Jos Buttler has admitted he was as surprised as anyone by his Test recall and said it feels like “another debut”.
Buttler, who has not played a Test since December 2016, was hailed for his “unique gifts” by new national selector, Ed Smith. But, having not played a first-class match this year or made a first-class century since January 2014, it was a selection that took almost everyone – and certainly Buttler – by surprise.
But while he concedes a Test recall was not on his “radar” in the short term, Buttler insists he had never given up hope of a return to the format he believes is “still the ultimate” form of the game. And, whatever happens in this latest recall to the side, he has promised he will do things his own way.
“It was quite a lot of a surprise,” Buttler said of his recall. “It wasn’t particularly on my radar. But, through a change of selectors, I’ve been afforded an incredible opportunity. So it’s a fantastic surprise and an incredible opportunity. It feels like another debut, really.
“I wasn’t resigned to not playing Tests again, but I was very aware that it might never happen. I knew I was going to be available for a lot of championship cricket for Lancashire at the end of the summer, so that was a real focus of mine for targeting red-ball cricket. But you always think that maybe that race is run and it will never happen again.”
He comes back into the Test team in a fine vein of form. He struck five half-centuries – including an unbeaten 94 and an unbeaten 95 – in his final six IPL innings and, though he accepts there will be some “differences” in the challenges facing him in Test cricket, he hopes to retain the same positivity and aggression that has served him well in T20 cricket.
“Of course there are differences,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I won’t be opening and trying to slog it in the first six overs.
“But hopefully I can entertain. From the conversations I’ve had with Joe Root, the captain, and Ed Smith, the selector, they very much want me to play the way that suits me and in the fashion they believe will get the best out of me in that No. 7 role. They want me to play in the way I play in white-ball games.
“For me it’s about expressing myself, trusting my instincts and allowing that to flourish rather than fighting it. I’m not just going to go out there and slog, but I am going to try to be positive.
“There have been some great cricketers from all generations who have done it their own way. That’s what’s been asked of me: to play in a way that suits me.”
Although he admits it was “hard to leave” the IPL early, Buttler is in no doubt as to where his priorities lie.
“It was tough to leave the IPL halfway through,” he said. “It’s an incredible tournament and I’ve loved the last three years I’ve been there.
“But I’m delighted to leave as well to come and have this opportunity. Test cricket is the ultimate format and I think it always will be for players of my generation. You get that feeling talking to everyone: they still feel Test cricket is best.
“And Virat Kohli signing for Surrey to get used to playing in England shows that Test cricket is still at the forefront of players’ minds. It’s still the pinnacle.”