The 15th edition of the Indian Premier League is nearing the halfway stage and if one does a team-wise analysis, the season has been quite competitive so far. Just four points separate the top eight teams in what is promising to be a tight race for the playoffs.
But if you analyse in terms of individual performances, there’s been absolutely no competition for Jos Buttler. He has been, arguably, the best batter in this IPL so far.
The right-handed opener notched up his third century of the season, his fourth overall in last eight IPL innings, in Rajasthan Royals’ win over Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday. In just seven matches, he has amassed a staggering 491 runs – 226 more than KL Rahul who is second on the list of highest scorers.
Most centuries in one IPL season
Rajasthan returned to the top of the points table by beating Delhi and Buttler, of course, has been the biggest contributor to their success. The 31-year-old, who had been retained by the franchise for Rs 10 crore, has scores of 35, 100, 70*, 13, 54, 103 and 116 so far in the tournament.
Buttler has the most runs, most sixes, most fours, most centuries, and the highest individual score in the season. Interestingly, he has also faced the most dot balls among all batters. While that follows from the fact that he has faced the most number of deliveries this season, his dot-ball percentage (38.15%) at this point in the tournament is nearly the same as Faf du Plessis (39.15%) and quite higher than KL Rahul (29.94%).
And that offers great insight into his method. In his three hundreds, he has taken the time to settle in and remained unperturbed before unleashing a barrage of boundaries.
Against Mumbai Indians, he got to 12 off 15 before cutting loose. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, he was on 17 off 15 at one stage. And against Delhi on Friday, he was on 11 off 14 after being beaten a couple of times. But he never panicked.
His comments after the DC win reflected the conviction he has about his game at the moment.
“(I told myself) to just try and get through it,” Buttler said about the testing start from Khaleel Ahmed. “The ball swung in the first over and I found that really tricky. I didn’t feel in good touch at that point. You’re just trying to soak up the pressure and come through it. Just keep believing that one ball will set you on your way. Once I got to that point, the confidence came back.”
The other highlight of Buttler’s batting has been the cleverness with which he has attacked particular bowlers. He saw off the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Sunil Narine but went after the rest in the MI and KKR bowling attacks respectively.
Once he has his eye in, it does not matter if he’s just had a big over, he will continue to attack if he reckons the next bowler too deserves to be taken on. He does not rely much on manufacturing shots (but he can do that too), it’s all about the firm base, powerful wrists, and clean swing of the bat. From a strong foundation, he is tasting sky high success.
“I’m not sure what I can say, he’s been exceptional for us,” said Sangakkara. “The way he has batted, the way he has contributed to the side, the way he has constructed innings – sometimes going hard early, sometimes fighting his way through tough situations when the ball is moving around or not coming on. But the key to his batting is that he gives himself the best chance. He reads the game well, he picks the bowlers he wants to attack, and then he bats deep. There’s nothing more a side can ask for from an opener. He’s been absolutely brilliant.”
Virat Kohli holds the record for scoring the most centuries in one IPL season. He hit four in 2016 and Buttler has a real shot at matching, and even breaking, that record given we’re just halfway through this season.
It’s quite likely that the England batter will add to his tally. And let’s not forget that scoring a century in a T20 match is harder than what Buttler is making it seem like at the moment. But he’s just been that good, his level has been so high, that anticipating another ton this season seems appropriate. He’s been in a league of his own, and he’s lined himself up to enter a league we hadn’t imagined.