It is scary to think what Jos Buttler
can do this IPL. Only because of what he has already done this season (which is just on the verge of reaching the halfway stage). Most runs, most hundreds, highest individual score, most fours, most sixes... Many feats, one name: Jos Buttler.
At the moment, Buttler is scoring centuries wilfully and making batting look ridiculously easy. He already has three centuries in seven matches this season. The record for most centuries in IPL history is held by Chris Gayle, who had six in 141 innings. The next best haul belongs to Virat Kohli, who has five in 206 innings. Buttler, who is joint-third on the list, has four centuries in just 71 IPL innings. David Warner and Shane Watson, who also have four tons each, got there in 155 and 141 innings, respectively. Don't bother betting on Buttler leaving Gayle in the wake as you won't win much.
Interestingly, though, Buttler is using the same modus operandi that Gayle deployed to leave the opposition think tanks numb and their bowlers dumbfounded. Of his 491 runs this IPL, Buttler has got 356 just in boundaries. And that is the ethos of Buttler's T20 batting: hack runs relentlessly in fours and sixes without bothering about breaking a sweat running twos and threes. Preserve, and not waste energy has been Buttler's success mantra, which has helped the Rajasthan Royals opener smack some of the biggest boundaries even in the death overs.
His match-winning 65-ball 116 against Delhi Capitals
on Friday was no different. Having put Royals to bat, Capitals captain Rishabh Pant said his bowlers would get good purchase bowling first on the green-tinged Wankhede pitch. He felt if Capitals could restrict Royals to 150-160, that would put his side in the driver's seat.
After five overs, Royals were 29 for 0, so timely accelaration was going to be key to Royals' chances of putting up a formidable total. And Buttler seemed the perfect fit for the job. After all, a slow start has become his default approach to setting up his base. Or so has been a consistent feature across all the three centuries he has hit this season. Against Mumbai Indians
, his hundred saw him crawl to 12 off the first 15 deliveries. Against Kolkata Knight Riders
, he made 103, scoring his first 17 runs in 15 balls. On Friday, while he got two boundaries in the first over of Royals' innings, neither was in control. After 14 balls, Buttler was on just 11.
In all three centuries this season, Buttler's dot-ball percentage was one of the highest. In fact, against Mumbai he had 28 dots in 68 balls. That is 41.20% - the highest in a century in the IPL. Against Knight Riders, it was 34.40% (24/65) and against Capitals it was 36.90% (21/61). In comparison, the dot-ball percentage in Kohli's five centuries ranged between 17% and 30%. Gayle, though, had similar numbers to that of Buttler with an average of 34%. The median dot-ball percentage for Buttler stands at 35.70% while Gayle's was 34.20% and Kohli's 20.70%.
Against Mumbai, Buttler had ransacked 26 runs in a single over off Basil Thampi in the powerplay which was one of the turning points in the game. On Friday, in the final over of the powerplay, bowled by Khaleel Ahmed, Buttler stepped deep into the crease and unleashed a powerful hoick over deep midwicket for a six. Next one the ball flew over mid-off and was racing to the boundary except it ended being a double after David Warner plunged forward to stop the ball crossing the rope. Next ball, though, Buttler once again picked another length ball and sent it over deep midwicket. With a grimace, Pant, shaking his head, looked at Khaleel.
Pant wouldn't let go of that cringed look on his face during Buttler's stay, which went as deep as the 19th over. No Capitals bowler was able to put an iota of doubt into Buttler's mind, not even Kuldeep Yadav, who was the second-highest wicket-taker before the match. Kuldeep also had a favourable match-up against Buttler: in all T20s he had given away just 36 runs off 25 deliveries while getting the Royals batter twice. On Friday, Buttler hit the left-arm wristspinner for 31 runs off 12 balls, including two fours and three sixes, when coming into this game, Kuldeep had been hit for just four fours across six T20 innings by Buttler.
And it wasn't Kuldeep alone who bore the brunt of Buttler's blitzkrieg. As late as the 19th over, Mustafizur Rahman attempted a yorker which turned into a low full toss, and Buttler swept it by dissecting the deep-square leg and the long leg region. Next ball, with the delivery angled wide outside off stump, Buttler moved deep into the crease, used a top-handle grip and wedged the ball over long-off while treating it like a golf club.
The mechanics of Buttler's batting is pretty simple: once he has got his eye in, he uses the crease smartly, uses the angles wisely and puts to use those powerful, rubbery wrists to send the ball wherever he wants. In the power-hitting hall of fame, Buttler occupies a singular place: the throne.
It is scary to think what Buttler can do.
Stats inputs from Shiva Jayaraman
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo