Jos Buttler replaces Eoin Morgan as England white-ball captain
Jos Buttler will “take his game to a new level”, predicted Rob Key, after the 31-year-old was named as Eoin Morgan’s replacement as the captain of England’s white-ball team.
Buttler has been promoted from the vice-captaincy having initially been given that role – at Morgan’s request – before the 2015 ODI World Cup. He was only 24 at the time, and his captaincy experience amounted to one game for Somerset’s second XI and another for England Under-18s. “Jos has been an unbelievably good vice-captain while I’ve been captain,” Morgan said. “When he’s stepped in he’s been an exceptional leader, and within the group he commands tremendous respect.”
He has already led England in 14 matches across seven years, most recently in the third ODI against the Netherlands last week, with Morgan injured and freshly resolved to step down. His appointment concludes a period of unprecedented flux for England’s international sides, with both red- and white-ball teams now working under different coaches and captains to those that ended 2021.
Buttler described Morgan as “an inspirational leader”, adding: “There are lots of things that I have learned from him that I’ll take into this role.” Neither he nor Matt Motts, who was named white-ball coach last month, is likely to propose a significant shift to the approach that won England the 2019 ODI World Cup and has them ranked No 2 in both formats.
“Jos will continue the ethos and mindset that Morgs brought to us from 2015 so I honestly don’t think you’ll see anything change,” said Ben Stokes, the new Test captain. “It is Jos’s time to take the team forward and I’m pretty sure it will be pretty much the same as Morgs left it.”
Buttler will be immediately thrown into a hectic period for his team: starting in Southampton next Thursday England play six games against India swiftly followed by six against South Africa, with seven T20s scheduled for Pakistan in September and three in Australia the following month before the start of the T20 World Cup.
Though Buttler was the obvious choice for the captaincy, he was certainly not the only candidate in a settled and experienced side. Morgan said there were a number of “guys that can definitely do the job”, but one that stood out.
“He was the obvious choice,” Stokes said. “Even when he was in the Test team he was a huge leader and role model for guys coming into the team, in the way that he trained, the way that he played, and the way that he thought about the game. He’s an incredibly selfless human being, not just on the cricket field, so he is going to get a great response now that he is leading the white-ball team officially. I’m really looking forward to playing a few games under him as well.”
Beyond his character Buttler’s white-ball pedigree is impeccable: only Morgan has scored more T20 runs for England than his 2,140, while of current England players only Joe Root has contributed more than his 4,120 ODI runs. At 31 he still seems to be improving: since the start of 2021 he has averaged 88.3 in ODIs and 65.4 in T20s, and he recently completed a triumphant Indian Premier League campaign which ended with him winning the orange cap as leading run-scorer and being named most valuable player.
“He is in the form of his life and I believe the extra responsibility will take his game to a new level and inspire those around him,” said Key, the managing director of England men’s cricket. “I’m looking forward to seeing him take us forward. He thoroughly deserves the opportunity.”
Given England’s manic schedule the appointment may be interpreted as acceptance that Buttler’s Test career is at an end. The 31-year-old dropped out of that side after the fourth of five Ashes Tests over the winter, and Stokes has been clear that Ben Foakes will be his first-choice wicketkeeper for the foreseeable future.
With Stokes bringing a limited-overs sensibility to his side there have been some recent calls – by Kumar Sangakkara and Michael Vaughan, among others – for Buttler to return as opener in place of the out-of-form Zak Crawley. But at Edgbaston on Thursday, as he looked ahead to Friday’s Test against India, Stokes refused to entertain that idea. “The team we have here is the Test team I want going forward,” he said. “When we sat down at the start of the summer and selected the squad, it was because those were the guys we wanted in every position and they were the best to do that.”