Jbone Buttler stands outside the door of a hotel room and bounces a ball off his bat. Trent Boult opens the door carrying a guitar, which he strums as they walk around together. Buttler plays a game where the goal is to throw nuts and berries into your partner’s mouth, Buttler cradling baby-faced left-handed opener Yashasvi Jaiswal in his arms and saying, “Yes, yes, get in there “, with a surprising degree of tenderness.
Buttler sits on a stool as Ravichandran Ashwin describes his first memory of cricket: a huge tree where, as a very young child, he was dropped alone with his kitbag from a motorbike driven by his father, a tree he still revisits when he can.
These are the Buttler-themed videos on the Rajasthan Royals YouTube channel, nine of them in the last two weeks alone, and they’re really good. The Boult/guitar/hotel has 1.8m views so far. To give an idea of scale, look for a moment into the night sky of Indian cricket and feel how small you really are, it’s a hundred times larger than the ECB’s exclusive Ben Stokes captaincy on its own channel.
Buttler’s real centerpiece is a Jos: My Story-like number, with hazy shots of him speaking sadly about losing his England Test spot, then laughing, hugging and reborn with his Royals teammates – “That’s the feeling, people around you” – while watching, as always, as if the cutest, cutest cartoon golden retriever in the world had somehow learned to stand on its hind legs and perform the helicopter whip kick.
“I’m Jos Buttler, fly-half for the Rajasthan Royals,” he says at one point and, looking at it all, you think, “Yeah, you really are.” Buttler has played 44 games for the Royals over the past three and a half years, his most for any team in any format, and 43 more than he has racked up in the County Championship. He is, a month into the English season, being armed with brilliance to promote and adorn his de facto cricketing home, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s crown jewel, the biggest event on the sporting calendar. .
And it’s all good, fair, and entirely appropriate, not to say instructive. First, because it’s just a beautiful moment for Buttler. It is worth noting the altered dynamics. By any old-school metric, Buttler looked like a declining cricketer after his abandonment by England: deflated, snookered, confined to endless what do we do with Jos stuff. Ten weeks later, he is instead the biggest star in world cricket.
Buttler has been something of a tournament lord this IPL, with 824 points at 58.86, miles behind the chasing pack, with the most six, four, hundreds. What is striking when you look at it is its immobility. Buttler only really moves his hands these days, letting the cacophony wash over him, trusting in the brilliance of those brutal, fast hands. He is a man who goes to the limits of his own talent and above all who finds a stage.
This is the second point. Above all, it would be a really good time for English cricket to start understanding the IPL a little better, not just releasing their players, seeing this thing as a problem to be dealt with, but understanding why the IPL works, what is the source. energy is.
There is one game left, Sunday’s final between Buttler’s side and the Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad in front of a rumored 100,000 people. And as this thing narrowed down to a certain point, what really stood out was the surprising quality of the cricket.
In its early years, the IPL often received somewhat baggy and vague captions, sweaty in skin-tight Lycra, groiny podium dancers, the same stuff stretched out across an endless, interchangeable stage. Not so here. Just look at the stick, that beautiful sense of seasoned orthodoxy behind the power play of this generation of players. Watching, for example, Sanju Sanson driving the ball over the cover, elbow cocked ballerina-style, bat-face glowing, hands whipping with an exciting, modern flourish, one gets the sense that this thing is elevated to other levels, other gears, an entity with its own life.
This is the real lesson to be learned from the IPL. There is always a tendency in England to see a garish, inauthentic money-making machine, attaching itself to all the Primula Cheese Superpowered Six Hit of the Day tricks, the shrill, bare trade. And yes, the IPL is expected to bring in £1.5bn this year, three times the ECB’s total annual revenue.
But look away from the money and the point about the IPL is that it’s genuine. It expresses and reflects a culture that happens to be bright, energetic and confident, visibly nationalistic, just as baseball of the last century captured America’s sense of being a young and vigorous country, a place in need of legends. , spectacle, theater of self-mythification.
The IPL is making its own stars these days; it’s become something of a dream factory for someone like 22-year-old Umran Malik, who came out of nowhere and now plays 97mph in front of a billion people. There is a soul here and a sense of something that speaks to the culture around it.
What part of England’s sporting culture does the ECB’s attempt to emulate that, the Hundred, reflect? Greed? Carelessness? Devaluation of property?
What the IPL tells us is that the way to build something new is to find what was there, to reflect and glorify the culture, to find the part that is real, and to water those roots. Unable to see past branding and noise, ruled by underqualified marketers, England cricket instead concocted the most plastic tournament imaginable, aimed simply for dollars, shirts for logos. Watch the IPL, watch Buttler, feel the life in this thing. There are lessons here that can still be learned.