The current limited-overs captain’s high-risk, high-reward batting strategy has altered his and the team’s game, as this excerpt from a new book on England’s two white-ball victories explains.
The Art and Mastery of Jos Buttler’s Audacious Batting Technique
Most sports locker rooms are hierarchical, and younger athletes instinctively defer to older ones. However, when Jos Buttler debuted for England in 2011, just before turning 21, an odd thing occurred: the veteran players turned to the rookie, asking how he played his scoop.
“He did it so easily that the senior players would be asking how he does it, where Jos put his hands, how low he gets, and how far inside the line of the ball you want to be,” remembers Andy Flower, England’s head coach at the time Buttler made his debut. “That was unusual. From there, international cricket’s degree of creativity increased.
In county cricket in 2010, Buttler was 19 years old when Chris Woakes first met him. According to Woakes, “He was like the wunderkind coming through.” “He frequently played the scoop; it was his shot. Another thing that stands out is how he knocked sixes from the crease.
He was a true innovator. Jos was beyond his years in terms of instinct and his will to play the game his way. Jos modified the rules. He undoubtedly altered England’s style of play.
In essence, to bowl to Buttler with a white ball is to accept having one fewer fielder. His scoop, one of the most absurd shots in the game, is the cause.
When Buttler was 18, England hosted the T20 World Cup in 2009. Tillakaratne Dilshan of Sri Lanka won Player of the Tournament after striking three half-centuries; Buttler most likely remembered one particular stroke he took. Dilshan invented the Dilscoop during a match against Australia at Trent Bridge. Facing fast-medium bowling from Shane Watson, he knelt and flicked the ball over his head, past the wicketkeeper, and over the boundary for a one-bounce four.
International batters have used similar paddle sweeps, but Buttler connected with Dilshan’s. He told Times in 2018, “I saw Dilshan doing it, and it just made sense.” “Behind the goalie, there are no fielders. Cricket is about hitting the ball where the fielders aren’t, simply as you can.
“Jos’ instinct and his will to play his own game were above his years. He altered the rules. He undoubtedly changed England’s style of play.
The scoop was considered a high-risk shot that should only be attempted by the boldest players when it initially gained popularity. Buttler has transformed it into something else: a practical, high-probability alternative similar to the leg look that most batters used to consider. Buttler averaged 50.50 and had a 239 strike rate while playing the scoop in T20 from 2018 until the end of 2022, according to the data analytics firm CricViz.
Since CricViz began recording T20 matches in 2006, no hitter has scored more runs with the scoop than Buttler. No one scored more runs with the knowledge during this time. In ODIs, he also makes excellent use of it; by June 2023, he had accrued 131 runs from spoons and had only been removed once.
In summary, Buttler’s scoop is a fantastic shot in and of itself and a strategy for improving the rest of his game by creating additional openings elsewhere on the pitch by making captains try to cover it with a fielder.
Chris Jordan, who has bowled to Buttler in the IPL, said, “Every time you look up, there’s always a gap that you feel he can access.” That’s why he’s so challenging to bowl at.
Although Nathan Leamon is best known for serving as England’s analyst, he also holds one of cricket’s least desirable positions: he plots to get rid of Buttler while working for Kolkata Knight Riders. “People specifically approach me and ask, ‘How are we going to bowl to Jos?’ because I’m English,” Leamon thinks. The only recommendation is to let him go early.
Because of the strength of Buttler’s scoop, “You feel like you’ve got only eight fielders – and only got four on the boundary – for the whole of his innings,” Leamon says. It would help if you kept your fine leg back—and it must be excellent—otherwise, he will scoop. And Buttler hits at a 200+ mph clip when jos dip. Jos plays it for enjoyment virtually never, and when he does, he only scores runs. Jos effectively removes one of your fielders from the game. Additionally, if the boundary is close, he will smash it for six over the opponent’s head, even if he is in the backseat.
Buttler has cited the scoop as his favourite shot, a claim based more on its efficacy than its daring, as he stated to Wisden in 2019: “A fielder never backs the wicketkeeper. The bowler accounts for the possibility that you could even if you don’t play it.
As a result, comprehending the scoop is crucial to appreciating Buttler’s genius. The inside is a glimpse into Buttler’s creative process and a fantastic shot in and of itself. Because of its potency, it also improves the rest of his game.
Buttler moves his left shoulder, keeping his body as free and intense as possible when a fast bowler rushes in. He stands outside the leg stump with his right foot when scooping, then pushes himself back towards the off side. 2018 saw him stating to Sky Sports, “I’ve worked on making it a smooth movement.” After doing that reverse press, I almost tried to roll beneath the ball, which put me in a beautiful rhythm.
Buttler avoids utilising his wrists unless facing a slower ball and keeps a watchful eye on the ball as it approaches the face of his bat. “I’m attempting to give you, the bowler, a chance to bounce the ball off my bat. I’m attempting to go at your speed, he said. Buttler stated that “my timing and everything else has to be perfect” if he wants to flick the ball over the custodian with his wrists. I’ll utilise all of your paces if I hold the bat there.
Buttler plays the scoop and maintains his balance, unlike Dilshan. Buttler may play the knowledge to both short and full balls by remaining upright. Batters typically play most strokes instinctively, but the scoop is preplanned. Buttler has more than one scoop; he has also mastered a reverse spoon, which he uses over the third man rather than the fine leg, by holding the bat at a different angle.
Buttler plays the scoop while standing up, unlike Dilshan. The inside is a deliberate shot that batters seldom make on impulse; by remaining upright, Buttler can play it to both short and full balls. Buttler has many scoops; by holding the bat at a different angle, he has also created a reverse knowledge, which he uses over the third man rather than the fine leg.
The renowned South African batter and Buttler’s boyhood hero, AB de Villiers, was a skilled practitioner of the scoop himself. De Villiers claims that Buttler’s ability to play it well is under his control. “He gets into a really good position, and his head is still,” he explains:
“He has his eyes parallel to the ground and moves his head out of the way. You always want to avoid having your head in line with the ball because you know that if you miss it, you’ll be knocked out.
He never tries to strike it too hard. It’s a tiny flip to speed things up and use the bowler’s pace. He handles things in a very straightforward manner. He occasionally lowers himself slightly; other times, he stands straight up, anticipating a hard-length delivery. It’s an instinctual stroke where you can practically read the bowler’s and captain’s intentions by being aware of what they’re attempting to accomplish.
Buttler’s scoop depends on his hand-eye coordination, which developed while he was a youngster played racquet sports. He perfected the shot via creative, diligent practice; he is known for experimenting, employing various grips, bat angles, and foot movements when facing yorkers.
“Behind the goalie, there are no fielders. Cricket is about hitting the ball where the fielders aren’t, simply as you can.
Buttler on why he chose to play the scoop
To attack the ball with the centre of his bat rather than digging it out when facing Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, Buttler would lower his hands on the handle and alter his grip, opening the face to angle wide yorkers beyond the third man. Buttler has control thanks to his relatively light bat, which allows him to whip his hands through the ball.
Buttler plays with a low front elbow, in contrast to most English batters, emphasising once more the importance of free play in his growth. “I have a very natural, bottom-handed grip,” he stated to Sky Sports in 2018. I’m myself, so there. Because of how I hold my bat, I’ve discovered a technique to speed my bat through the ball.
Buttler’s style is effortless and uncomplicated, whether he plays the scoop or more traditional strokes. De Villiers said of Jos’ hitting, “The thing that stands out for me the most is the power he creates with a relatively short and compact backlift.”
“His backlift doesn’t have a lot of twirls, twists, or turns, but he always manages to surprise the fielders and the bowlers with the amount of power he creates by playing it late under his eyes and letting his forearms and wrists do the rest,” says the observer.
Buttler reached new heights in T20 batting in 2021 and 2022. He scored more runs than any other player over the two World Cups, averaging 61.75 with a 148 strike rate. Between innings, Buttler equalled Kohli’s 2016 record for the hundreds in an IPL season with four.
When starting in T20 international matches, 60 players from the 12 teams that play Tests have amassed 500 runs by April 2023. Buttler had the second-best average and fourth-best strike rate among this group. Buttler defies the trade-off that has always existed between reliable players and destructive ones for T20 hitters.
As the opener in 44 T20Is, Buttler averaged 49.20 and had a 152 strike rate, much higher than when he batted in the middle order. He had discovered a method to blend an artist’s daring with an accountant’s dependability, just like in his scoop shot.
His manner is equally different from his record in making him stand out. In white-ball cricket, England was as slow as a turtle. They have discovered a hare—a player at the centre of the game’s development—in Buttler.
According to Smith, “one of the amazing things about Jos Buttler’s career was that it’s very uncommon for an England player to push the envelope in any sport.” “Consider the top British athlete in another sport during the past 20 years. Even when they have excelled, it has rarely been due to innovation or inventiveness. Jos being preeminent, some of England’s white-ball players were doing things that inspired the rest of the world to say, “Wow, let’s try that.
There is no disputing Brian Lara’s position as one of baseball’s all-time great batters. But after watching the T20 World Cup in 2022, he realised how much batting technique had changed since he stopped playing for his country in 2007.
Lara informed us that “the game has moved on.” “Many individuals claim that the batter from the past is considerably superior. You can see the shots these men are making right now. They are doing amazing things. I have to admit that the game has changed and grown, and these players are incredibly talented. I would survive and succeed if I were to enter the spirit world. However, I would like to perfect the ramp and reverse-sweep shots.
Unprompted, Lara chose one instance from the 2022 T20 World Cup final when Buttler responded to Naseem Shah’s outstanding bowling performance by scooping a delivery outside the off stump over a fine leg for six.
Lara smiled in disbelief, “You don’t do things like that,” Does Jos Buttler.
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