It’s not a surprise to see a fit-again Jason Roy opening with Jonny Bairstow, or is it? A few eyebrows might have been raised and the numbers are rising after Roy’s modest returns in the first two ODIs against Australia but certainly not as much as they were when Stuart Broad referred to Jos Buttler as England’s best-ever white-ball cricketer barely a week ago. Former India cricketer Rohan Gavaskar is one of those who firmly believe that it is a bit too early to give the tag of England’s best to someone even of Buttler’s caliber.
Gavaskar agreed that Buttler is an exceptional talented cricketer but in the same breath, he refused to get into comparisons and term him England’s best.
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“We tend to sort give these greatest of all time tags quite often, Messi is the GOAT, Pele is the GOAT, Maradona is the GOAT. I think it’s wrong to put someone and say he’s (Buttler) the best white-ball cricketer they’ve had. There have been some fantastic cricketers that England have produced even in the 70s and 80s. He’s a quality player, there’s no doubt about it but to rank him? I don’t like doing that. You should just sit back and enjoy whatever he’s doing on the cricket field, enjoy his skills, enjoy his strokes, enjoy the entertainment that he gives us,” Gavaskar told Hindustan Times.
Buttler has had a stellar role in England’s rise to being one of the best limited-overs teams in the world currently, but his stakes rose further when he opened the batting in the T20Is against Australia. When batters from both sides found it hard to score, Buttler smashed 44 and an unbeaten 77 in the two matches that he played.
The wicket-keeper batsman who primarily bats at No.5 or 6 in England’s white-ball side has an exceptional record while opening the batting. Buttler averages 51 and scores at a strike rate of 157.73 when he opens the batting for England in T20Is which he has done on 11 occasions.
His unbeaten 77 in the 2nd T20I prompted Broad to level him as England’s best and also forced a few experts in the commentary box to keep him in the same bracket as other great limited-overs openers of the world right now. Gavaskar, however, is of the opinion Buttler still has to perform consistently at the top for a longer period of time to be compared with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, David Warner and Aaron Finch.
“If you look at someone like Warner, Rohit, or even Finch, they’ve unbelievable numbers. And Buttler will be up there but these guys have been doing it for a lot longer at the top of the order. Buttler has just started to open. This is not to take anything away from him, I think he’s a fantastic cricketer,” Gavaskar added.
Despite Bairstow and Roy having stunning numbers – both of them average over 40 and score at more than run-a-ball in ODIs and are the only England batsmen apart from Buttler himself to do so – while opening the batting for England, Gavaskar said it’s time Eoin Morgan start looking at horses for courses.
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“I don’t think it’s a question of experimenting now, it’s a horses for courses situation. Jonny Bairstow hasn’t been in great form of late. He played a decent inning in an ODI. Jason Roy hasn’t looked that great after the injury. England have three very good options in Buttler, Bairstow and Roy to open for them in white-ball cricket. If one of them is out of form the other slots in, it’s a good headache to have,” he added.
Explaining the reasons behind Buttler’s success in limited-overs cricket, Gavaskar said it has a lot do with his skillset and clarity of thought.
“Buttler has the clarity of thought. He’s got a very clear game plan in his head. He knows exactly how he’s going to approach his innings. He knows whether to go from ball one or to build an innings gradually after assessing the pitch. And obviously, he’s got the skillset, you can have as good a game plan or a clear head but if you don’t have the skillset to back it up, it’s of no use. He’s got enormous skills in white-ball cricket. He’s got a wide range of strokes, he’s innovative,” he added.
(Watch the 3rd ODI between England and Australia on 16th September 2020, LIVE and Exclusive on SONY SIX and SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels from 5.30 pm)