Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler of Rajasthan Royals hitting a boundary against the Kolkata Knight Riders during the Tata Indian Premier League 2022 game at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on April 18, 2022. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Jos Buttler is arguably the best batsman in Twenty20 cricket now. The Royal Challengers Bangalore will certainly agree, after being at the receiving end of his fiery batting at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Friday night. Buttler’s fourth century of the season swept the Rajasthan Royals into the final of the Indian Premier League 2022.

In full flow, Buttler is an absolute treat to watch. The power and audacity of his strokes are breathtaking. Earlier, Buttler used to blaze away; it worked on a good day and at times it failed spectacularly. With time, he has learnt to pace his innings even in T20 games.

Take a look at Buttler’s knocks in IPL 15. There are three distinct phases: a flurry of boundaries in the powerplay to stamp his authority, followed by a brief spell of singles to rotate the strike during the middle overs. That helps him see off tricky bowlers like Rashid Khan and Wanindu Hasaranga. That lull is followed by another onslaught after he’s picked a bowler to savage before he turns up the heat in the slog. All these were evident in Rajasthan’s win over Bangalore.

Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler of the Rajasthan Royals celebrates his fifty during Qualifier 2 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League 2022, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on May 27, 2022. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Buttler has been wearing the IPL Orange Cap for some time, and there are no challengers in sight. Friday’s unbeaten 106 took his tally of IPL 2022 runs to over 800 — a superb feat that has underpinned Rajasthan’s improved fortunes this year.

At times, it looked as if Rajasthan’s wins hinged on Buttler’s contributions. The Englishman’s early flourishes helped the franchise post a string of victories which dried up when Buttler lapsed into a run of poor scores. But he rediscovered his form with a fighting knock against the Gujarat Titans in the first Qualifier.

That went in vain as Gujarat crushed Rajasthan. Bangalore faced the full fury of Buttler’s flashing blade in the second Qualifier, and Rajasthan cantered to victory after restricting the rivals with some brilliant bowling.

Buttler in IPL 2022 has been a changed batsman. He used to produce some blistering knocks before fading away, only to regain his touch when Rajasthan struggled to make the playoffs. That never helped since the Rajasthan bowling wasn’t good enough to stop the rivals.

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This season has been very different for Buttler and Rajasthan. Gone are the “Moneyball” days when Rajasthan bought cheap and sold or bought expensive players. The mega auction helped them build a strong bowling unit with Trent Boult, Prasidh Krishna, Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. The arrival of batters Devdutt Padikkal and Shimron Hetmyer served to add steel to the middle order.

So finally, Rajasthan had a team to challenge the big boys of the IPL. A team that’s capable of adding to the 2008 title. Even then, they failed to function as a unit on occasions. It was as if Buttler was the lone batter on the side. His slump helped Padikkal and Sanju Samson dig deep into their reserves. The two may not have scored big but have contributed enough to help Buttler bat with abandon. Samson’s aggression eased the burden on Buttler, allowing him the time and space to bat into form.

Buttler’s contribution to Rajasthan’s cause has been phenomenal. His biggest IPL test will be Sunday’s final against Gujarat Titans. It will be a bruising encounter. The wounds from their previous clash in Qualifier 1 are still raw. Gujarat will have the full-throated support of the home crowd, and their consistency has been awe-inspiring. Naturally, they are odds-on favourites.

But Rajasthan have Buttler.