England’s hotel in Pune, host city for Wednesday’s exercise in sporting nihilism against the Netherlands, comes equipped with a spa, grooming salon, outdoor pool, gym, three bars, three restaurants, delicatessen, a selection of ballrooms, a massage parlour and, among many other advertised treatments, a bespoke male full-body waxing facility.
Luckily, Jos Buttler, who has been appearing increasingly fatigued during this intense World Cup defense, was convinced to take advantage of all the wellness facilities available during England’s day off on Monday.
It is ironic that professional cricket players often stay in luxurious executive retreats to relax and pamper themselves, while also having to endure a grueling schedule that is unmatched by any other sport. Buttler and others have mentioned the difficulty of traveling from one high-intensity game to the next, often spending hours in hotel rooms with nothing but a plain wall to stare at. However, if there is any silver lining for England’s players during their struggles in India, at least they can appreciate the quality of their hotel walls.
However, there is a crucial takeaway as we continue to analyze England’s performance in the World Cup. Their defense has been under scrutiny and could arguably be considered one of the worst for a champion team in any sport. Why has England not only underperformed but done so to such an extreme extent? How has this team managed to reach a level of playing that goes beyond the usual standards of poor performance and instead resembles that of a lifeless entity?
There is a simple explanation, which is also the correct one. Regardless of their selection, team chemistry, or age, England’s players are fatigued – and this exhaustion is a result of a carefully planned and unprecedented industrial approach. While this may seem like a mundane reason, it highlights the undeniable systemic issues within the sport. It should also never be repeated in the future.
According to the Indian Express, Buttler’s pale eyes, soft voice, and tendency to use short words all contribute to his puppy-like appearance. This was noted both after and during his team’s loss to Australia. The paper also mentioned that Buttler always appears this way, even after hitting a hundred runs in just 52 balls and spending six months at a sleep retreat in Nepal. He also holds the current world arm-wrestling championship title.
However, his lack of enthusiasm can also be seen as a natural outcome, much like how England’s players appear to simply be human and unable to continue functioning under constant pressure, as shown in the intense spotlight of this large-scale tournament.
This can be fixed. But it is first necessary to acknowledge that the scandalous itinerary is inevitably going to degrade the spectacle. This England team is a warning from the future. You can have quality or you can have endless gurgling homogenised product. But not both.
Examining Buttler’s workload reveals a fascinating exploration of how much a professional athlete can handle. From October 2021, he has participated in 12 events across eight different countries, enduring 14 complete cycles of living out of a suitcase. In addition, he has also competed in three World Cups, two IPLs, and an Ashes series.
The captain of England’s team has participated in 24 out of 26 months, with the exception of February 2022 when he was unable to play due to a broken finger, and December of that year where he had a free month between the T20 World Cup and a franchise commitment.
In comparison to the highly sought-after cricketer Virat Kohli, there is one noticeable difference. Kohli has consistently played and has been tasked with an immense workload. However, he has changed locations less frequently and has spent 17 out of the last 26 months in India. On the other hand, Buttler has only been at home for a total of nine months.
Kohli’s schedule is marginally more sensible, driven by the fact India has more say in how this works and has preserved a proper home summer. Kohli played his last T20 in May 2023, whereas Buttler has played 37 T20s in the six months before this tournament, and is, like the ECB, and all cricketers on that circuit, just out there chasing the game, following the prompts of the mercurial ICC‑BCCI compass.
Ultimately, this leads to randomized contests, a devalued product, and a game that is essentially consuming itself due to the enjoyable nature of the consumption.
Some people may not be very sympathetic towards Buttler’s decision. He is choosing to do this on his own. For instance, Mitchell Starc decided to stop playing franchise cricket due to the pressure. Buttler receives a generous salary from his employers at ECB, IPL, SA T20, and the Hundred, making him the highest-paid England cricketer in history.
He has embraced these chances while maintaining his entertaining and selfless nature, as well as being a positive influence and a good person overall. However, regulations can also be a blessing, and at times Buttler seems to have fully immersed himself in this new environment, taking on every task with determination. He is trying to represent both Aramco and the ECB, promoting tolerance. This is a new experience, but we can now expect to see some changes.
Evidence suggests that Buttler’s performance in his own game has been affected. This is not only reflected in his poor numbers (only 115 runs in seven innings), but also in his lack of use of certain skills. It is interesting to note that Buttler has not attempted any scoop, paddle, or reverse sweep in this tournament. This is unusual for a batter known for their bold and innovative approach, such as scooping 150kph balls from Anrich Nortje for six at the 2020 IPL. Instead, he has only managed to hit two boundaries behind square, one of which was an edge.
Buttler’s performance in ODIs has been reminiscent of his hesitant, traditional batting style in Tests, lacking the usual aggression and boldness. This could be attributed to the pitches not being favorable for creative shots. However, it’s worth noting that Buttler’s role has primarily been as a Powerplay opener in the past four years, having played 138 T20 matches and 29 ODIs, where he is known for hitting over the infield on flat surfaces.
This is a narrower scope. Abilities deteriorate. Focusing on a specific area makes you an expert. Buttler claims he doesn’t analyze his batting when switching between formats, he simply relies on his ability to adjust. For some reason, the dominant ODI player who could shift through different levels and performed exceptionally well in the 2019 final, has not been seen in India.
The depletion of energy has manifested in a more widespread manner. We have witnessed previous instances of England’s collapse. However, what sets India apart is the absence of rage, determination, and a unified team spirit. England appears to be lacking solutions, only exhibiting a feeling of shared boredom. This international team seems to be disintegrating. What will they carry with them?
Regarding Buttler’s near-term plans, there is a strong case for him to make a sacrifice: either giving up his role as wicketkeeper, the ODI captaincy (as England has suffered 15 losses in their last 24 matches), or ODIs altogether. Despite his impressive skills and good intentions, it would be encouraging to see him aggressively play against the Netherlands in Pune and then treat himself to a full-body Korean massage on Wednesday evening.
At present, this current England squad serves as a vivid and powerful cautionary tale in the world of cricket. However, it is unlikely that anyone will take heed of it.