Jos Buttler took an unorthodox route back to the England Test team.
His five consecutive half-centuries in IPL 2018 – he accumulated 548 runs in 13 matches at 54.80 – resulted in a call-up to the Test squad to face Pakistan, chosen by Ed Smith’s new selection committee.
It was a punt that paid off handsomely. Buttler scored 67 at Lord’s in a losing cause, but as impressive as that knock was, it was at Headingley where he truly offered return on investment. His unbeaten 80 in the second innings pushed England’s lead to 189, which demoralised Pakistan sufficiently for the home side to seal an innings-and-55-run win within three days.
There were plenty of doubters – could Buttler make the transition from two extreme formats, not having played red-ball cricket all year? Was it not unfair on those who had done well in first-class cricket so far that season?
As it turned out, Buttler vindicated the selection committee’s decision, and he credited it all to the experience gained at the IPL. “Those couple of weeks in the IPL gave me huge amounts of confidence,” said Buttler. “To be in those pressure situations in India, playing in front of crowds, the pressure of being an overseas player. That showed me a lot about where I was at and where I can get to, so that gave me a lot of confidence.
“For me, not trying to worry about the colour of the ball definitely helps. Having put in good performances elsewhere and not putting as much pressure on myself.”
Buttler is aware of the need to not get carried away — “I’ve only played two Test matches coming back so I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself” — and has learnt the lessons from his early days in Test cricket, when after an impressive debut series, he faded drastically.
A monster six from @josbuttler! 💪
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) June 3, 2018
“I started to think too much about how to not get out, as opposed to how to score runs,” he said. “I got in a really bad rut that I just couldn’t get out of. The only real way to get out of it was to be dropped. And actually, being dropped released a lot of pressure. It wasn’t very long after that that I made an ODI hundred in Dubai, which was a turnaround for me after a long and hard six months.”
T20 cricket, in fact, helped him realise the need to accept failures every now and then. “In T20 there’s generally another game soon after, so you know you’ve got another opportunity coming up,” he said. “You probably just move on if you fail. But in Test cricket, if you get out early, you have a long time to think about it.”
Buttler will next feature for England in the five-match ODI series against Australia, starting on June 13.