Jos Buttler - ‘the confident bubbly pupil’

Phil Lewis, Buttler's first team coach at King’s College in Taunton, recalls the destructive wicketkeeper-batsman’s early days.

Jos Buttler's coach, at King's College Taunton, describes his ward as a hardworking student.   -  Getty Images

When the destructive Jos Buttler was picked for the two-Test series against Pakistan in May early this year, it had been 18 months, since he had played red-ball cricket. 

However, his stocks have risen since. Not only was he included in England's Test squad for the crucial series against World No. 1 India, his promotion to Test vice-captaincy has earmarked him as a strong candidate for future leadership duties.

And Phil Lewis, Director of Sport, at King's College Taunton — is happy to see an ex pupil of this top Cricket school making giant strides in international cricket.

Lewis, who was Buttler's first team coach for a couple of years, fondly remembers his 'confident bubbly pupil'. 

Read: Why Buttler can't stop gushing about IPL

"Jos was a quietly spoken kid who was always in the thick of his friends having a good laugh. He was a hard worker in the classroom and achieved top GCSE and A-level grades even though he dedicated a lot of his time to cricket. He was an incredibly focused young man", Lewis tells Sportstar.  

At the time Buttler was recalled for the Pakistan Tests, he was averaging only 31 in Test cricket, and had not featured in first-class cricket that season. But his limited-overs form was indisputable.

Jos Buttler's impressive career numbers.

 

The Somerset-born cricketer lit up Rajasthan Royals' campaign in the Indian Premier League hammering 548 runs at a strike-rate of 155.24, embellished further by a record-equalling five successive fifties.

Did he start off as an aggressive batsman? "He always had a special talent when he was younger. The most notable part of his game was the power he would generate by using his wrists and hand speed. He wasn’t big for his age and this is something he developed to ensure he could hit the ball harder," Lewis notes. 

"He played a lot of cricket for our senior team from a young age so he had to adapt and develop his game which helped him hugely. I would say he was inventive as well as aggressive and scored runs very quickly like he does now. 

"He was a fierce competitor and a wonderful captain. He was also incredibly in tune with his players. In his penultimate year, he almost single-handedly won us the national schools T20 title falling narrowly short in the last hurdle," he adds. 

Also read: Focus on power game can make Root effective in Tests, says coach

Recalling the time Buttler scored a double hundred in a schoolboy game in half as many balls, Lewis says, "He played the same way you see today. Ruthless powerful hitting when the ball is in his slot mixed with finesse, skill and measure to ensure he hits big scores. 

"He was always asking for feedback from his coaches. I remember him getting out early in a T20 knockout game against Sherborne school. An opposition fielder took a stunning catch on the boundary at the deep extra cover to get him out and Jos was really upset with himself. 

Jos Buttler has scored six ODI hundreds, three of which were England's three fastest ODI hundreds.   -  Getty Images

 

"He asked me what he should have done better and I simply said to him “nothing, you play the way you do because you back yourself. On another day that’s over his head and everyone is applauding you for an incredible shot”. He got out in obscure ways many more times for school after that but always kept trying things to get better even if it cost him his wicket sometimes....well it worked didn’t it!!"

Six One Day International hundreds, three of which — as of early 2016 — were England's three fastest ODI hundreds. The 27-year-old's impact on England's ODI and T20 side has vindicated his coach's words. 

Also read: 'More' on glovesmen in English conditions

Lewis reckons Buttler, with his talent and ability to watch the ball, could become one of the best middle order players around in Test cricket too. "He is brilliant against spin and he is not phased by quicker bowlers. He has all the tools he needs and now simply needs to make sure he looks after his body and his routine so that he stays fresh and mentally strong. I’m glad he got the call-up again. It is a hugely exciting time for him," he says. 

Playing all three formats would mean Lewis doesn't get to meet his student as often as he would like but Buttler has his ways of extending his gratitude to the school which had a role in his progression from a precocious talent to a world-class cricketer. "I see him once a year probably when he comes back to school or at events. He invited me to a Lord’s Test match a while ago where it was wonderful to catch up with his parents, who are hugely down to earth and very supportive."

The high-flying Englishman sure has his feet rooted to the ground.