World Twenty20: Craig Kieswetter eager to take the gloves off Jos Buttler
Craig Kieswetter has arrived in Bangladesh and thrown his gloves into the ring from where England's next Test wicketkeeper will emerge. It is a ding-dong which will last until the opening of the series against Sri Lanka in June and may well go beyond that.
In many ways, it is like a return to the days of a decade ago (and in many decades before that), with the arguments being ended when Matt Prior made the position his own for five years. But last year, Prior's form fell away so badly that he was eventually dropped for the last two matches of the recent Ashes series in Australia.
His replacement from that touring party, Jonny Bairstow, failed to grab his opportunity as either keeper or batsman and it is generally presumed he will give way. Prior has made it clear that he wants the place back, which early-season Championship runs for Sussex may well give him.
The early favourite is Jos Buttler, at present the limited-overs keeper who has an undoubted touch of different class as a batsman. Kieswetter's summons to the World Twenty20 squad as a batting replacement for the injured Luke Wright clouds the issue slightly and he made his aspirations clear.
"I think I'm here to challenge the batters and Jos," he said. "In professional sport, especially international sport, you can't really rest on your laurels. When I first started I was pigeon-holed as a one-day and Twenty20 player and for the past two or three seasons I have really tried to work hard on four-day cricket and, as everyone looks at stats, try to bump my stats up.
"At Somerset batting five and keeping is quite a senior role and something I had to embrace at quite a young age and in my earlier years I was probably pretty dire at doing it, but I would love to play Test cricket and for me that is a real tangible goal and one I am working towards."
Kieswetter has an outside chance of playing in the group match against Sri Lanka tomorrow as a batsman in place of opener Alex Hales. But the contest between him and Buttler has an added frisson because both were at Somerset until last summer.
Buttler, the local boy who spent long summer days of his formative years watching his heroes at the County Ground, left for Lancashire when the club could not guarantee him wicketkeeping duties, although he had supplanted Kieswetter in the England limited-overs sides.
The two were friends as well as team-mates and it cannot have been easy. Buttler was dealing with leaving Somerset, Kieswetter with losing his England place. "Like any club, when you have two international quality players both want to be playing," said Kieswetter. "The way it went was that Jos made that decision and rightfully so and we all wish him the best. He is obviously sorely missed at our club but ultimately one of us was going to have to leave."
The rivalry resumes again, though not today. England had a day off training before their crucial match tomorrow. Defeat against one of the favourites is unthinkable if they are to progress.
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