan Times is silent on those details and we really do need answers.

    1. Wongpaka also took 4-0-10-2 in Thailand’s earlier nine-wicket win over Malaysia, but wasn’t their most economical bowler – that was Sornnarin Tippoch who counted down 4-2-3-1. Malaysia managed 36/8 off their twenty overs, for a run-rate of 1.8. Not sure they got the memo about T20 being the “exciting” form of the game…

  4. Surely you could just condense it down to “The best teams contain the best available players regardless of the format they ‘specialize’ in” and leave it at that?

    Doesn’t make for much of a post though. Probably best that I don’t try to write a blog – it would be full of blinding flashes of the obvious.

    1. How do you define the best?
      Rohit Sharma can’t make it into test team
      Rahane about to be dropped from limited overs team

      1. That’s really just a headline. It’s about encouraging and nurturing diversity of thinking and how excluding all T20 “specialists” can have an impact.

      2. Sharma was given his chances, and can’t make it because he probably isn’t good enough. He has the strokes, but he doesn’t seem to have the temperament. A bit like Yuvraj. No one will say that Yuvraj wasn’t a wonderful player, but he couldn’t cut it at test level.

        Rahane might have lost form in limited overs games, and if that’s the case, he should be dropped. Doesn’t mean that he never comes back.

    2. Yeah, the point is not really that, it’s that when selectors put too much emphasis on performances in one format, they run the risk of creating a side that is not very diverse in its thinking. It is about what players contribute beyond their own runs and wickets.

      1. I do get where you are coming from KC, and I think that England selectors are the only ones that insist on this segregation in specializations.
        Which would be fine if they were winning everything, but they don’t, so this Buttler selection is a Very Good Thing.

      2. The format of the home season makes it an ostensibly logical thing to do. We’re slowly seeing the consequences though.
        They simply don’t have enough high quality players that they can spread them so thinly.

      1. I can claim mixed allegiance here Ged, being Welsh-born of an English father and Scottish mother. Whilst of course I like to see (the) England (and Wales Cricket Board team) win – my immediate reaction to Wood getting out was disappointment – the potential boost this will give to Scottish cricket far outweighs the impact of England losing a single ODI.

      2. I’d like Scotland to keep hammering teams, including England, until the ‘World’ Cup is expanded again. My only sadness is that Leask didn’t get a bat.

    1. Ye can all have yer ‘World Cup’. Just tell us when it’s finished and we’ll play the winners.

  5. “Bradburn’s batsmen backed his bravado with a blistering broadside almost from ball one, blazing away to break all sorts of ODI benchmarks in the Bannockburn bilateral rivalry: best partnership versus England (broken twice in one match), best individual score versus England, best Scotland score against a Full Member, and when that wasn’t enough they went on to make the best ODI score by any Associate versus a Full Member. Indeed, Scotland were busy bees while England’s bowlers bled boundaries.”

    I wonder what the bet was for.

    1. Frankly, I’m astonished that you can spake, daneel.

      I shall be sallying forth to Grace Road later this month to see Middlesex do battle with the resurgent Foxes in the next round of matches.

      So enough of these foxy, winning ways, daneel, for now.

      1. What’s happened to the Middle Saxons’ promotion challenge Gedd? It seems to have been hit by a run of mediocrity, which for champions only two years ago feels somewhat surprising.

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