Sir Alastair Cook believes England should continue to back ‘world-class’ Jos Buttler in Test cricket and says Keaton Jennings’ recall for the Sri Lanka tour is a ‘no-brainer’.
Buttler endured an underwhelming winter with the bat, averaging less than 18 across five matches in New Zealand and South Africa, with a top-score of just 43.
The 29-year-old is under pressure to keep his place in the side, with fellow wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes also named in England’s squad for the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March.
But former captain Cook cites Buttler’s leadership qualities – as well as his ability as a cricketer – as reasons England should stick by him.
England’s record run-scorer said: ‘Mike Atherton summed it up best when he said “there is always going to be someone out of form”. That’s just the nature of the beast, you won’t have 11 players in the best form of their lives.
‘Jos did struggle, by his own admission, with the bat in that South Africa series. He’s going to a place now where he has scored runs before and, again, sometimes you do have to look at the long-term.
‘Jos plays such a big part in the leadership of English cricket, as part of the Test team leadership group as well as in the one-dayers.
‘You need that continuity with the players and I would rather back someone like him for a couple more games to find his form. He is a genuinely world-class player.
‘Runs are his currency as a keeper-batter and he knows that. People like Jonny Bairstow – a world-class player – not going on the tour. He wants to come back. Ben Foakes as well – there is good competition.
‘What encourages me is that they are starting to pick players in their rightful positions, where they have grown up playing for their counties, not putting round pegs in square holes.’
Joining Buttler in Sri Lanka will be opening batsman Jennings, who made his last appearance for England at the start of 2019.
The 27-year-old averages just 25 in Test cricket but scored both of his red-ball centuries in the subcontinent and deserves his recall, according to Cook.
‘I think it’s a fairly obvious decision to make,’ Cook added to Sky Sports. ‘Rory Burns isn’t there, so you need cover at the top of the order.
‘In that New Zealand series they got burned a little bit because they only took one wicket-keeper. I know it was only a two-match tour, and there is a likelihood the keeper wouldn’t get injured, but Jos did get injured.
‘Suddenly you were in a Test match playing for England with a guy who has only kept six games and I think England have now learned who is the best top order cover to go to those conditions, and that is Keaton Jennings.
‘If there is an injury you then have your best players available so I think it is a no-brainer. Whether what he does in Sri Lanka means he becomes first choice in June is not relevant.
‘If he helps England win a series in Sri Lanka, with points for the World Championship, and to win back-to-back series away would be a great boost for English cricket and Joe Root.
‘He’s the solution at the moment, a good player of spin in the sub continent and that’s where they are going. His two Test hundreds have come there.
‘We don’t know what is going to happen in June or July but I think England will pick the best four batters for the top three places available to them at the moment.’
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