Jos Buttler has suggested England’s unforgiving schedule might need to be addressed as he prepares to help banish the recent Test hangover with some T20 fireworks against Sri Lanka.
England have adopted a policy of proactive workload management this year, pulling several key men out of the firing line during their eight Test matches to date and leaving captain Joe Root with a weakened side on each occasion.
Buttler has missed five in a row since playing his part in a famous win in Chennai, partly due to his own Indian Premier League deal, but is back to lead from the front as the white-ball formats take over for the next few weeks.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has faced plenty of scrutiny over a seemingly inflexible rotation policy but points out that protecting the players’ mental and physical well-being remains paramount.
An alternative solution would be to ease the demands of the busiest fixture list in international cricket, which this year follows a packed summer schedule with trips to Pakistan and Bangladesh, a T20 World Cup and then the small matter of an away Ashes.
Asked if England simply play too much cricket, Buttler said: “Yeah, that’s probably a really good question for all the administrators isn’t it? We play a hell of a lot.
“I don’t think there’s any perfect answers. I think in England we’re playing a lot of cricket, more than most, I think. And obviously there’s a lot of cricket left this year and there’s some big cricket to come up. I think it’s important for everyone to be looked after really well and I think the ECB does a good job of that.
“I know there’s been some criticism from outside (about rest and rotation), but I think it’s a day and age where we’ve got to look after people and applaud that the guys are trying to be forward thinking and look after people. Is it perfect? No, of course it’s not, but I’d rather we look after our guys.”
June: 3 T20s and 1 ODI v SL.
July: 2 ODIs v SL, 3 ODIs v Pak, 3 T20s v Pak
August: 3 Tests v Ind
September: 2 Test v Ind
October: 2 T20s v Pak, 3 T20s v Bangladesh
Oct/Nov: T20 World Cup in Ind
Nov/Dec: Ashes Tour
Buttler’s absence was cited as a mitigating factor in the recent travails of Joe Root’s red-ball team, along with that of the injured Ben Stokes. Without the experienced pair England’s batting order was picked apart by New Zealand in a first home series loss since 2014. The pair will carry a big burden of expectation in the five-match series against India when it begins in August but Buttler sought to take the heat out of the debate.
“Generally, things are never as good as you think they are and never as bad as you think they are either,” he said.
“Any time you lose at home is disappointing – we’re a proud nation with a proud record at home and it was Rooty’s first series loss at home (as captain). But in the past 18 months, two years, there have been some strides and I think the side is going in the right direction.
“Things are still in a good place. Any time you lose, there are question marks but I think some great things have been put in place and I’d still back everyone in that side to have a great summer against India.”
Meanwhile, England’s three-match one-day series against Sri Lanka, which follows on the heels of this week’s T20s, could take place in front of 50 per cent capacity crowds.
The games at Durham, the Kia Oval and Bristol, have been listed in the Government’s latest ‘events research programme’ alongside the subsequent white-ball series against Pakistan. Precise details have not been disclosed but the ECB is hoping for grounds to be at least half full grounds.
Announcing the news, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Summer is all about cricket and I’m delighted to be able to include England’s upcoming ODI and IT20 series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in our pioneering events research programme.
“We will continue to do everything we can to get as many as possible back watching live sport and cultural events as safely and as quickly as possible.”