New Zealand in England 2013 June 6, 2013

Buttler promises to be next T20 star

His explosive, 16-ball innings against New Zealand may have been brief but the signs are that Jos Buttler will have a long and successful international career

It has been almost 40 years since Sir Ian Botham announced himself as a cricketer of rare character and skill. Confronted with an all-but-hopeless situation in a 1974 televised Benson & Hedges Cup quarter-final between Somerset and Hampshire, the 18-year-old Botham reacted to a crushing blow to the mouth courtesy of a fearsome bouncer from Andy Roberts by phlegmatically spitting out some teeth and turning the game on its head with an outrageous display of calculated aggression that was to become delightfully familiar over the next decade or two. A star had been born.

Only time will tell if the third ODI between England and New Zealand proves a similar launch pad for Jos Buttler. It would be asking a bit much to expect a career to rival Botham's, but Buttler's dramatic contribution at Trent Bridge did confirm him as a batsman of special talent.

Ahh, but it was only 16 balls, some will say. And it is true that Buttler will have to contribute more often if he is to be considered a viable international player. But the power of his strokeplay, the audacity of his shot selection, the calmness of the execution and the range of his options did illustrate a talent that, in England at least, is precious and rare. It is precisely because he can change a 600-ball game in only 16 balls that renders him so special. The thought of Buttler, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan in England's middle-order is mouth-watering.

The Somerset link between Botham and Buttler may be more than mere coincidence. Born and educated in Taunton into a close-knit cricketing family, Buttler is steeped in the culture of Somerset cricket. Even his birth linked him to the club: born by an emergency Caesarean section, Buttler's mother was driven past the county ground by police escort on the way to the hospital.

He grew up watching the side, playing on the outfield and then representing the youth teams. He cites his role model as Steve Waugh, who played for Somerset before Buttler was born, but he will also have seen such big-hitting heroes as Graham Rose, Ian Blackwell and Marcus Trescothick. It doesn't take a genius to spot the influence.

Like Sachin Tendulkar, Buttler started off as a fast bowler. Drafted in to the Cheddar Under-15 side in an emergency when he was just seven or eight, the opposition batsmen laughed when he was brought on to bowl. But the smiles had disappeared a couple of balls later when Buttler took his first wicket, caught by his older brother, James.

It was a familiar pattern for the young Buttler. Achievement came easily. He played rugby in the schools final at Twickenham, he won the 100 metres at school and, underlining the fact that sometimes life just isn't fair, he gained As in all his GCSEs. He was and is a young man with options.

But his future was always going to be about cricket. Nurtured at Kings College Taunton by Dennis Breakwell, a member of the glorious Somerset teams that also boasted Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner, Buttler broke into the senior county side at 19 and was soon creating a stir not just for his runs, but the manner in which he made them and the circumstances in which they were made.

Somerset have always had talented cricketers. All too often, though, they have lacked the hard edge required to thrive in the heat of battle at its most intense. It may well be no coincidence that they have finished as runners-up so often in recent years. More often than can be ignored, they seem to wilt under the spotlight.

But not Botham. And not Buttler. Buttler forced his way into the England reckoning with an innings of 55 from 23 balls against Nottinghamshire in the 2010 semi-final of the Friends Provident t20. Still only 19 years old, he thrashed two key members of England's World T20 winning side, Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom, into the stands and earned his side a place in the final. Broad, soon to be appointed as England's T20 captain, cited the innings when selecting the national side.

He followed it with a contribution of 86 from 72 balls the 2011 Clydesdale Bank 40 final - an innings made while his colleagues floundered - and, despite some difficulties in his first England outings in the UAE, he hinted at what was to come with an innings of 54 from 30 balls, his maiden international half-century, against New Zealand in a T20 in Hamilton in February.

First impressions can be deceptive. Buttler is modest and softly spoken with just the hint of a lisp. If you hadn't seen him in action, you might conclude he would go the way of so many of his Somerset predecessors - Mark Lathwell, et al - and struggle in the sometimes brutal world of international sport.

That would be a mistake. Like Joe Root, another 22-year-old taking his first steps in international cricket, Buttler's boyish exterior conceals an inner steel. His good manners hide a confidence and a drive that may be more obvious in the likes of Tiger Woods or Pietersen but are no less real for all that. You do not play strokes such as the reverse-scoop off Kyle Mills just from talent: you play them because you have worked on them for many hours, you have confidence in your technique and your ability and you have the courage to try and fail. You only play shots like that if you have the temperament of a champion. If you could invest in young men, you would put your shirt on Buttler and Root.

It won't always work out. Buttler is a developing cricketer with bat and gloves and, as a missed stumping on Wednesday showed, the rough edges are still visible. It is highly relevant that he came in with only a few overs remaining on Wednesday and his side in desperate need of quick runs. He had "licence" to rampage.

"I haven't quite performed as I'd have wanted in the one-dayers so it was great to put in a performance like that," he said. "I'm confident in my own ability and it was great to come in and show that. I had a licence to go out and express myself at the end of the innings."

England's captain, Alastair Cook, was another impressed onlooker. "It's not going to happen every single time," he said. "We know that. But it's great to have the talent, potential and firepower to do that. We've seen him do it a number of times for Somerset and we're going to see him do it a lot more for England. It's a special talent and a talent he's worked very hard on. It's great credit to him because it's a skill that needs to be practised."

Buttler's contribution in the third ODI will probably make him wealthy. England players, due to their limited availability as much as anything, will rarely be top of the shopping list for IPL owners but Buttler has a skill that will have earned him a hefty price tag. Whether Somerset allow him time off to attend the IPL remains to be seen - they will take some convincing - but he is unlikely to want for suitors. The conundrum of who should keep wicket at Somerset - Craig Kieswetter remains first choice in their Championship side - may prove relevant in due course, too.

Buttler's contribution on Wednesday was all the more remarkable for the context. Going into the series, he could have been forgiven for having his mind on other matters. His baby nephew, Edward, lay in intensive care in a Somerset hospital having just undergone open heart surgery recently to correct a congenital defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, that could have been an immediate threat to his life. Watching Edward fight for his life would have been an agony that many would have found impossible to bear.

Fortunately, due to the skill of his surgeons, it seems Edward is now assured a happy, healthy childhood. He was able to spend part of Wednesday in his mum's arms watching his uncle's innings on television in the hospital. Ignoring the fact that the relative of another patient, not knowing to whom he was speaking, started a conversation with the line "Don't you wish they picked Matt Prior to keep wicket for England in all formats?" it was a wonderfully happy day for the entire family.

No young life and no sportsman's career come with guarantees. But it now seems safe to assume that young Edward will spend a fair portion of his early years watching his uncle winning cricket matches for Somerset and England.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on June 8, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    @ kdevil3 on (June 8, 2013, 8:50 GMT) If these shots work well for him and they are simple like you say , then why aren't they more commonplace? The other thing about Jos is that when he's on top of his game he has the rare ability to change his shot after the ball has left the bowlers hand.

  • kdevil on June 8, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    i dont find anything special in him one straight hit taking back step near to stump next ball will be a snoop standing tall to third man ... its simple eqn ..bowlers will soon crack it down...

  • Dummy4 on June 8, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    I'll only be convinced about Buttler when he's more consistent. Flashy T20 shots are all very well and he did a great job in his last innings. But what about when the team is 5 down for not very many runs, will he be able to adapt his game?

  • Sakush on June 8, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    Being a follower of Somerset, have been watching Jos since he was 19. Back then I had told my mates this guy is going to be a star. And looks like Jos will be just that!! Many people think that he is just a 360-degree slogger. But one should note that he has the cool, calm, composed and calculated risk talking side as well!! If he goes on to full fill his potential, he will be second coming of the great Michael Bevan!! All the best Jos and Go Somerset!!

  • John on June 7, 2013, 21:17 GMT

    I fully agree with Herbert in that it wasn't the best inns but in the YB40 game vs Yorks he had time to build an innings so he had his eye in. For those who say he can't do it over a longer period - anyone saw the innings he played in a losing cause in the 2011 40 over final vs Surrey will know that he is capable of that. He certainly had fortune on his side in this game but he should IMO and I reckon in most's opinion have come in when Bopara came in.His list A average is 54 from 54 inns and has a SR of over 123. His SR in shorter formats for both Somerset and England are outstanding. Hopefully his average for England will go up and that will only likely happen if he is given more time at the crease. We won't see the best of Jos if he is stereotyped into a role that he comes in for the last 5-10 overs to free his arms

  • VENKATACHALAM on June 7, 2013, 13:38 GMT

    Flower & Co. should just leave Butler alone. He is a rare attacking gem in English cricket.

  • Randolph on June 7, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Love the typical English press beat up. Makes it all the more exciting when they fail (eg: Bairstow).

  • Jason on June 7, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    @RavinALaugh, alternatively you recognise that the KP boat has sailed and you dont pick him, I also have reservations that about him being the best ODI player we have at the moment.

  • j on June 7, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    Is there any other player in world cricket who has as many shots as Jos Buttler? Those who actually watched his innings the other day will be in no doubt that there isn't. What an amazing new talent he, a new batting superstar for England is born.

  • jared on June 7, 2013, 9:46 GMT

    what is it about wicket keepers being the stand out t20 players? mccullum, gilchrist, dohni, akmal, sangakarra now buttler, we have another young keeper in tim seifert coming through the ranks with all the shots as well, seems like the keepers like prior are a dying breed which is weird considering how good he is, just seems like teams will only pick a keeper that can reverse sweep it for 6 or ramp yorkers past there grill, and switch hit, its fun to watch, i love it when the keeper comes out to bat because its always the most unpredictable part of the game, its just weird its always the keepers playing that way.