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Jos Buttler to keep wicket and captain at World Cup despite over-rate concerns

ICC clamp-down on tardiness in field puts focus on Moeen as deputy

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Jos Buttler is set to take the gloves against Pakistan, Headingley, May 21, 2024

Jos Buttler will keep wicket during the World Cup despite over-rate concerns  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler will keep wicket at the T20 World Cup after deciding the risk of England incurring strict over-rate penalties is outweighed by the superior view he gets from behind the stumps. Buttler's decision means that he will lean heavily on Moeen Ali, his vice-captain, to relay messages to bowlers.
The ICC have repeatedly attempted to clamp down on slow over-rates in the past two years, twice introducing rules designed to speed the game up. Teams are forced to put an extra fielder inside the 30-yard circle when they miss the cut-off time for their bowling innings, while a 'stop-clock' was trialled during England's series against West Indies in December and has since been made permanent.
The countdown clock - which will regularly be displayed on big screens throughout England's series against Pakistan, and at the World Cup - gives fielding teams 60 seconds to be ready between overs, with two warnings followed by a five-run penalty. England were warned twice during the series decider in Trinidad but ultimately avoided a punishment.
Buttler twice handed the gloves over to Phil Salt during that series, and previously did the same while captaining Manchester Originals in the Hundred in 2022. He also regularly plays as an outfielder for Rajasthan Royals, where Sanju Samson takes the gloves, but has decided that he will keep wicket over the next six weeks.
It means that Moeen's role as vice-captain will come into sharp focus, and he will continue to interact with bowlers in the outfield. "Obviously it is going to be strict and these things, we can't take lightly," he said. "There is a lot of trust within the group and I think the bowlers enjoy having me at mid-off a lot of the time, talking to them, so hopefully that can work."
Buttler described Moeen as "a great confidant" earlier this week. Moeen said: "He trusts me… Jos speaks to the bowlers, but sometimes at mid-off, things can change and [I provide] just a different set of eyes to look through. It's about making sure, when I speak to the bowlers, that I am making them real clear about what they want to do and their plans."
While over-rate penalties have become stricter since, Buttler kept wicket throughout England's T20 World Cup triumph in Australia in 2022 and played down the significance of his decision. "I've got feet: I can run down there and talk to them," he told Sky Sports on Wednesday. "It's a real big myth sometimes… there's different ways I can slow the game down.
"That's why I like keeping: because I feel like I've got the best view. I can see exactly what's happening and I can make calls. I know when Morgs [Eoin Morgan] was captain, he would come to the keeper a lot and want to gather information. I've got a lot of that to hand, and then it's just about making sure I can find those times I can get to the bowler… there's a lot of benefits to being a keeper as well."
Buttler's wife Louise is heavily pregnant with their third child, and he has confirmed he will be at the birth, saying: "My family comes first". It could yet cause him to miss a match at the World Cup, but Moeen - who has captained England in 12 T20Is - played down the potential significance of Buttler missing a match.
"If it happens, then it's a great honour - as it always is," he said. "I'll be fine: nothing will change too much. It's just taking over from what he's doing, and then when he comes back, he takes over. Hopefully, the baby comes at the right time where he doesn't miss too many games. We speak often, me and Jos… we're on the same page anyway."
Wednesday's washout in Leeds means England have three matches remaining before they start the World Cup against Scotland in Barbados on June 4, the first of which is at Edgbaston on Saturday. Moeen believes that will be "plenty of games" to get them ready for the tournament, but said that England's approach still needs some fine-tuning.
"It's about the style of cricket we want to try and play… are we positive? Are we trying to be a bit cautious? Are we going to adapt? And then we just pick, and once we decide on what we want as a group, then we fully, 100 percent, commit to that, whether that is bat, ball or in the field," he said. "That is what clarity is for us."
Moeen also believes they are "much more confident" heading into this World Cup than last year's ODI version in India. "It's a completely different format: I know it's white-ball, but it's different cricket. We're more settled, and probably more comfortable, in T20 than in 50-over cricket. Most of the guys have played a lot more T20 stuff than 50 overs."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98