Jos Buttler accepts he can never claim to be among the world’s best cricketers unless he succeeds in Test matches.
Buttler, a sensation in this year’s Indian Premier League, may have already hit the heights as far as many global cricket followers are concerned.
But, as he contemplates “another debut” for England against Pakistan at Lord’s this week, and his chance to be the real Jos Buttler at last on his third attempt at Test cricket, the man himself is in no doubt which format holds the key to greatness.
Asked if Test cricket remains the ‘ultimate’, the 27-year-old said: “Yes, it is – and I think it always will be for players of my generation.
“You get that feeling talking to everyone that they still feel Test cricket is the best.”
Buttler references modern greats Virat Kohli, the India captain about to embark on a stint of county cricket to prepare for this summer’s Test series in England, and Kevin Pietersen.
“Virat signing for Surrey to get used to playing in England, to play well in Tests, shows that – (in) the forefront of players’ minds – Tests are still the pinnacle.
“It was really interesting when Kevin Pietersen retired.
“(Sky’s Ian Ward and David Lloyd) were talking about his career, and all they spoke about was his Test match knocks… his hundred against South Africa, his hundred at The Oval in 2005, Mumbai or Sri Lanka.
“He played some fantastic white-ball knocks… but for those guys, it was Test matches they were talking about, and I think people still feel Test matches are the real true test of cricketers.
“I won’t leave with any regrets if it doesn’t work out, but I feel like the best players can play all formats.”
Jos Buttler happy to be back at Lord's. Ready for "another debut" in this week's first Test. pic.twitter.com/hJ5X6LKuKi— David Clough (@DavidBClough) May 21, 2018
As he prepares for an “awesome opportunity” he had come to believe “might never happen” in the 18 months between his 18th and prospective 19th Test, he is determined to trust his instincts.
His return at number seven is the work of new national selector Ed Smith – Buttler’s Rajasthan Royals mentor Shane Warne was a vocal advocate too – and it comes with a brief to bring his can-do white-ball approach with him.
Reflecting on a Test absence which was threatening to become terminal, he said: “You always think maybe that race is run and will never happen again.
“Turning up here on England duty to play a Test match is unbelievable.”
One of the world’s most powerful and inventive batsmen, Buttler is determined to be true to himself this time.
“It is about trusting my instincts and not fighting them,” he said. “In the past, I have potentially felt as if I had to play in a certain way or be something I am not.
“I have learned a lot about myself over the past two years. If you are going to fail, fail in a genuine way – not someone else’s way.”
After being dropped twice previously, even after five consecutive IPL half-centuries including two unbeaten 90s, Buttler was hardly expecting a call from Smith when the phone rang in his Indian hotel room last week.
“It was quite a lot of a surprise,” he said. “Any time you turn up here at Lord’s is special, so (I have) all those emotions arriving today.
“It feels like another debut, really.”
It means he cannot finish what he has started with Rajasthan, but another shot at Test cricket is much more than mere consolation.
“Of course, it’s tough to leave halfway through,” he said. “But I’m delighted to leave as well, to come back and have this opportunity.”