England captain Jos Buttler won’t fall on his sword despite his team’s disastrous World Cup title defence in India and strangely ended his post-match media conference following the loss to Australia by saying he’s “having a great time”.
He added that he was also frustrated and disappointed but it was an odd remark after he had been asked whether the burden of captaincy was weighing him down as his own form has been as poor as the team.
England, holders of the T20 and ODI World Cup trophies, are in last spot with a 1-6 record and need to beat the Netherlands in Pune on Wednesday to avoid the embarrassment of not qualifying for the 2025 Champions Trophy in Pakistan.
They are now not even mathematically a chance of sneaking into the semi-finals after the 33-run defeat to the rejuvenated Australians and while they are no guarantee to beat the Dutch, they will be outsiders in their final group game against Pakistan on Saturday.
Buttler said he was relishing the challenge of leading the English white-ball squads despite calls for him to stand down or be sacked following the ageing team’s dreadful displays in India.
“It’s something I’ve enjoyed that responsibility in T20 cricket and ODI cricket before this tournament,” he said.
“I felt like it’s brought out a lot of really good things in my batting. So, it’s been frustrating I think I can’t quite put a finger on why I’m not playing to the level I expected myself I’ve played a lot of cricket in India and played a lot of IPL cricket here so it’s not as if I don’t know the conditions or the grounds yes you know and as I say as a captain you want to lead from the front.
“So, of all the things that have happened on this trip, I’d say my own form has been my biggest frustration, because you want to lead from the front as a captain.”
Buttler was out to Adam Zampa for one in their failed run-chase against Australia and after scoring 43 in the tournament opener against New Zealand, he has scored 20 or less in six innings.
“I wouldn’t say the belief shaken, more just the frustration grows and adds,” he said.
“I think the belief in my game is as high as it’s ever been really, which means why there’s so much frustration. Coming into the tournament I felt in fantastic form, as good a form as I’ve been in.
“So, to be sat here having had the tournament I’ve had is incredibly frustrating, but it doesn’t shake your belief. If I stop believing in myself, I’ve got to make sure I’m the last one that does that. You guys will give up on me a lot earlier than I’ll give up on myself.”
After a year dominated by debate of the ‘spirit of the game’, stemming from England and Australia’s controversial Ashes series, Mitchell Starc couldn’t resist a cheeky dig at the Poms after the match in Ahmedabad.
“We are going along nicely. They [England would probably claim a moral victory,” Starc laughed in an interview on India’s Star Sports.
“They are the defending champions, we thought they would come aggressively at us.”
Not surprisingly, the UK media didn’t hold back now that England are not only out of contention but staring down the barrel of finishing last.
UK Telegraph chief cricket writer Nick Hoult described it as a “deeply galling experience of being eliminated by their bitter rivals”.
“There can be no talk of moral victories this time, only acceptance of an era coming to a sad end as Australia knocked England out of the World Cup. This once aggressive, dominant batting line-up is cowed and broken,” he wrote.
“The coach may pay the price but ultimately the senior players have to take responsibility. Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Jos Buttler contributed 14 runs. Bairstow was out first ball of the innings, strangled down the leg side, a sorry end for a player who has not been able to summon his mongrel spirit. He looks shot.
“How has it come to this? Poorly led and poorly prepared, England thought it would be all right on the night. Instead they bombed and are out of the tournament with two group games to go.”
The Times cricket correspondent Simon Wilde likened their modest improvement in form from their two most recent losses to a dead cat bounce.
“In many ways, this game confirmed just how far England have fallen. In the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup, they sank Australia in a tidal wave of fours and sixes, but here they were subdued, a team shackled by their own inhibitions and Australia’s excellence with the ball,” he wrote.
At The Mail Online, Lawrence Booth said England’s coach Matthew Mott and selectors needed to shoulder plenty of the blame for continually overlooking young power hitter Harry Brook.
“Above all, perhaps, this game confirmed a curious stubbornness in England’s set-up. They have now lost nine of the last 10 ODIs in which they have chased, and they keep refusing to pick Harry Brook.
England have spent much of the last eight years showing the world how to play white-ball cricket. The sadness is that no one in India will miss them when they fly home next weekend.