The The run-up to the Indian Premier League was not quite promising for Jos Buttler. The England batter had an unforgettable outing with the Ashes and an injury forced him to leave the England team for a while.
Coming into the IPL Buttler didn’t play cricket for a couple of weeks and that, he admits, was a really big mental break. However, after joining the Rajasthan Royals, Buttler gave his will and collected 627 runs in 13 games, paving the way for the Royals to enter the play-offs after four years.
In a conversation with sports starthe wicketkeeper batter shares his thoughts on his stint with the Royals, the road ahead and how he looks forward to playing under England’s newly appointed Test captain Ben Stokes.
You didn’t play white ball cricket for a while before coming to the IPL. How did you prepare for the tournament?
I haven’t actually played cricket for a while. After the Ashes, I had virtually no cricket for two months. That came at a time when I really needed it.
I came in very fresh, with a lot of motivation, a lot of excitement to play cricket again. I had a few nets in the UK before flying out and that was it.
It was more just a big mental break from the game, enjoying family time and finding a little “me” time. I was actually overstaffed.
The injury gave you some time to be with the family and rejuvenate. How crucial was that pause in times of biobubble fatigue and how did it help you regroup?
I think it was really crucial. It was a long winter and we had the T20 World Cup and then went straight to the Ashes which was a tough tour both personally and for the team. Especially in the bubble and high pressure environment it is always crucial to have that break. And probably even more so in these times to try to listen to yourself and enjoy the time away from the game.
Sometimes it feels like you have to do the opposite, work hard and get back to your best form, but sometimes a break is actually best.
So far it has been a successful IPL season for you. How much boost will it be for you prior to the crucial phase?
It has been a good season so far. I really enjoyed my batting, I really enjoyed the matches and playing for the team. We played very good cricket and I think honestly, scoring some runs early in the tournament gave me some confidence to keep going and try to keep doing it. And anytime you feel confident as a player, that’s a really good position to be in.
At Rajasthan Royals, the last few editions were mostly English and Aussies. But this time the focus shifted to an Indian core. How do you see that and what are the changes you see in the setup?
That’s quite a big change I think. But I think it’s a smart move by the team. The experience and quality of the Indian players we have by our side – and the two obvious ones being (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Yuzvendra) Chahal – incredibly experienced players and high quality spin bowlers. I think the Indian players in the IPL, except for a few, are the guys who understand the circumstances best. They know best about playing in their own country and know how to handle all the pressures etc that come with the IPL. I think it’s positive that this has happened, with experienced and local players on the side.
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The group stage of the tournament was played at four locations in the same state, but the nature of the wickets was different at each location. Do you think the wickets have dried up a bit after a few months of non-stop cricket?
I expected the wickets to get a little slower, a little faster actually. I think – a great credit to the ground staff – on all grounds they kept the wickets fantastic. We still see high scores and dew sometimes plays a role as well. I think the wickets have held up well. Mostly in Mumbai, places like Wankhede Stadium in particular are known as good hitting venues. I don’t think they have slowed down as much as I think they would have been.
Good luck Ben: “I’m excited about Ben (Stokes). It is such a prestigious opportunity to be captain of the England team and I am sure he will thrive in it. He’s such a natural leader and he’s always led the team, even as Joe’s vice-captain. He will be fantastic and I wish him the best of luck,” said Buttler. – Getty Images
What was Jos thinking in a few league games, when the team lost an early wicket? How did you plan your innings?
I think you always evaluate as the game goes on, a little bit ball-by-ball and over and over, your plans can change and you have to adapt to the game. Sometimes, when you’re also batting first, you try to take a little more time to get into the game. The game isn’t built for you as it is when you’re hunting. You just try to look at the scoreboard and play the opponent accordingly.
With two new teams – Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants – the pressure was different in this edition of the IPL. Taking into account the intensity of the tournament, how did Royals approach the competition stage?
Yes, if anything, the extra teams have made the competition even more difficult. It’s the same number of play-off spots, but two extra teams. And the quality is no different. The standard in the tournament is as high as ever. There are never easy games in the IPL, but it probably just makes qualifying harder.
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In the last few seasons, RR had a hard time in the middle-overs due to a lack of big hitters. But this time, Shimron Hetmyer has stepped up the game. How do you see that?
I think I speak for everyone when I say how impressed I am with Shimron Hetmeyer. He plays fantastically well. So far this season the level of consistency he has shown in a very difficult role in T20 cricket has been remarkable. And I think it gives the group a tremendous amount of confidence when someone has taken on that role and played it so well. We all watch Hettie and we believe he can do it every time. He has done so well and that is a huge plus this season.
As a senior player and someone who has been with the Royals for a long time, you play a key role in pitching the field, alongside Sanju Samson. What is the role that has been defined for you?
I think I’ve played a certain role as a kind of vice-captain of the team and I’m trying to help Sanju when I can. It is clear that he has a lot to do as captain and wicket-keeper. So if there’s something I can try to be a sounding board every now and then or if I see something and I think it might help, I try. We are lucky as a team to have a lot of older players with a lot of experience who can give the captain some ideas and try to control the situation and also lead.
After the IPL, Ben Stokes took over as England captain. Your thoughts…
l am very excited for Ben. I think Joe Root was a fantastic captain for England and he’s done so much for a long time. A big thank you to him from everyone. Obviously I’m excited for Ben.
It is such a prestigious opportunity to be captain of the England team and I am sure he will thrive in it.
He’s such a natural leader and he’s always led the team, even as Joe’s vice-captain. He will be fantastic and I wish him luck.