England’s Jos Buttler (AFP Photo)
MANCHESTER: England players must endeavour to take the pressure off teammate Jos Buttler, who has been struggling behind the stumps in the ongoing Test against Pakistan, feel former wicketkeepers.
Buttler dropped two catches and missed a stumping during Pakistan’s first innings in the Test here. Two of those misses cost the hosts dearly as Shan Masood, who was on 45, went on to score 156, helping the visitors put up 326.
Former wicketkeeper Matt Prior feels Buttler is stuck in a “horrible place” and the team should support him.
“I feel for Jos it’s a horrible place to be but England need him to come out of it,” Prior told Sky Sports’ The Cricket Debate.
“But it’s not just one guy. If one guy is struggling, the wicketkeeper is struggling, the team has to stand up and say ‘concentrate on your stuff, we’ve got this’,” Prior added.
The 38-year-old Prior, who featured in 79 Tests between 2007 and 2014, said Buttler’s posture and demeanour during the match indicated he is not confident about his game.
“I watched Jos very closely and he’s in that place, which I unfortunately have experience of myself, where you question your own game. A number of times you could see that Jos was looking at his hands, his gloves.
“I know that suddenly your gloves don’t feel quite right, your posture is not right.
“You question everything rather than looking at what the match situation is and how you can help the bowler or captain or gee the fielders up which, as we know, is such a crucial role for a keeper,” he added.
Prior said it is “the worst” place for a player to be in when on the field.
“When you are battling behind the stumps, it is quite literally the worst place to be on the cricket pitch because you know that ball is coming to you.
“As a wicketkeeper you are out there for seven hours and the ball will come to you so you have to find a way to not go too internal.”
Former wicketkeeper-batsman Alec Stewart agreed that the team should rally behind Buttler during his difficult time.
“The other 10 players should understand that Jos is going through a really tough time. The last thing you want is to be tense, on edge and not wanting the ball to come to you because there is no hiding place for a wicketkeeper,” Stewart said.
“If he has to also be the cheerleader for the team then you are asking too much. So someone in that group should go ‘Jos, I will take over for a while and gee the troops up. You concentrate on catching the ball and staying relaxed’.”
Stewart also lavished praise on wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who is currently with the side as an official reserve, adding that he would do a brilliant job behind the stumps if given a chance.
“He is an unbelievable keeper and his hand speed is second to none. He is ready to play but has to get into the side,” Steward said.
“I thought he was harshly treated after his winter in Sri Lanka and West Indies as he showed that not only is he a magnificent wicketkeeper but also a very accomplished batsman.
“When he gets the chance, I hope he is given as long a chance as other keepers have been. He has to earn the right to get in – Jos is in possession – but he is a game-changer with the gloves on,” Stewart added.