The England ODI wicketkeeper monster has devoured many a career over the last few years. Since Alec Stewart was finally dragged from the side, his Kookaburra Bubble still firmly wedged between his cold, dead hands, it’s been a constant struggle to replace him. The names just roll off the tongue, a list of future stars for our Whatever Happened To The Unlikely Lads? feature if ever there was one: Ambrose, Davies, Mustard, Foster, Read, Jones, Nixon and Prior have all been and gone in the decade since.
Of course, another name to add to that list is the latest casualty, one Craig Kieswetter. Square-faced Craig’s axeing from the side, midway through a series against India earlier this year, came as something of a surprise at the time, despite his best efforts to stink up almost every single England innings. Even more surprisingly, he was replaced by his Somerset team mate Jos Buttler, a man who doesn’t actually keep wicket in his county side.
It’s fair to say that the change hasn’t exactly brought around a massive upturn in performance. So far 14 ODIs (13 of them with the gloves) have brought Buttler just 116 runs, with just a single score above 21. It’s not exactly been inspiring stuff. In fact it’s been the biggest disappointment since Be Here Now.
Don’t get us wrong: no-one loves Jos Buttler more than us. Apart from maybe our mate Dave, who once copped off with his sister. Jos Buttler’s sister, that is. Not his own. That would be weird.
Back on topic, the question is very much where do the two players go now? For Somerset it seems that everything’s coming up Kieswetter. Since iron-gloved, square-faced Craig recovered from his broken finger he’s been Somerset”s first choice behind the stumps and star of their T20 campaign, scoring 447 runs in the group stage (and possibly not all 447 of them coming through mid-off). With Marcus Trescothick’s form flatlining like Shane Watson’s batting average, there has even been talk of Kieswetter taking over the captaincy.
Meanwhile Buttler has been sulking around in the outfield, struggling to make a significant impact and generally pondering over his terrible Champions Trophy (15 runs in four innings was almost Mullally-esque). With his contract due to expire at the end of the season there has been much discussion about whether he will stay, or head off to sunnier climes (i.e. more money) elsewhere. Quite where he can go and also keep wicket isn’t overly clear – there are a distinct lack of wicketkeeping vacancies in Division One, let alone those for someone still very much learning his trade.
The fact that Somerset might find themselves in the second division next year is another potential complication. What sort of joke sporting nation would pick a second division keeper who isn’t keeping?
Realistically, Jos Buttler isn’t going to be Somerset wicketkeeper unless he murders Craig Kieswetter in his sleep, something we’ve all considered doing over the last couple of years. He would be better served by knuckling down and concentrating on his batting – his First Class record is nothing more than ordinary – rather than trying to define his career through his keeping, whether at Somerset or not. England haven’t exactly been overly faithful to their keepers over the last decade and Buttler will find himself jettisoned from the international side, keeper or not, if he can’t find a hell of a lot more consistency with the bat.