The independent voice of cricket

England v West Indies

The Jos Buttler conundrum – Wisden writers discuss his Test future

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, the fate of Jos Buttler’s Test career was up for discussion after the wicketkeeper-batsman’s disappointing outing in Southampton.

Buttler looked fluent in the first innings of the Test against West Indies, scoring a 47-ball-35, but his failure in the second innings [he scored 9] and the manner of his dismissal – inside-edging an Alzarri Joseph delivery onto his leg stump – raised a few eyebrows.

With 2,171 runs in 42 Tests at 31.46, an average that dips down to 23.22 since 2019, Buttler’s future is up for debate, more so with Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.

Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner and Taha Hashim, the wisden.com features editor, weighed in on the splitting issue.

Taha Hashim: I was quite interested to see what has been happening with him. So, I did some research … his defence was really key for him in 2018. We think about Jos Buttler as a cricketer, and we talk about what he does as an attacking force but in 2018, and he has talked about this in interviews as well, he really had faith in his defence and relied on his instincts. And it was about playing the match situation, not necessarily about being Jos Buttler the white-ball cricketer, or necessarily be like someone like Adam Gilchrist. He was just going to play the situation.

And then if you look at the stats from the start of 2019, on average he has been out once every 35 defensive shots. Whereas in 2018, it was once every 130-something [defensive] shots, which is quite a remarkable statistic really. So if the defence is not right, then you are obviously not going to see the Jos Buttler, who is 40-50 balls into his innings, where he is just going to let loose. It’s just about getting to that stage again.

At the same time, we are 42 Test matches into Jos Buttler’s career, one Test ton … it’s becoming really hard to see him developing into the Test cricketer that people have thought that he was going to become. Ben Foakes, one Test century from five Tests, did very little wrong when he was in the side. He is there now. Jos Buttler was vice-captain in this match, but surely at some point, if it just continues to be like this, then you have to give Ben Foakes a go.

Phil Walker: Yeah [I would consider leaving him out if his run continues], at the end of the series for sure. You can only be given so many chances, doesn’t matter who you are. I think everybody knows that there’s a Test cricketer in there. But you can’t have limitless opportunities to show it, that is fair enough. I would give him four more innings, see how he goes. I thought for what it is worth, he made 35 in the first innings and looked very good. I thought he found the right tempo, which has been this ongoing story. I thought Dominic Cork spoke a lot of nonsense on Sky Sports that evening, on the debate, saying he is still trying to find the right approach, he should play more like Gilchrist, play more like a one-day player. Well, he made 35 in 45 balls and looked fluent, and in control and then he got a good one and nicked off.

The dismissal in the second innings, and the innings itself, was alarming, I found. And the shot that he played to get out, the balance was all over the place, it looked like he was a bit scrambled in his mind. You don’t really see Jos Buttler play those kinds of shots in any format of cricket. But, yeah, you know my feelings on it. The old, Trevor Bayliss cliche: ‘I would rather give one or two Test too many than one or two Test too few.’ But if at the end of this series, he still hasn’t made that statement score then yeah, I think you move him along.

Ben Gardner: That’s what I would give him as well and just on the Gilchrist thing, and it is an obvious point to say but it’s much easier to play as Gilchrist does when you come in at 390-5 rather than 90-5 as Buttler did in this Test in the first innings and often still has to for England. The frustration is that he has had platforms on occasions and still he has not been able to play that way. But yeah, end of the series and then reevaluate in my opinion.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99