As England surged their way towards a standing as the top Test-playing nation in world cricket back in 2011, Matt Prior was a comforting presence in a side carefully managed by Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.
At the age of 33, he should still have plenty of miles left on the clock, but injuries have taken their toll and he has been forced to pass the international baton on to the next generation.
In his place has stepped Jos Buttler, a wicketkeeper/batsman eased into the international set-up within limited-over circles and now deemed ready to nail down a regular role in the Test arena.
For his first outing at that level, against India in the summer of 2014, to deliver scores of 85, 70 and 45 with the bat and 11 catches with the gloves tells you all you need to know about this confident, but talented, 24-year-old.
His is a direction that England need to move in if they are to position themselves back among the elite, with Peter Moores now in the process of attempting to blend experience with potential.
Buttler looks to be a solid option behind the stumps, as well as offering important depth to the batting line-up, and former England international Warren Hegg believes he is the ideal candidate to fill the void created by Prior’s unfortunate departure.
Hegg, speaking as he penned a congratulation message to Jimmy Anderson as part of Slazenger’s celebratory flag tour, told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “Matt would be the first to tell you that when he first took the gloves for England he wasn’t the finished article as a keeper, but hard work, determination and endeavour made him into one of the best wicketkeeper/batsmen in the world at his peak. Matt worked extremely hard at his keeping and the results showed. Joss will be exactly the same and I’ve got no doubt that Jos will be an integral part of England for years to come.”
On the many qualities that Buttler brings to the ranks, Hegg added: “I don’t suppose there are many number eight batsmen in the world as good as Jos Buttler. You see him striding to the wicket when you have got six down, you have got some hard work to do. He is easing his way in but I’m sure that Joss will end up batting number six, number seven at a push, but he has also got that opportunity to score runs late in the order when the ball is soft and when the bowlers are tired.”
Buttler must learn to manage his workload, while there are also mental and tactical tweaks to be made after cutting his teeth with England in 50 and 20-over formats.
His willingness to learn and seek continuous improvement should stand him in good stead, with Hegg – a colleague at Lancashire – adamant that the former Somerset man has all of the attributes required to be a success at the very highest level.
He said: “Mentally, most people have to make that adjustment. Coming out of county cricket into international cricket is another step up, so mentally, you don’t get as many bad balls, you don’t get as many lives or chances as you do in the first-class game and I think he will have to adapt like most people. He has got the ability, he’s got the right mentality and hopefully he’s got the right endeavour to sort that out. We at Lancashire are absolutely delighted that he’s got a central contract. We do miss one of our best assets, but he is a statesman for the county and wherever Jos goes he gets our best wishes as a Lancashire player and we hope that he does well for England.”
Taking things one step at a time would appear to be the best advice for Buttler right now, with there a series to win in the West Indies – with England having struggled on their travels of late – before attention turns to an important summer that will bring home dates with T20 World Cup finalists New Zealand and Ashes rivals Australia.
Former England international Warren Hegg was signing Slazenger’s ‘Congratulations Jimmy’ flag which will be touring the country this week. Slazenger is celebrating Jimmy Anderson becoming England’s all time leading test wicker by giving 10% off its entire cricket range. Visit store.slazenger.com and follow @SlazengerSport for more details.