The raising of Jos Buttler’s bat followed by the removal of his helmet is becoming an increasingly routine sight for fans of T20 cricket. The Rajasthan Royals and England opening batter has long been one of the stars of the T20 world stage. But even by his high standards, he has been in particularly destructive form in the last few months. Which raises the question: is Buttler the best T20 batter?
The stats seem to agree. On the docile UAE pitches, where more than one of his compatriots struggled, Buttler went against the norm of most modern English T20 batsman. With his stable base and deceptively quick wrists, Buttler was able to tear apart every attack. He finished with 269 runs, the fourth highest for a batter in the tournament at an imperious average of 89.66.
In the ongoing IPL season, Buttler is the current holder of the Orange Cap for the most runs in the tournament. He leads by over 80 runs and has amassed over 300 runs with two centuries. He is already tied with the most centuries by an overseas player in an IPL season and Rajasthan have not even played half their games yet. Buttler is ruling the world stage.
Buttler’s greatest strength is his maturity and understanding of the game. He is able to build an innings like no other, with only KL Rahul close to him in that regard. For the first two overs of the powerplay, Buttler – up against the opposition’s best bowlers and dealing with swing and lateral movement – will usually be watchful. Buttler is aware that this is the ‘danger period’.
Once he gets through that phase, he is also aware that the powerplay is a great scoring opportunity. As such, Buttler will take calculated risks. He has a remarkable ability to discern a bowler’s intention, to read field placements, and the skill to take advantage. From the sixth over onwards, Buttler has a great ability to read the situation. If his team are cruising he will put down the pedal, but he is also more than happy to anchor and stabilise.
The greatest example of Buttler’s skill was perhaps in the Rajasthan Royals match against the Kolkata Knight Riders. The broadcasting coverage showed a graphic that Buttler strikes at 105 at deliveries bowled towards the middle and leg stump and it was clear that the KKR bowling attack knew it. They aimed to bowl full towards the middle and leg stump or back of a length in an attempt to keep Buttler quiet.
It worked at times. But even when they executed, Buttler was good enough to rotate the strike. When they missed their spot by even a fraction, Buttler took full toll. In fact, as he so often does, Buttler punished nearly every bad bowl he faced. Seen as it is very rare for a bowler to send down 24 good balls in their allocation, Buttler invariably has scoring opportunities and his superb record is a testament to his ability to maximise these scoring opportunities.
Buttler’s current IPL form can be compared to the form of Virat Kohli in 2016. Kohli almost reached 1000 runs in that IPL. Buttler has over 300 runs and the season is not at its halfway stage- Buttler could reach Kohli’s record, albeit in a longer tournament. But it is clear that he has made a case for himself as the best T20 batter in the world at the moment. A few more centuries, and he might just have a claim to be the best of all-time.
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