England's dashing wicketkeeper Jos Buttler on Saturday said the top players of world cricket won't feature in every series going ahead as they focus on their mental well-being in a world scarred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Playing the game while living in a bio-bubble has forced Buttler to only focus on his "short-term goals" at the moment.
"You want your strongest team out every time, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem possible at the moment," Buttler said during a virtual media conference.
His comments made it clear where the team stands on Jonny Bairstow being rested for the first two Tests of the upcoming four-match series against India. Buttler supported the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB)'s rotation policy during their twin tours of Sri Lanka and India.
While his complete focus is on the upcoming series, he may not feature in the last two matches and may come back for the white ball leg, as Bairstow is set to join the team before the third Test. "It's certainly a challenge but people around the world are going through tough situations. The pandemic has had people whose world has been turned upside down and we are very fortunate to play cricket and do the job that we love," Buttler said.
"Having said that you do find it challenging having to stay away from your families, being in quarantine and locked up in hotels. ECB has been forward-thinking in rotating players for this series.
"At times, it's frustrating as you want to have best players on the show all the time but it's not possible with the amount of time that one spends in a bio bubble. You can't expect people to keep doing that," he said during the conference organised by ECB for Indian journalists. Buttler conceded that short-term goals seem practical to him considering the uncertainty.
"You have to try and look after yourself as best as you can. Short-term goals I think are really important and when you look ahead there is so much uncertainty in most of the things that we are doing. I am looking at this series to start with."
While he agreed that the IPL will be a good preparatory ground for him personally, he said the five T20 Internationals in March will benefit the team, which is not as experienced as England's ODI squad, in the year of the T20 World Cup.
"We had a very settled team during ODI World Cup as guys played for a long period of time, and I think that was a huge plus for us going into the tournament.
"T20 side, we haven't had that time to play together as a group and familiarity with roles, so to play against a brilliant side like India gives us the perfect preparation for that tournament (T20 World Cup)."
Playing the IPL does give him an extra edge as getting used to facing someone as unique as Jasprit Bumrah takes time. "I think the thing what IPL does give you is familiarity of the wickets, and the guy having played against majority of the guys, sort of understanding of their action and how they try and bowl.
"If you haven't faced guys before and somebody like a (Jasprit) Bumrah, who has a bit of unique action it can be bit of problem. It takes some (time) getting used to it. "Certainly for the boys who have played international cricket before against India and played against (them) in the IPL, certainly know the angles and what to expect a little bit."
'Class of 2012 was one of the best English sides'
"Joe made his debut on that tour and has fond memories and learnings on what made us successful. That was one of the best England teams that we have ever had, quite amazing players," Buttler said during the virtual media interaction on Saturday.
"This side is in a little bit of a different stage in terms of journey, but certainly, getting towards that point. It's an exciting time to take up such a challenge against the best team in the world in their home conditions," added Buttler.
The 2012 series will always be remembered for Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar's bowling along with Kevin Pietersen's epic 186 in Mumbai. In England's seamer-friendly conditions, a first-innings score of 350 is considered to be a good total, but Buttler said this team, with some young players in its ranks, would need to develop an understanding that a good score in India could well go beyond 600. "It is about adapting to conditions and playing accordingly. There are times when the ball seams and swings in England. The big first-innings score can be 300 for example and if you play in India, we play on a fantastic batting wicket (for) the first two days, a good score would be 600-650," he said.
"So, I think it is the realisation and understanding as a batsman and as the batting team and having the hunger to go on and score big runs," he added.
Buttler feels that everyone in the team should follow the template Root set in Sri Lanka, where he showed how to build a big innings. "Joe Root is a great example of doing that for us in Sri Lanka, with a double hundred and a 180. He just showed us that you have to make the most of conditions and score big runs," he said.
Buttler remembers how India overpowered their good first-innings score in Chennai during the 2016 series. "When we played here in Chennai, four-five years ago, we scored 470 and India scored 700 something with Karun Nair scoring 300. So, it is a great education of what is big first- innings run in India and having the mindset and application to go and do that."
India is now a formidable force in Test cricket and Buttler, in jest, said given a choice he would neither face its first team nor the depleted side that beat Australia in Brisbane. "Obviously, the Australian series really showed world cricket the amazing strength and depth in Indian cricket. "To go and win that series in Australia, when you are missing Virat (Kohli) after the first Test and having so many injuries, just shows there is fantastic strength and depth, competition in Indian cricket.
"A lot of cricketers, a lot of them (brought up) from the IPL, so (not) wanting to face either team really, but I know there will be no complacency from the Indian side.
"Virat would be coming back, had some time away from Test matches and he will be hungry to lead and play well, so it is going to be a great challenge."
Root's game plan against the spinners could go a long way in determining how well England fight in the upcoming series. "Yeah, Joe was in fantastic form in Sri Lanka, he has always had a brilliant game for playing spin bowling. He is one of the best exponents of the sweep shot and he picks length brilliantly which is obviously is a big strength," said Buttler.
The best part about Root's game is his ability to rotate strike. "He has so many options to score. He scores quickly against them and manages to rotate strike and he did that fantastically well in Sri Lanka and one of the biggest things was his hunger to bat for long period of time. "He showed great application, both mentally, tactically and physically ready to bat for so long, and back that up in the two Test matches. He is great form and that is a great place for him to be at the start of the year and the team, to watch him and learn from him," he said.
As a wicketkeeper too, Buttler feels that in India, one is always in the game with the pitch slowly deteriorating over five days. "Very different conditions to keep wickets form what we are used to. Keeping is a challenge in the manner the pitch will change and deteriorate over the five days.
"There will be less carry for seam bowlers than we are used to in England or like in southern hemisphere in South Africa and Australia. "So you are standing closer to the stumps, quick and reactive chances will be there and then challenge of standing up to the spinners, and pitch starts taking turn later on in the game.
"Having said that, it's a great place to keep wickets as you feel that you are always in the game," he concluded.