Jos Buttler has lifted the lid on how and why England’s one-day batting line-up has become the most powerful and most feared of all heading into the World Cup.
And it is not about bigger bats.
It is about T20 cricket, flat pitches, smaller boundaries, training smart, healthy competition. But most of all it is about fearlessness.
Buttler is the leader of this batting assault with five of the ten fastest hundreds scored by an Englishman including the top two, and he thinks he can go faster. He is not alone either with Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali all capable of sending the ball into the stands at will.
They have scored at a faster rate than any team since the last World Cup and have scored an incredible 508 sixes — 97 more than next-best India. By comparison their own improvement is astonishing, with the preceding four-year period containing just 256 maximums in the same number of games.
Ahead of Thursday's opening game of the tournament against South Africa, Buttler said: “One thing you have to really give credit to is the captain and coach and the selectors for giving players the opportunity to play in that fearless way and saying, ‘It might not come off all the time.’ That allowed people to play in that fashion without fearing consequences.
“Organically, that has built the trust that we can play in that way when given the licence and freedom to. We talk about not having limits and understanding that we can play at a higher intensity for longer periods of time and trusting we can do that.
“It’s allowed us to play with more freedom and not hold back at any stage. We have to stick to those things even more so now in the tournament and refer to that the times we are under pressure.”
Buttler memorably has two words inked in at the top of his bat handle to remind him to stick to the gameplan: ‘F*** it’. A more crude way of saying ‘No fear.’ There is more to it than that though, as batting coach and former England ODI hero Graham Thorpe admits.
“If you’re going to do special things then you’ve got to practice in an expressive and an exploratory way and that should be fun,” said Thorpe.
“We didn’t used to practice the way these guys do at all. We didn’t do the range hitting anywhere near as much. We didn’t hit anywhere near as many balls, and I have to wear a helmet and a box to protect myself — they hit is so hard and you might not get out the way in time.”
Buttler is one of the hardest trainers in the squad too, working on more and more innovative ways to find the boundary.
He sets the standard when it comes to using his fast hands, unerring eye, and devastating strokeplay, but it is also built on the foundation of being the fittest member of the squad.
At the launch of OPPO’s ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 ‘Shot Maker’ campaign, he added: “Guys are watching each other in training and trying to help, improve and push each other has really allowed us to keep pushing the boundaries.
“You need to look after your fitness, your strength work and your technique and the culmination of those things translates into performances on the field — hopefully big ones at this World Cup.”
* Jos Buttler helped launch mobile phone brand OPPO’s Reno Series official ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 advert starring the ‘Shot Maker’. Search @oppo on Twitter to watch it and find out more about Reno.
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