In the first episode of Wisden and CricViz‘s The Greatest T20 podcast, Luke Wright and Freddie Wilde discuss Jos Buttler‘s optimal batting position for England in T20Is, concurring that the wicketkeeper-batsman is their best bet as a finisher down the order.
Luke Wright admitted that the biggest debate for someone like Jos Buttler, one of England’s most accomplished white-ball batsmen, is to find his perfect role in England’s T20I setup.
“For me, it’s so unique to find someone who can finish games off… I think it’s one of the hardest things [to finish a game], to come in with the game on the line, you got to strike straightaway, the fields out, the ball is a little bit softer, and for someone like Buttler – it is so difficult to do what they do down the order,” Wright said.
“That’s why, when you try to pick the best player ever at the moment in T20, it’s so difficult because there are such different roles, and statistics. Say you’re three down in the first six, you often lose games so the importance of an opener is massive because you are expected to get the 50-60+ score and when you do that, the statistics on you winning as a team is very high.
“But, in terms of difficulty, to come in and win games back order is so tough and some of these guys who do it, manage to do it with huge strike-rates which you would expect. But also their average tells you they are very consistent at doing that and winning games and that’s why someone like Buttler, I feel, we have people who can do what he can do at the top, but I don’t think many can do what he does at the bottom for England,” he added.
Buttler started his career as a middle-order batsman in T20Is, switching between the fifth, sixth, and seventh positions until mid-2018. In eight T20Is since then, Buttler has been bumped up to the opener’s role, hitting fifties in three of those innings, the latest one in the last T20I he played, against South Africa in February.
Wilde agreed that Buttler fits the bill in the middle order perfectly, despite England sticking with him at the top of the order in recent times.
“It goes back to quite an interesting debate about how you build a T20 batting order and does your best player open the batting and therefore face the most balls, which is what England seem to have done with Buttler. Or do you put your best player in the most difficult position which is in that middle-order finisher role, coming in and having to start quickly.
“In domestic competition, particularly in the Blast when you have got a lot of teams and the talent is a lot more thinly spread, it makes sense to stick your best player at the top. For England, they have so many options at the top of the order, [Jonny] Bairstow and [Jason] Roy, are the two obvious ones and also Hales (out of the side at the moment), Tom Banton is pushing through for an inclusion. There are loads of options there,” Wilde said.
“Opening the batting is, and without wanting to do down your fantastic achievements, in some respects, a little bit easier than coming in and later because you got the field up, the ball is hard and new, and you can take a bit of time to get going.
“So England at the moment have a surplus of options at the top of the order. I completely agree with you. Makes sense, therefore, to put a player as fantastic in that more difficult role down the order,” he concluded.