Jos Buttler Still In Vogue, Naturally

I don’t care much for high fashion. People who wear trendy stuff look like try hards. They’re suckers too. Why invest in something (and pay over the odds) just because it boasts a certain label and fits a fad? Call me old fashioned but I measure true value on whether something does its job well enough and how long it lasts.

I might be a boring traditionalist – I’m not exactly Prada and Armani’s target audience – but I use the same criteria when judging batsmen. Longevity at the crease matters most. And one should judge players on their productivity rather than anything else.

I’m rather perplexed, therefore, that Jos Buttler has not only retained his place for the Test series against the West Indies; England’s management have actually doubled down by making him vice captain. It’s as if they’re deliberately trolling cantankerous middle-aged sods like me.

Jos is still very much in vogue and there’s nothing me, you, Ben Foakes, or anyone else can do about it. Ed Smith and Chris Silverwood obviously don’t care that the case for Buttler’s inclusion is, like a crap Ralph Lauren miniskirt, skimpy at best.

People who’ve read TFT for a long time will know that I’ve got nothing against Buttler. I think he’s the best white ball player that England have ever had. I was initially against his recall to the Test team but began to change my mind after he learned to knuckle down and occupy the crease as 2018 progressed.

However, I’ve now lost faith again. Buttler was exposed by the Aussies’ high class pace attack for the second time in his career last summer, and it’s time to move on. He’s averaged just 23 in his last 13 Tests. Michael Carberry averaged 29 in 6 Tests against an even better Australian pace attack down under and was discarded forever.

But Carberry’s face didn’t fit. Buttler’s obvious does. In fact, Buttler’s face fits so well that England’s management just can’t bear to take him off. When he failed as a specialist batsman the selectors did everything possible to keep him in the team by making him wicket-keeper again – even though he’s clearly not one of the best ten keepers in the country. He might not be in the top twenty.

Yesterday England named 27 players for a 3-day warm-up game ahead of the Windies series. Four wicket-keeper batsmen were included (I don’t count Ollie Pope). Here are their first class batting averages: Bairstow 44, Ben Foakes 38, James Bracey 35, and Jos Buttler 32. Buttler therefore has the least impressive record. 

But batting isn’t everything, of course. Purists would rather England picked the best keeper. Sadly, this isn’t Jos Buttler either. In fact, many judges would say that Foakes is the best, followed by Bairstow, Bracey, and then Buttler in last place again. Given Jos’s recent struggles in Test cricket, his inclusion therefore makes it rather difficult to argue that the England cricket team is a meritocracy.

Although Buttler has leadership skills – he looks the part and talks nicely which always goes down well in ECB circles – it’s getting harder and harder for Ed Smith to keep backing the signature selection of his tenure. Buttler simply has to start producing.

With Joe Root missing the first test to attend the birth of this child, I’ve heard it argued that England need Buttler’s experience and leadership skills. I’m not buying this though. Any team containing Stuart Broad and James Anderson has plenty of knowhow and wherewithal.

I’ve also heard it suggested that Buttler has been retained for the sake of continuity i.e. the men in possession should keep their places for now. Hmmmm. Let’s see whether they ditch Dom Bess for Moeen Ali first.

The other big news, of course, is that Ben Stokes will captain the side. Some of you will have mixed feelings about this but I don’t have a major issue with it. You can’t very well make someone official vice captain and then hand the reins to someone else when the regular skipper is out. What’s more, I don’t want to get into yet another discussion about events in Bristol. I’ve had a call from Ben Stokes’s lawyer in the past so please be careful what you write in the comments folks.

If you’d like to watch the warm-up game, which will be a Ben Stokes XI (well, 13 players to be exact) against Buttler’s XI (well, 14 players) then coverage will be available via the ECB website. It should be quite an interesting affair – not least because there’s genuine competition in the bowling department.

For the first time since, I really have no idea when, England’s three genuinely fast bowlers are all fit. Olly Stone, Mark Wood, and Jofra Archer are all set to play. What’s more, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, and promising new boy Dan Lawrence will be competing for two batting places in the skipper’s absence. Who will bat at 3 and 4 in Root’s absence?

All eyes will be on the spinners too. My prediction? Bess and Leach will out-bowl Moeen but the latter will get the nod for the first Test anyway. Why? Because of reasons. The same reasons why Jos Buttler is (a) in the team, and (b) vice captain.

Neither player has produced in an England shirt for some time. And that’s a problem. England shirts are in danger of becoming must-have apparel that are only modelled by a select ‘chosen’ few.

James Morgan


  • I thought Butler was in line for the wicketkeeper’s position and not batsman in which case surely the best wicketkeeper should be in the team which is Foakes. This is a no brainer.

  • Agree with you re Buttler and red ball cricket. I would not have him in the team at all. In view of Root’s absence my own selection for the first test would be Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Lawrence taking Root’s batting slot, *Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Curran, Bess, Wood, Anderson or Broad depending on form and fitness (I would not play both oldsters in the same side), with Parkinson as reserve spinner just in case the highly unlikely eventuates and an English surface demands the inclusion of two specialist spinners.

  • Jos is a great cricketer a true giant if the game he played for the best county Somerset and is a good keeper

    • Such a good keeper that, when faced with making a choice, Somerset chose Kieswetter over Buttler.

  • I have to say you are right James. I feel desperately sad for Foakes. This series was the ideal opportunity for Buttler to play white ball with Foakes being given his chance.

  • Buttler has to be in any England side atm. He’s one of the best in the world, potential to win games and leadership is what you want from your keeper. Totally disagree

    • What good is potential to win games If you don’t actually win any games? In fact, one could argue that a player who’s had 41 opportunities to win games but failed to do so actually has less potential to win games than most given alternatives.

      I hope Jos comes good but all players have to produce at the end of the day. I’m also a bit concerned that relatively easy runs against lesser opposition will cement his place for longer and then he’ll come unstuck against the better sides again. This has been the pattern of his career thus far.

      • I agree with your general point James but….the pattern is runs against weak teams and not against stronger ones? His two best series were against the then current and recent previous no. 1 test sides, and he failed against one of the weakest teams SL have put out for years…

    • This is taking fantasy too far. Putting to one side his very average batting at top level, he is undoubtedly the worst keeper I have ever seen take the gloves in a test. He needs to score 10+ runs per innings more than his competitors with the bat simply because he costs those runs in missed catches and extras. If he is to be in a test side it can only ever be based on his batting (and that cannot be justified based on the last 2 years).

  • Selector Smith behaves with the same arrogance and sense of entitlement as Rees Mogg leading members of Parliament to queue to vote when technology was available. Unfortunately cricket is riddled with such figures who pick their own favourites without any recourse to judgement. They just like to make a point that they have the power to do so. It just means that Foakes doesn’t get the nod. It is tragic that the England set up is still riven with such partisanship. It used to be the Essex Mafia. Now it relies on the whims of Ed Smith. The other problem is the old boys network as so many commentators now are ex players with club preferences. The lack of success of our Test cricket was relegated to a minor issue while The Hundred was being pushed to the fore. Which allowed places to be treated as gifts to be handed out. It’s been a time of deep dismay for all those with serious credentials. The ECB has been a byword for dodgy practice. Time for a clean up and clear out.

    • And it is this attitude by the ECB hierarchy which may explain the attitude to Carberry (not just his being discarded but also his previous lack of chances). How many strikes are required before they are treated to the same fate as the Indian cricket board? Buttler is strike 1. All those white ball bats selected for tests (Hales, Vince, Duckett etc) is strike 2. The games of favourites to support the evil clique (Prior, Swann, Anderson, Broad) and get rid of their enemies (Pietersen, Bell – and I am no Pietersen fan). Strike 3. The ignoring of talent and promotion of their buddies (Buttler instead of Foakes, Curran instead of Woakes). Strike 4. Any other sports governing body with their record would be under investigation.

      • I think the Carbs thing is getting a bit out of hand. He was one of a number of batsmen – including Compton and Robson – who didn’t do badly but never really made an irrefutable case for continued selection. Carbs was certainly unfortunate in that he hadn’t had a bad tour, but his form for Hampshire In the matches leading up to the Test meant he hadn’t made a compelling case for selection, and never really did again.

        • How many chances did “the right kind of man” Cook get in comparison to the other players mentioned. It’s always been jobs for the boys.

          • I don’t think anyone can plausibly argue that Cook ever didn’t deserve selection and retention with the possible exception of towards the very end of his career. Even after he retired there was a certain amount of pressure for him to return.

  • You can’t compare Carberry to Buttler as the latter is a potential matchwinner which Carberry never was. I agree though that our recent trend of picking test temperament players at the top of the order should be continued and it’s logical progression should have Foakes keeping. Mr Ed is clearly a face fits trendy and our top white ballers will all get preference under his bits and pieces philosophy.
    As to the captaincy I don’t like the Stokes option, though he has been Root’s understudy, so is the logical move. He’s too important to the team. To me it’s like when we gave Botham the reins. Maybe this is why Buttler’s there, as a calming influence. Anderson would be a dreadful choice as captain as he’s a moody character and Broad has the same knee jerk temperament as Stokes. Personally I would have given the job to Burns if fit, as at least he has some captaincy experience in the long game, which is tactically a totally different proposition from the one day stuff. Whether he has the strength of character to scope with the dressing room stars can only be decided after he’s given a go.
    However I have mixed feelings about whether the game should be being played atall and I don’t see, given the artificial preparation, what conclusions we can draw from it, however it pans out.

    • Personally I don’t have an issue with Stokes as captain either–other than that if England are appointing their least experienced captain for decades then their succession planning or attention to detail perhaps isn’t all it might be!

      But I think he–or his lawyer!–are being naive if they think that the events in Bristol don’t have any impact at all on his qualities as captain, which is what the debate’s about. It’s not six months since he appeared to challenge a member of the crowd in an international match to a fight. It’s difficult to maintain that those who say that he shouldn’t be captain on behavioural grounds don’t have any reason at all to say it.

      < Comment edited >

  • Your Buttler-Moeen comparison seems a little bit lazy to me. Buttler’s last ten tests have produced 406 runs at an average of 21, most of which was as a specialist batsman. Moeen’s last ten tests have produced 48 wickets at an average of 25 and a strike rate of 42 (considerably better, incidentally, than Leach’s career record of ten tests).

    And he’s got a perfectly OK record in England. I can see that there are arguments in favour of both Leach and Ali (and maybe Bess, although it would seem strange to pick a spinner over a his first-choice county colleague), but it’s not that open and shut.

    • Moeen has played 60 Tests and averages 36 with the ball and 29 with the bat. This isn’t good enough imho. His record at home is decent but his away record is terrible. His statistics look a little better with the ball over the last ten Tests because of the games in spin friendly Sri Lanka (in which he was out-bowled by Leach) and then some low scoring games in the West Indies. In his last outing (against Australia) he bowled very poorly and took 3-172 at an economy rate of over 4.

      I think the Mo / Buttler comparisons have merit because (if Moeen is recalled) they’ve been included ahead of cricketers who have been more productive. Mo averages 36 with the ball, Bess averages 30, and Leach averages 29. Mo’s first class bowling average (38!) is also significantly worse than his rivals. Hope that explains.

      Although Mo is handy at home I’d rather we invest in a younger cricketer who might actually improve. Someone who can perform at home and abroad. I think Leach / Bess have stacks more potential than Mo who, a bit like Monty Panesar, really didn’t learn / improve as they matured. Moeen’s best year in test cricket (statistically) was still 2014 which was his first year.

  • Buttler has high name recognition in India which is where the big bucks are to be made. Think that isn’t a factor? If they keep picking him long enough, and with so many weak teams around, he’ll eventually bully someone and then the stooges will trumpet how right it was to stick by him.

    The only thing around English cricket at the moment I remotely care about is the vote about county cricket on Monday. As I understand it, 12 teams have to vote for the regionalised CC + T20 option and if that fails it will be Option B of 50 overs + T20.

    < Comment edited >

  • Buttler went to a very posh school and employs a nanny. Foakes just can’t compete on class status. Ed Smith (also posh) played 3 tests and averaged 17. Now I’m not suggesting that cricket is anything other than a meritocracy…..

    • To be fair – what most people are glossing over is that Foakes had a fairly wretched county season last year. If he’d had an even halfway decent one then I think it’s fairly likely he’d have been given the gloves for the NZ and SA tests. This being the case, you can see why they plumped for Buttler, who at least showed signs of finding form again towards the end of the Ashes. Obviously he’s done little of note since then but in the other hand neither has Foakes. Given we know Jos can definitely do it with the red ball (before the Ashes he was one of the top five leading Test run scorers of the previous twelve months) it’s not unreasonable for them to stick with him, although I, like many, would really like to see Foakes play again.

  • The best Chairman of selectors during my time watching cricket was Geoff Miller. He was knowledgeable, diligent, thorough, collegiate and always ready to be convinced by a sound argument in favour of a player. He was also fair (i.e. unbiased) and transparent in his reason for selecting a player. Smith is pretty much the exact opposite it seems to me. One of the most damning criticisms you can make of a selector is that he has favourites as well as the opposite. All too often, that seems to be the case with Smith – his squads are not picked with the same relentless logic that GM’s were – and it shows.

    • I agree. Miller was better than Graveney, the Fraser / Newell / Whitaker trio, and Ed Smith. He didn’t crave the spotlight. He just got on with the job, adopted a lowish profile, and seemed quite pragmatic imho. I liked him.

  • That really is an astonishingly lazy argument. It’s presumably the same reason that he picked Adil Rashid (Bellevue Sixth Form College) and Joe Denly (Chaucer Technology College) for the test team when many people thought he shouldn’t have. Or was quite happy to fast track that well-known public schoolboy Jofra Archer into the team.

    Or is it also proof that cricket is racist, anti-northern and anti-Essex on the basis that neither Smith nor Buttler is black, northern or from Essex?

    • What on earth are you on about? Let’s not bring the racist argument into this forum please.

    • It may be a lazy argument but I struggle to see how Smith’s record merits him being chairman of selectors or Buttler’s record in test batting and as a keeper merits a place in the side (test side). And I didn’t suggest the posh old boys club made up the entire squad…it does seem to confer advantages though.

      • Ed Smith got the job because he’s eloquent, well connected, and did a better presentation at interview than his rival candidates Derek Pringle and Mike Selvey. The ECB absolutely love a good presentation. Just ask Chris Silverwood and Gary Kirsten.

        PS The selector job wasn’t even on Ed’s radar at the time. We was actually invited to apply. Make of that what you like.

          • One of our local comedians, Gary Delaney, is an ex marketing man and part of his live act is a power-point presentation of his material. It’s all very un-PC and no worse for that. Sign of the times I guess.

        • I hadn’t realised Pringle and Selvey were the competition. It may be the best (only) explanation for him getting the job.

          We do not need good presentations, just an ability to win at cricket. Dermot Reeve is the answer. :)

          • Dermot was one of the best wind-up artists I’ve seen on a cricket field. He had the ability to get under even experienced players skins so was never going to be favoured by the establishment. You could see and hear him strutting his stuff from the sidelines and though it was hardly in the spirit of the game it was entertaining.

    • Marek
      Who, if anybody, is your post addressed to? If it’s me, it’s way off beam as I was not making the points which you address.

  • I love Joss but it’s getting silly now. Just like Keaton Jennings got silly. Everyone with eyes in their head spent two years screaming “what’s Rory Burns got to do?!” and the Ben Foakes situation is similarly beyond a joke. We all know it’s a ‘face fits’ situation, a disease the ECB has been perennially prone to. Frankly Ed Smith & co can blow me.

    • “Frankly Ed Smith & co can blow me.”

      Based on his record he would pick the wrong person and the ramifications would be interesting.

    • I quite agree. I’m all for giving a player an extended run in the side if the selectors believe they’ve seen something in him, but once, as happened with Jennings, he’s not making runs because he has an obvious technical weakness, then it’s perverse to keep picking him. The Foakes situation is beyond comprehension – it’s not as if he played badly when he was tried.
      One of the reasons for my admiration for Geoff Miller was that ‘face fits’ had no place in his pantheon – it’s the only period I can remember when the ability to play Cricket at the highest level was all that mattered.

      • Until cricket rids itself of the old school tie brigade we’ll always be hamstrung like this.

  • I agree Butler is probably out best white ball batsman, but just hasn’t got the techniques to knuckle down in tests. A few years back, when he played red ball cricket, he was 3rd choice keeper for Lancashire and not rated by the members at all in that roll.
    As for Root not playing because the wife is expecting…well that I don’t agree with. He’s the England Captain for Pete’s sake. He’ll have to quarantine for 14 days no doubt which means he may not feature in the 3 tests at all. To be frank with all the restrictions and playing in empty grounds it feels like second rate cricket, much like the football. So probably largely irrelevant who plays.

  • To be fair – what most people are glossing over is that Foakes had a fairly wretched county season last year. If he’d had an even halfway decent one then I think it’s fairly likely he’d have been given the gloves for the NZ and SA tests. This being the case, you can see why they plumped for Buttler, who at least showed signs of finding form again towards the end of the Ashes. Obviously he’s done little of note since then but in the other hand neither has Foakes. Given we know Jos can definitely do it with the red ball (before the Ashes he was one of the top five leading Test run scorers of the previous twelve months) it’s not unreasonable for them to stick with him, although I, like many, would really like to see Foakes play again.

  • Isn’t the plan for non-overlapping test and limited-overs squads? So shouldn’t Jos Buttler be disqualified from the test team simply on the grounds that he’s needed in the other half?

    I looked at the scoreccard from yesterday: they bowled 90 overs! How did that happen? Or, more to the point, why can’t it happen in test matches?

  • James – that is the closest to a rant you have ever come!
    Buttler is simply not a good enough batsman or keeper to be in the Test team. I am not sure how anyone can genuinely argue he is.

    • In the twelve months after his recall to the Test side in 2018, he was the second highest run scorer in the world, behind only Kohli. 98 more than Root and 318 more than Stokes (who was third highest for England in that time). Obviously he’s been out of form for a bit, but it’s just incorrect that he’s not a Test standard batsman.

      • But he is no more than top club standard with the gloves, so Foakes must play and if Buttler is also to play it has to be because he is better than the alternatives with the bat – and he has not been for some time.

      • Buttler has one ton in 40 matches that is not the return required of a Test batsman.

  • Off topic, but worth a mention that the 6N rugby going to pay TV has become a lot more likely with the sport desperate for more money now.

    • It already looked almost certain before the virus as the 6N had announced that deals for broadcasting from 2022 would be open for bids from paid channels. And legislation already allows that as 6N only has category B protection (meaning they must make highlights available free to air).

  • More nauseating garbage from the ECB that the England team will wear Black Lives Matter logos.

    BLM is controlled opposition, not a genuine grass roots’ independent movement. If it was the latter: a) Would it have such blanket sympathy from the corporate-state media when breaking their precious social distancing with impunity? b) Would it have the support of every Fortune 500 company ranging from Apple to Google to Bank of America? c) Would it have come up with the manifesto that it did with the lengthy section supporting transgenderism and not a word supporting black fathers? d) Would it be able to engage in criminal damage and still be pushed forward by celebrities as a worthy thing? There is much extremely suspicious about the alleged death of George Floyd ranging from anamolies in the film footage to his previous history to the conflicting autopsies.

    Perhaps cricket crowds should be re-designated BLM protests? It might be one way we could get to watch some cricket again.

  • The county vote has reportedly been changed to a simple majority (i.e. ten counties now have to support red-ball cricket rather than twelve).

    It sounds like they’re deeply divided and the possibility of some sort of split seems quite real. I’m disgusted but not terribly surprised to discover that my former county Hampshire are one said to be most against the red-ball option (along with predictables like Northants, Glos and Glamorgan).

  • A few keeper stats. During his 90 innings in tests behind the stumps Bairstow averaged 2.066 dismissals per innings – only Steve Rhodes (2.227) and Chris Read (2.076) have bettered that. Buttler’s figure is 1.625 so a long, long way behind. Those figures mean that had Bairstow been keeping instead of Buttler he would have made about 20 extra dismissals. Foakes’s figure is 1.5, but that is on the basis of just 8 innings so might not be a true reflection of his ability. In ODIs Buttler averages 1.474 dpi whereas the person he displaced in the side, Kieswetter averaged 1.520 dpi. In first class matches only (so excluding tests) Kieswetter averaged 1.759dpi, Buttler 1.582dpi. The fact is that Buttler is not a good keeper – he never has been. Relative to his peers, he must be one of the worst keepers ever to play for England.


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