Buttler is scoring centuries on purpose at the moment and making the hitter look ridiculously easy. He already has three centuries in seven matches this season. The record for most centuries in IPL history is held by Chris Gayle, who had six in 141 innings. The second best course belongs to Virat Kohli, who has five in 206 rounds. Buttler, who is co-third on the list, has four centuries in just 71 IPL rounds. David Warner and Shane Watson, who also have four tons each, got there in 155 and 141 innings, respectively. Don’t bother betting on Buttler leaving Gayle behind because you won’t win much.
Interestingly, however, Buttler is using the same modus operandi that Gayle deployed to leave opposition think tanks numb and their bowlers stunned. Of his 491 runs this IPL, Buttler has 356 just in bounds. And that’s Buttler’s T20 stick philosophy: hack runs relentlessly in fours and sixes without worrying about breaking a sweat running twos and threes. Conserving and not wasting energy has been Buttler’s mantra of success, helping the Rajasthan Royals opener break through some of the biggest boundaries even in the deaths.
In all three centuries this season, Buttler’s ball percentage was one of the highest. In fact, against Mumbai, he had 28 points on 68 balls. It’s 41.20% – the highest in a century in the IPL. Against the Knight Riders it was 34.40% (24/65) and against the Capitals it was 36.90% (21/61). In comparison, the bullet-point percentage over Kohli’s five centuries ranged between 17% and 30%. Gayle, however, had similar numbers to Buttler with an average of 34%. The median point-ball percentage for Buttler is 35.70 percent while Gayle’s was 34.20 percent and Kohli’s was 20.70 percent.
Against Mumbai, Buttler sacked 26 points in one against Basil Thampi in the power play that was one of the game’s turning points. On Friday in the power play finale, played by Khaleel Ahmed, Buttler dug deep into the crease and unleashed a power shot to the deep midwicket for a six. The next the ball flew over the middle and raced to the boundary, except it ended up being a double after David Warner dove forward to prevent the ball from crossing the rope. The next ball, however, Buttler again picked another length ball and sent it over deep midwicket. With a grimace, Pant, shaking his head, looked at Khaleel.
Pant didn’t let go of that grimacing look on his face during Buttler’s stay, which went as far as 19. No Capitals bowler could put an iota of doubt in Buttler’s mind, not even Kuldeep. Yadav, who was the second wicket taker before the game. Kuldeep also had a favorable game against Buttler: In all T20s, he had given up just 36 carries on 25 deliveries while getting the Royals batter twice. On Friday, Buttler hit the wrist with his left arm for 31 runs on 12 balls, including two fours and three sixes, entering this game Kuldeep had only been hit for four fours in six T20 innings by Buttler.
And it wasn’t Kuldeep alone who bore the brunt of Buttler’s blitzkrieg. As late as the 19th, Mustafizur Rahman attempted a yorker that turned into a low, full throw, and Buttler swept it away dissecting the deep square leg and long leg area. The next ball, with the delivery angled outside of the stump, Buttler dug deep into the crease, used a top grip and wedged the ball in long while treating it like a golf club.
Buttler’s stick mechanics are pretty simple: once he gets his eye in, he uses the crease cleverly, uses angles wisely, and uses those powerful, rubbery wrists to get the ball where he wants. In the hall of fame of the powerful, Buttler occupies a singular place: the throne.
It’s scary to think what Buttler can do.
Shiva Jayaraman stat entries
Nagraj Gollapudi is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo