The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley


"Winning 2019 World Cup a realistic goal"

It’s a week on from England’s semi-final defeat at the hands of eventual winners Pakistan. England’s vice-captain Jos Buttler is speaking the morning after England’s T20 victory over South Africa at the Ageas, but the Champions Trophy is still fresh in the memory.

“I genuinely thought we were good enough to at least get to the final. I think we played some fantastic cricket through the group stage. It is a short, sharp tournament where you have to play well from the start, and we did that in the group. We played three really good games and were full of confidence going into the semi-final, we just had a poor game and Pakistan played very well and put us under pressure, we just never really got going.

“We felt we could have done more; we tried to stick to everything we have been about as a side. In the dressing room during the game we were saying it’s probably not a 300 plus wicket, we wanted to find our way to an above par score. That’s what we tried to do but we weren't good enough on the day, we lost wickets and never quite got those partnerships that would have got us up to a good score.”

“We look back with disappointment. We felt we could have done more”

The semi-final exit will hurt, no doubt, but this is a developing group, one that has the potential to be reach new heights.

This is a side that has been on the crest of a wave for the best part of two years, one that has scored 300+ on 23 occasions since the 2015 World Cup, one that has been going at 6.22 an over in the same timeframe.

Trevor Bayliss looked to bring some perspective to proceedings after the Cardiff defeat, stating that a semi-final exit was a fair reflection of England’s position in the global game. Buttler, however, demonstrates the belief coursing through this England side.

“As a side we are still pretty young, looking ahead to the 2019 World Cup with two more years experience, the majority of the players will be the same. With that extra experience together as a side I think a realistic goal is to look at winning that tournament.

“With such a talented group of players who have been playing well, we thought we had a chance of winning the Champions Trophy, but the side is still on an upward curve. I think it really is important to get more games, you can’t buy experience. I think that will stand us in good stead going forward.”

Buttler, who led England in the final T20 against South Africa, in Morgan’s absence, says he relishes the leadership role, and states England are not short of leaders in the dressing room. Morgan will surely be in charge when the world returns to England for the 2019 World Cup, but beyond that, Buttler could be the man at the helm.

“The side is still on an upward curve”

As captain, he has won two T20Is, v Pakistan in 2015, and the T20 at Cardiff this week, as well taking charge of three ODIs in Bangladesh, winning two, losing the other.

“I did really enjoy it [captaining in Bangladesh]; I found it a lot more emotional than when you are just playing. You have to make the decisions that they stick by. As vice-captain, you can give ideas and if it goes well you can try and claim it, and if it goes badly just say ‘I was nothing to do with it (laughs)!' The role was fun and a good challenge for me as a player as well.

“I try to help Eoin as much as I can, if I’ve got an opinion I’ll let him know. One of the great things about the environment at the moment is there are a few natural leaders around the group. Ben Stokes is a natural, in the way that he plays too, people follow him, and he likes to speak up. Joe Root is the same, there’s a nice core group of players that will give opinions, it is a player-led environment. Eoin gets good support from people who are ready to voice opinions.”

Buttler is renowned for his expansive strokeplay, something he credits his captain for encouraging to flourish.

“Eoin is probably most instrumental in that. When he first broke into the England side he was someone I looked at as an innovator, someone who was ahead of his time, and took risks. He goes out and plays in that way, he champions that style of cricket. You can sit there and everyone is talking about it, but you're thinking ‘should I do it?’. Then you look up and your captain is charging down the wicket second ball and hitting someone back over their head.

"He really does lead from the front in the style of cricket that he wants people to play, and I think it gives you the confidence to follow his lead. We always talk about trying to push the boundaries, keep improving, trying to get more out of ourselves.”

We were introduced to a more sedate side of Buttler’s batting against New Zealand at Cardiff – taking 24 deliveries to strike his first boundary – before releasing the handbrake, reverting to type and introducing us to the more familiar, unorthodoxly-explosive game.

“I’ve still got so much of my potential to reach in red-ball cricket”

“You always try and play the situation, it was windy, there was a big boundary on one side, so I was finding it tough to hit on the either side of the wicket. I was not as free flowing as sometimes I can be, but I found it enjoyable. That style of cricket is bit different and you’re trying to work out ways to score as quick as you can in different circumstances. You enjoy the challenges cricket throws up and batting in the middle-order you walk into various different situations and you have play accordingly.”

That more restrained strain to Buttler’s cricketing DNA points to a temperament that has one thinking of longer formats. We know he can make bowlers look foolish, ramping them to all parts, ramping them over the ramparts, aiming for rivers, parking lots, space. Whether England can harness that talent and fit it into the Test side long-term remains to be seen.

Is he expecting to be in the XI to face South Africa at Lord’s?

“I’m not sure, obviously I was involved in India (averaged 38.50 across three Tests), but that was a long time ago and I’ve not played any red-ball cricket since. I’m not sure where the selectors view me at the minute, but I’m desperate to be involved, I would love to be involved.

“I think I have to keep that attacking frame of mind, always looking to score, maybe through different shots, but one of my strengths is that I can put pressure on the bowlers. Having watched other guys in the side, the way they do that, Jonny Bairstow, Root, Stokes, are really good examples of that, I try and follow their lead in the way they put pressure on bowlers. I’ve still got so much of my potential to reach in red-ball cricket.” 

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