Buttler shows benefits of a break from the grind

Buttler calls for more consistent bowling (1:05)

England batsmen says the team will reflect tonight on needed to land the ball more consistently. (1:05)

Jos Buttler has credited a lack of first-class cricket as a crucial ingredient in his successful return to the Test team.

Buttler made 76, his second highest Test score, to help England reach 400 in their first innings in Mumbai. It was an impressive contribution for a number of reasons, not least the restraint Buttler exhibited against testing bowling. It was also his first half-century in first-class cricket since May 2015.

More pertinently, it was just his fifth first-class innings since he was dropped from the England Test team in the UAE in October 2015.

But far from seeing that lack of red-ball cricket as a disadvantage, Buttler insisted it was a factor in his relative success.

"I don't feel like having not played first-class cricket mattered to me at all," Buttler said. "Probably the best thing for me is having not played any red-ball cricket for a year and having some time to think about my game.

"We play so much cricket that sometimes there isn't enough time to think, break down your game and work out what is vital to get the best out of yourself. I feel like the last year I've probably learned the most about myself and about cricket in my whole career."

While Buttler's words clash with conventional wisdom - Alastair Cook described Buttler's lack of first-class cricket as "clearly not ideal" ahead of the Mohali Test - there appear to be a growing number of players arguing for the benefits of a fresh body and mind over the virtues of regular games. Certainly Eoin Morgan has previously said he felt "twice the man" for a month's rest ahead of an ODI series - while Kevin Pietersen has often remarked that England's cricketers are obliged to battle not only their opponents, but their own schedules.

At the time Buttler was dropped from the Test side, he seemed confused and lacking in confidence. He had failed to reach 50 in his 12 most recent Test innings - he had not reached 10 on six of those occasions - and later admitted he was "relieved" to have been left out.

"I got to a stage where I was not concentrating and did not want to be there," Buttler told The Telegraph this time last year. "It was a relief to get dropped. I was not enjoying walking out there and feeling like I didn't know where the next run was coming from."

Crucial to Buttler's improvement now - and it does have to be said, these are early days in his recall and the returns, while pleasing, are relatively modest - has been a renewed belief in his own abilities. And while these haven't been demonstrated in copious amounts - or even sparse amounts - of first-class runs (injury and white-ball commitments limited him to a single County Championship match in the 2016 season), they are real nevertheless.

After all, Buttler is the scorer of the three quickest ODI centuries made by an England player. He has shown, in many T20 and List A situations, that he has a rare ability. Few doubt his talent.

But, after a series of failures in Test cricket, he had begun to doubt himself. And without the time and space to reflect and then work on his game, he felt he was sinking deeper into the mire with every dismissal.

"I've learned one of the big things you have to have, that the top players have, is belief in your own game," he said. "You have to be confident that, when you get a chance, you're going to perform.

"You're your own best coach. There's plenty of people out there to speak to, but probably one of the things I was doing when I struggled was speaking to too many people. It is better bringing it back to a few close people you trust and to yourself. No one can do it for you.

"You can receive great advice, but you've got to believe in yourself."

Part of the reason for Buttler's limited appearances in first-class cricket in 2016 was a decision to appear in the IPL. While there still appears to be some controversy about such decisions in English cricket, Buttler's decision was fully supported by the ECB - indeed, they currently encourage players to gain experience in high-profile T20 leagues - on the basis of their increased prioritisation of white-ball cricket.

If Buttler goes on to help England to that elusive global ODI trophy - and he may well - it may well be credited as a contributory factor. Anyway, had he not subsequently broken his thumb playing T20 cricket for Lancashire, he would still have been able to play several Championship matches.

Besides, he feels the experience of representing Mumbai Indians in the IPL may have helped him deal with the conditions and the environment in Mumbai.

"It probably helps, having practised and played here," Buttler said. "Having experienced IPL, you get used to the noise and chaos going on around you. You learn to deal with it and not get distracted. I think familiarity is good and definitely helps."

Might there be a bit of contradiction there? After all, he argues that "familiarity is good" when it comes to batting in Mumbai, but freshness is best when it comes to building an innings against a red ball.

It doesn't really matter. Just as Ben Duckett's success in the English domestic season didn't much matter when he came up against Ravi Ashwin and co. And just as Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick's century of first-class centuries didn't matter when it came to Test cricket. Success in county cricket is no guarantee.

All that matters is whether their method works in Test cricket. So while you would think that Buttler would benefit from more experience, while you would think he would benefit from learning how to build an innings - he has, after all, a modest first-class record (just four first-class centuries and an average of 32) - if he can demonstrate that his method works, he should be encouraged to embrace it.

This was an impressive innings. While Parthiv Patel's description of the early part of it as "very lucky" is somewhat graceless (and antagonistic), it is not entirely without truth. But while Buttler found batting a desperate struggle against the spinners on the first evening, he had the confidence and composure not to try and thrash his way out of trouble.

While there were glimpses of the fine limited-overs player he has become - a few reverse-sweeps and one heave over mid-on for six - it was the less eye-catching skills that helped him here: his patience; his soft hands (not least when playing Jayant Yadav in front of leg slip when he had scored only 1), his ability to manoeuvre the ball and his maturity in dealing with the periods of pressure. Only once - in his 73 against New Zealand at Leeds in 2015 (his most recent half-century before this) - had he faced more deliveries in a Test innings.

The game has changed. We live in an age where players reach centuries on debut with reverse-sweeps, where catches are routinely taken by fielders using the both sides of the boundary, where switch-hits and doosras have become part of the lexicon of the game. If Buttler wants to do things his way - and if it works - that should be just fine.