IPL 11

Jos Buttler and the importance of getting the opening gambit right in the IPL

Rajasthan Royals were desperate so they decided to give the Englishman a go at the top of the order and, luckily, it clicked.

For the Rajasthan Royals, Jos Buttler was at it again. Again, because he got his fifth consecutive half-century, equalling the record IPL streak that belonged to Virender Sehwag. Again, because it was also his fifth consecutive half-century since being promoted to the opener’s slot.

This clearly is a position that gets the best out of Buttler. It gives him time to settle in and once he does – as he showed against the Mumbai Indians – he is a hard man to stop. He does not need to go nuts from the very first ball. He can but as opener he doesn’t need to.

He settles in, picks the bowlers he wants to attack and then all hell breaks loose. A look at his wagon-wheel shows he’s scored 64% of his runs in the region between backward square-leg & long-on. But he made sure, there were enough hits on the off-side to prevent him from become too predictable.

He is also a true-360 degree player but we haven’t seen that facet of the game come to the part yet. Some might argue that given his current form, he probably just needs to keep doing what he is doing.

Right now, Buttler isn’t just scoring runs. He is staying there till the end and finishing off games and his amazing run of form has come at just the right time for Rajasthan, If anything, one can’t help but wonder why he wasn’t being trusted to open the innings earlier in the tournament.

Have a quick look at his tournament so far:

120 runs in 7 matches while batting down the order

April 29 - 10

April 22 - 6

April 20 - 22

April 18 - 24*

April 15 - 23 runs

April 11 - 29 runs
April 9 - 6 runs

Then, he was moved to the opener’s slot.

389 runs in 5 matches since being elevated to the opener’s slot

May 13 - 94*
May 11 - 95*
May 8 - 82
May 6 - 51
May 2 - 67

The Englishman has now scored 509 runs in this season (the fifth most by any batsman) and his run of form has also coincided with Rajasthan making their way back up the points table.

Buttler’s run has been amazing but it hasn’t come out of the blue. He knows this format. Since the start of 2017, only Brendon McCullum has scored more runs in T20 cricket than Jos Buttler. Admittedly, not a lot of those runs had come in India but it was worth the risk in the early going.

Right now, it seems more like a last-ditch gamble. The Royals were desperate so they decided to give Buttler a go at the top of the order and, luckily, it clicked.

Having Rahane as opener is fine if the other opener is going great guns because, otherwise, it invariably leads to middling starts and you can’t have that. Openers always dominate the run-scoring charts in T20 and this season of IPL is no different.

There are five openers in the top 10 run-getters this season – KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Buttler, Suryakumar Yadav, Shane Watson. Unlike Tests or ODIs, where someone lower down the order can take their time to get set, in T20s only openers have that luxury. That also means that they can control the pace of the innings. If the opener gets it right, the chances of putting up a competitive total on board go up in a big way.

Buttler’s knocks only, once again, prove the importance of getting the opening gambit right: A point that Mumbai Indians should perhaps ponder over once more given that Rohit Sharma – their captain and accomplished international batsman – has scored just 267 runs in 12 innings.

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