Ashes 2015: Jos Buttler praises impact of Sir Ian Botham's pep talk to England team

'Beefy told us we have to enjoy the cricket and embrace the series,' reveals batsman

Click to follow

A cricketer on the eve of his first Test series against Australia has drawn inspiration from the greatest Ashes campaigner of them all. Jos Buttler, among the most exciting of England’s new generation, explained that Sir Ian Botham’s legendary exploits had a profound effect on the team when he joined them for a specially arranged session in Cardiff.

“It was great last night, it was like story time with your granddad really,” he said. “Beefy was among us and everyone sat around listening to stories of the rock-star life he led. It was quite different, the way he went about it as to how our preparation has been. Situations like that arise and you pinch yourself because he was one of the greats.”

Things might have been different then but Sir Ian, still known as Beefy to his mates, had a habit of eating Australians for breakfast, occasionally having gone to bed not long before. He appeared in five winning series against the oldest enemy between 1977 and 1989 and played an instrumental part in all of them.

Sir Ian spoke to the whole squad on Sunday night and it was clear that Buttler, for one, was in awe of the great man. Buttler is one of five England members of the squad in Cardiff not to have played in a Test match against Australia.

The coverage of cricket changed because of Sir Ian’s adventures on and off the field, frequently against Australia. For the period between 1980 and 1985 he was followed everywhere by news reporters as well as sports writers. His advice focused on how to deal with the circus that now forms part of every Ashes series as much as the play itself.

“It was more the stuff that goes on around it,” Buttler added. “It’s a very intense environment, the media spotlight and stuff, and sometimes it can be tough to get away from it. It’s in the papers more, on the TV more and he said you have to understand that is how it is – but the cricket doesn’t change. You have to enjoy it and embrace the Ashes.”

 

Like everyone else associated with the series, Buttler is excited but tiring of the phoney war which is always conducted in the weeks beforehand and seems to have been interminable this time. The series now needs the first ball to be bowled.

It will never again be as it was in the Botham era, when the glow of the spotlight might have begun to become more intense but players could at least escape sometimes. As Buttler pointed out, pre-match planning was different in those days and it was possible, for instance, that more red wine passed Sir Ian’s lips than it does those of the contemporary player.

“Copious amounts more … I don’t think he warmed up as much as we do,” said Buttler. “Just a warm bath in the morning and straight into his whites.

“He liked to have a putt on the outfield. We won’t see any of that this week, but that was his preparation. His favourite stories seem to involve rest days in Tests – they seemed to be the best invention ever.”

In the last century, only Wilfred Rhodes matched Botham’s record of appearing in five winning Ashes series. Rhodes played in 1903-04, 1905, 1911-12, 1912 and 1926; Sir Ian in 1977, 1978-79, 1981, 1985 and 1986-87.

Ian Bell, who played in the series of 2005, 2009, 2010-11 and 2013 could match them  if England overturn the bookmakers’ odds – which are shortening by the day – and gain revenge for their 5-0 drubbing in Australia 18 months ago.

The mood of optimism within the England camp seems genuine and their net session on the outfield at Sophia Gardens was as relaxed as it could have been fewer than 48 hours away from the start of the match.

“There’s been a lot of change in English cricket, so I guess things have been up in the air and it is tough to look at and say ‘there’s a settled side going into the Ashes’,” said Buttler. “But I think in the past few months it has become a lot more settled, things have  taken shape and I think that the New Zealand series and the one-day internationals have galvanised the team even more so.

“There’s a new head coach in place [Trevor Bayliss], which is going to give us a chance in this series to produce the cricket we think we can to win.”

Sir Ian would certainly raise a glass to that.

Comments