Jos Buttler – England captain wants to rediscover the joy of T20 batting

England captain in 'a very good space' after extensive work with batting coach Sid Lahiri

Jos Buttler bowls Haris Rauf for six Gareth Copley/Getty Images

When England left India in mid-November, it was the lowest point in its history. If butlerthe mandate of captain of the white ball. His team was knocked out in the group stages of the ODI World Cup after three wins from nine matches – and just one from seven while they were still mathematically alive. His own form was non-existent.

Buttler made 138 runs in nine innings, including 43 in the opening match of the tournament, and looked exhausted by England's losing streak. Innovative and mischievous at his best, he became restrained and robotic: he swept only two of the 142 balls he faced in the tournament, and played neither a sweep nor a scoop.

But as England gears up for the T20 World Cup, Buttler looks ready. After missing the Cardiff wash to be with his wife Louise for the birth of the couple's third child, he is expected to return as captain on Thursday night at The Oval. He did so after winning the player of the match award in the only completed match of the series so far.

In his first international innings of the year at Edgbaston, Buttler took the Pakistan attack for 84 off 51 balls and seemed to have rediscovered the spirit of the player who broke through at 20. He used his feet against the seamers to create different angles and destroyed Shadab Khan, plundering 40 runs off the 15 balls he faced him.

It was his highest score in any international cricket for an ODI century against South Africa in February 2023, and an innings defined by his impudence. He swept Shadab twice – once for four, once for six – and picked up Haris Rauf at fine leg to bring up his half-century. He even attempted a rare reverse scoop on Rauf, although he finished it toward the point for a single.

Since becoming a regular T20 opener in 2018, Buttler has become a more clinical and consistent player: in T20Is, he averages 47.95 with a strike rate of 151.98. of his 50 opening rounds. But lately he's made a conscious decision to tap into his vast repertoire of unorthodox shots: “What's really important to me at this stage of my career is to always try to improve and adding new things to my game,” Buttler said last week.

“There are certain shots that I want to add more to my game, different things that I want to try. I think it's really exciting. It seems really motivating to me, and that's always been a mindset of mine, but it's more [about] connecting to that again and not being afraid to try new things and fail in different ways.

Buttler with Sid Lahiri in the Rajasthan Royals nets Rajasthan Royals

Buttler worked closely with Siddhartha 'Sid' Lahiri, his batting coach at Paarl and Rajasthan Royals. “Sid has had a huge impact for me,” Buttler said last month. When Buttler arrived at the SA20 in January, he “wasn't really enjoying my cricket, he was a bit unsure with my batting, trying to find that rhythm. Lahiri told him: 'Just give me this tournament, I'll work with you.'” Buttler recounted.

Buttler 'handed himself over' to Lahiri and empowered him to run his practice sessions. “He has some really good ideas about the game,” he said. “He's a very positive guy, he always reminds you how good you are but at the same time he gives you honest feedback and things you can do better. He's had a big impact on my batting.”

“Jos didn't have a particularly good time at the World Cup,” Lahiri told ESPNcricinfo. “What I felt was that he had strayed slightly from his usual timing. He's not a conventional Ian Bell or Joe Root; he's an unconventional hitter whose greatest strength “It's all about his hand-eye coordination when the bat meets the ball, and his ability to synchronize that with the way he looks at the ball.”

Lahiri encouraged Buttler to move away from underarm feeds in training, introducing “more difficult spin pitches, where he had to bowl with the bat because he wasn't wearing pads”. He also suggested he should bat more often against the Royals' seamers in the nets rather than the net bowlers – another change intended to “ensure he continues to find his rhythm”.

They also worked on his fielding early in his innings, after some bowlers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for example – targeted his pads with the new ball. “We didn't change his basics too much, but rather the way he positions himself,” Lahiri said. “There were certain areas he didn't have access to, and the bowlers were targeting him. Now, if they target it towards him, he's going to hit it across the wicket for four.”

“I worked closely with Sid…just [to get] some different ideas” Rajasthan Royals

Buttler believes he is sometimes a “victim of my own expectations”. Lahiri agrees: “When Jos leaves the Royals, his expectation level is at its peak; the same pressure is there for England as captain. He can't just think, “Let me go hit some balls,” which he might love. It's a challenge for him. » His main objective was therefore simple: “Bring back the pleasure and joy, and so that Jos can enjoy hitting again”.

These are not major interventions, but Buttler believes they have been beneficial and his statistics back that up: he has averaged 40.36 for Royals teams this year, with an average of 142.30. “I feel like I’m in a really good space,” he said last week. “I worked closely with Sid…just [to get] a few different ideas. He did some exercises that he thought would be really good for me. Change is good, change is good.”

Lahiri is unlikely to work closely with Buttler: he describes himself as an “outsider” who, unlike most IPL coaches, has not had a professional playing career. He played representative cricket in Bengal, but went to the UK in his late 20s to qualify as a coach and never returned to Calcutta, instead building his career abroad.

He played club cricket for Stoke d'Abernon in Surrey while working at Parkside School in Cobham, and started his own business, the Star Cricket Academy. She was brought into the Rajasthan Royals Academy in 2019 and Lahiri has since worked with the franchise's professional set-up around the world, including five seasons with their IPL team in various roles.

“My coaching background comes from the grassroots level,” he said. “I’m very proud to be a bit of a pioneer.” He admitted he sometimes found it “difficult” to get buy-in from top players, but said: “The time is not so far away when people will look at coaching as completely different from game… it’s already there in football.”

Lahiri has been empowered by Royals director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara and is grateful to Buttler for his support: “At the Royals we talk a lot about trust…Jos obviously supported me through all of that, and that's why he was able to work.”

His influence on Buttler encapsulates the unlikely multinational relationships that were forged in the IPL era. If this helps Buttler play a decisive role in the T20 World Cup, England fans will be grateful.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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