‘A fantastic surprise and an incredible opportunity’ is how Jos Buttler described his unexpected call-up to the England side for the Lord’s Test against Pakistan starting Thursday.
With England stuttering to 4-0 and 1-0 defeats in Australia and New Zealand recently, changes were on the cards. Ed Smith was brought in as the new National Selector, and he responded by leaving out James Vince and bringing in Buttler, pulling him out of his stint in the IPL for Rajasthan Royals.
“It was quite a lot of a surprise. It wasn’t particularly on my radar. But, through a change of selectors, I’ve been afforded an incredible opportunity,” said Buttler on Monday. “So it’s a fantastic surprise and an incredible opportunity. It feels like another debut, really.”
At a time when players around the world are leaving red-ball cricket to focus on the more lucrative shorter formats of the game, Buttler said that he had even considered chucking up white-ball cricket to resuscitate his Test career.
In 18 Tests between 2014 and 2016, Buttler has scored 784 runs at an average of 31.36, the 85 on debut against India in Southampton his best innings. In ODIs, meanwhile, he averages 38.05 and in T20Is 25.45, and has been a big part of England’s revival in the shorter formats.
“I wasn’t resigned to not playing Tests again, but I was very aware that it might never happen. I knew I was going to be available for a lot of Championship cricket for Lancashire at the end of the summer, so that was a real focus of mine for targeting red-ball cricket. But you always think that maybe that race is run and it will never happen again,” said Buttler.
“Having not being selected in the Ashes squad, I had thought maybe the best way of being the best red-ball player I can be was to stop playing white-ball cricket for a couple of years and give red-ball cricket a real stab,” he added when speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live.
At the same time, Buttler admitted that he had considered following Alex Hales and Adil Rashid in playing only white-ball cricket, but “didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket”.
Most recently, Buttler was one of the highlights of Rajasthan Royals’ campaign in IPL 2018, scoring 548 runs in 13 innings including five consecutive half-centuries.
“You wonder whether when playing a lot of white-ball and franchise tournaments, do you have enough time to work on your game seriously and show you are trying to improve and get back in,” he said. “Then you come back to it and think there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to play all forms.
“What is really my strength I would have been going away from. It probably wouldn’t have been a very smart decision.”
He won’t be keeping wickets, though, unlike his role in England’s limited-overs teams. Jonny Bairstow will bat at No.5 at Lord’s and continue to don the big gloves, while Buttler will bat at No.7.
“It’s not that you live with regrets, but you definitely miss it. To get that call, the overriding emotion was excitement,” said Buttler. “I came for a hit here on Saturday. Turning up here on England duty to play a Test match is unbelievable.
“Any time you turn up here at Lord’s it’s special, and all of those emotions are arriving today.”