Buttler focused on improvements

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Published: Saturday 6th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Jos Buttler is already arguably the world’s most powerful ‘360 degree’ batsman – but he is still intent on self-improvement this World Cup winter.

England’s wicketkeeper gave the tourists a much-needed foothold against Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 55 from just 37 balls in Hambantota on Wednesday as they reduced the deficit in the seven-match one-day international series to 2-1.

His trademark deflections to unguarded areas fine behind the wicket remain on show, a devastating combination once he is set with the remarkable ability to beat boundary fielders as if they are standing instead inside the 30-yard circle.

As England seek to level the series at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday, more Buttler magic would not go amiss.

For him, though, there is a longer-term opportunity here – to refine his skills to the point where the percentages are always in his favour, even though he will be taking risks entirely unfeasible even for many of his international colleagues.

“I always want to keep looking to develop and get better,” said the 24-year-old, whose unbroken stand of 84 with Joe Root sealed the deal for England in their five-wicket win three days ago.

“In this four-month period, I can really focus on skills. In parts of the world like this, you get lots of net bowlers and lots of facilities – so what a great place to try things.”

Buttler’s methods were a revelation when he first appeared for England three years ago, and it was clear from the outset that he had the potential to be one of the world’s finest attacking batsmen.

He knows, however, that – even for him – that will not happen without more graft.

He added: ” If it is the scoop shot, I want to be hitting that 10 times out of 10 – or reverse sweep, consistently.

“If someone misses their yorker I want to hit it for six. The best players in the world do that – people like (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni.

“The margin for error against him is so minimal, because if you miss he punishes you. That’s the level everyone aspires to get to – so that if someone misses their skill, you capitalise on that.”

Buttler’s role behind the stumps remains a work in progress.

“I’ve got loads of areas I want to improve on my wicketkeeping,” he said. “It’s down to me to keep working on that really hard.

“In one-day cricket, you don’t touch the ball too many times. It might just be a chance.

“A four-month period of one-day cricket is really good for my wicketkeeping – so I’m always aware that the time I’m going to get the ball is generally going to be a chance.”

England must try to level up in Colombo without captain Alastair Cook, serving a one-match ban for his team’s slow over rate.

Eoin Morgan will deputise, and Buttler believes any disruption will be minimal.

He said: “Alastair’s still around – it’s not as if he’s vanished – and Eoin’s done the captaincy before. I don’t think anyone’s really noticed, or (that) it will be too different.”

For England, the overdue success in midweek was non-negotiable, but has given them renewed belief.

“We knew we needed to win in Hambantota – coming here 3-0 down would be very tough,” added Buttler. ” (But) we really feel we can kick on now.

“We’ve got that winning feeling back, which is great. We haven’t had that often enough recently, so that needs to become a habit.”

To that end, they must decide on the best formula at the top of the order in Cook’s brief absence.

It appears very much a 50-50 call whether they bring back Ian Bell – dropped on Wednesday, but a utility top-four batsmen of huge ability and experience – or give James Taylor only his third ODI cap, and first in 15 months.

Either way, the likelihood is Moeen Ali and Alex Hales may well open together for the first time in this format.

Those decisions will not be Buttler’s, of course.

Whatever the exact personnel, he is intent not just on preparation en route to Australia and New Zealand early next year but on success to give England the confidence they will need Down Under.

“If we can make it 2-2 going to Kandy, it sets up the rest of the series brilliantly,” he said.

“The best preparation for a World Cup would be to win this series, win games of cricket and get that feeling of knowing how to win games.”

Published: Saturday 6th December 2014 by The News Editor

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