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England embrace new chapter for T20 summer after suffering dented pride
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England embrace new chapter for T20 summer after suffering dented pride

Jos Buttler has admitted pride was dented by England’s limp 50-over World Cup campaign last year, with the captain identifying the need for better communication and a more team-first mentality when his men defend their T20 title over the coming weeks.

If rain stays away from a sold-out Headingley – and the forecast was sadly not too clever 24 hours out – Wednesday marks the start of this road to possible redemption; the first in a four-match T20 series against Pakistan that serves as their only preparation ahead of next month’s short-form World Cup in the Caribbean and the US.

Even in cricket’s most capricious format, England should start out among the favourites, being blessed with wave after wave of power-hitters and able to draw upon the experience of lifting the trophy back in 2022. With Jofra Archer about to return after 14 months on the sidelines, their attack has been significantly upgraded too.

And yet memories of last winter’s borderline no-show in India still linger; that collective loss of form and identity which led to six defeats from their first seven group games. Rob Key, the team director, tried to absorb much of the blame by the end, choosing to offer Buttler and Matthew Mott another chance to show they have the requisite chemistry as captain and coach.

Mott signed off from India unwilling to publicly share any lessons, such was the grizzly nature of events and the Australian’s mood at the time. But Buttler, not always the most forthcoming, offered a couple of areas for improvement on Tuesday as his side geared up for this initial warm-up against Pakistan.

“There’s no extra pressure but that pride was obviously dented [by that World Cup] and it was a really disappointing competition,” said Buttler. “It’s a real honour to go to another World Cup as defending champions again. But it also feels like a new time, a new chapter.”

Asked what he had personally learned from last year, Buttler replied: “Making sure the communication is good. I think sometimes, by trying to give people freedom, you can hold back too much and [fail to] make sure that people are clear in their roles or have clarity.

“The easy question to ask yourself is ‘what’s best for the team?’ and then make sure you act on it. Sometimes when results don’t go your way, it’s easy as an individual or a group to go a bit internal. So we have to keep putting the team first every time and making our decisions based around that.”

Phil Salt hits a shot in the IPL.View image in fullscreen

Talk of communication issues strikes to the heart of some of the criticism back then – their former captain, Eoin Morgan, among those to offer this diagnosis – while the call to put the team first confirms a widely held suspicion that, as the results and form flatlined in India, individuals became increasingly withdrawn.

As Buttler pointed out, fresh blood has been injected into this T20 side since, be it Will Jacks or the in-form Phil Salt alongside him at the top of the order. Salt is one of the chief sources of chagrin in India right now, having ransacked 435 runs from 12 innings at a strike rate of 182 for title-hunting Kolkata Knight Riders, only to miss the playoffs at the behest of England.

For Buttler, who smoked two centuries for Rajasthan Royals in their campaign, returning to lead England was always the plan, even if he shared a widely held view among the players that the IPL and international cricket should never clash. There was also a second, more important reason to catch an early flight home, with the birth of his third child imminent.

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The 33-year-old understandably stopped short of sharing a due date but stated his intention to be present on the day, even if this means staying back when the team flies to Barbados a week on Friday. Should Buttler be forced to miss a match, Moeen Ali would lead the side, having already proved a key communicator for his wicketkeeper-captain in the field.

“Mo has been a great leader of the teams that he’s played in,” said Buttler. “He brings immense honesty but he does it with humour as well at times; he can start difficult conversations without upsetting people, which I think is a great strength of his. He doesn’t get too caught up in the ups and downs of international sports. He is a great confidante.”

As England look to plot a new course – their selection for this first T20 is hampered by knee injuries to Liam Livingstone and Mark Wood – Pakistan are in something of a cramming session after restoring Babar Azam to the captaincy, six months after sacking him, and drafting in a new head coach in Gary Kirsten. A recent 2-1 series win in Ireland was promising as a side boasting good pace options looks to expand its batting potency.

As such, both sides will be keen to get on the park at the earliest opportunity. But their concerns about the expected rain in Leeds pale into insignificance when compared to those of the hosts, Yorkshire. Ticket sales are insured but the loss of earnings from bar takings and food sales would be the latest blow for a county who find themselves saddled with debt and are now considering demutualisation in a bid to attract investment.

Source: theguardian.com