Two of England’s finest cricketers Stuart Broad and Jos Buttler enjoyed a round of golf at The Belfry last week and afterwards The Mail on Sunday columnist Broad sat down with Buttler for an exclusive chat.
Jos has been in the form of his life and has earned a recall to the England Test side, so Stuart started by asking how he discovered that vital ingredient… confidence.
Stuart Broad (right) exclusively interviewed Joss Buttler for the Mail on Sunday at the Belfry
STUART BROAD: I’ve written down a couple of definitions of confidence. The one I like the most is ‘a firm belief, trust and reliance in one’s own abilities’, and I wanted to talk about our different forms of confidence. How have you protected the confidence you got from the IPL? Because since then you’ve taken it into international cricket and you’ve gone bang, bang, bang.
JOS BUTTLER: Confidence is the golden egg. At the IPL, Shane Warne at Rajasthan Royals was someone I loved getting to know. He was talking to me about Test cricket and saying, ‘You’re good enough to play it, that should still be your ultimate aim’. So the seed was planted.
Then for [national selector] Ed Smith to phone me and say, ‘I think you’re good enough to play Test cricket for England and I’m not fussed you haven’t played much red-ball cricket recently’, that gave me a huge amount of confidence.
It’s interesting your definition is a ‘firm belief’. I’d say the biggest difference is knowing you can do something. You can sit here and say, ‘I believe I can get a hundred tomorrow’. But it’s a different statement to say, ‘I know I can get a hundred tomorrow’. That’s something I try to think about.
Broad and Buttler were chatting at The Belfry Hotel and golf resort after a round of golf
SB: So your self-belief was reinforced by others saying they believe in you?
JB: Yeah, massively. Whoever you are, it’s good when people massage your ego a little! But it depends who, so for someone like Shane Warne to have that opinion… It’s a skill of his to make everyone feel 10-foot tall. I took a lot of that in. And the same for Ed Smith.
For me, the consistency has been pleasing. I’ve worked on simple things. My diet has been better, my training more consistent. I’ve also been a lot more consistent with the mental side of stuff. Rajasthan Royals had a performance coach called Anand Chulani who talked about things in an interesting way.
For example, sportspeople talk about the zone: I was in the zone, so it was my day. But I think you can be in the zone more often than not if you want to.
SB: I’ve never heard someone say, why not make the zone more consistent? It’s a question I am asked all the time because of the five-for spells I’ve had. People say ‘were you in the zone that day?’ I do know that I felt great, my knees were pumping, I felt light on my feet, I had good rhythm — things just happened for me. A frustration of my career is why have those spells not been more consistent.
JB: I think it’s more accessible than you think. Anand talked about how an actor can go from being themselves to being the character they need to be. You can be who you want to be sat on the balcony, then when you get to the middle you make that space what you want it to be. The zone doesn’t have to be something you don’t know how to get to. I watch you when you bowl — you do the same routines, which take you to the right place.
Broad became the interviewer as he spoke to Buttler in a candid interview for Sportsmail
Buttler admitted he had noticed Broad’s ability to get in the right zone when he bowls
SB: Is it a question of perspective too?
JB: Perspective’s important for me — it makes cricket less important. I know where it stands in life. I’ll still try as hard as I can, but I know there are big stories happening around the world. Cricket is not the be all and end all. That said, it’s fascinating to realise the power of the mind. Most of the time, if you think you need to get better at cricket, you just work harder, whereas actually it’s a question of working on how you think. I used to think it was just about being talented. But there’s also the question of staying hungry.
SB: That’s where cricket is fascinating. It’s not like one opportunity, a gold medal at the Olympics. It comes round thick and fast. You fail at Lord’s, but you’ve got Leeds in two days’ time. Virat Kohli’s a good example. He’s just so hungry every time he goes out. It sounds easy, but when you’re in competition 80 per cent of your time, it’s not. That’s an interesting point about what motivates you and makes you want to push forward.
My confidence is skills-specific. I get it from training, so that when I bowl my first ball in a Test, I know I’ve been there and done it. I do my mental work the day before: I bowl four overs in the middle to a wicketkeeper, I imagine the crowd, I imagine the pace of my run-up, everything. One thing you said to me really rings true: running for an hour on the treadmill is important, but so is doing an hour’s psychology and being clear about your role in the team.
Buttler has got used to making fifties for England but he has set his sights on centuries
JB: Yes. When I came back to the Test team in May, I turned up on the Saturday to have a net with Mark Ramprakash at Lord’s. I hadn’t played against the red ball for a while and people were wondering if I could take what I’d been doing in the IPL into a Test match. But it didn’t matter to me at all that I hadn’t been playing red ball, because I felt on top of the world, like I was batting as well as I’ve ever batted. I felt like I could go and do anything. I don’t know if I could have had that attitude before.
SB: There were never any doubts among the rest of the guys that you would adapt to Test cricket. The game’s moved on. You no longer have to score 1,000 runs for your county on pitches that are totally different from Test match pitches. The selectors are realising that if you can do it at the top level in T20, you can do it in Tests. That’s exciting for the players.
One thing about you, Jos, is that people don’t really know what you’re like. One person on Twitter asked me to ask you how such a mild-mannered guy turns into a stone-cold killer as soon as he steps on to the field!
That intrigued me. When people meet you for the first time, they think you’re shy and quiet. But I know a different side: someone who’s comfortable speaking in a team environment, who sings on the team bus, who runs fines meetings. Do you think you’ve grown as a personality?
JB: Yeah, definitely. I’ve always been a bit shy, especially in new situations. But I have that other side in me too. Cricket demands that you grow up fast. Playing in domestic tournaments as an overseas player, you’re expected to score runs and bring a lot to the group. And I expect that of myself. That’s given me the confidence to come out of myself.
Buttler has become an integral part of England’s team and his confidence has only grown
SB: I see you as competitive. Have you always been like that?
JB: Definitely. It ruins my day if we lose the football game during our warm-ups. I can’t practise for half an hour because I’ve got to get over it. People say I’m quiet, but I feel like I’m confident enough that I don’t have to show it outwardly the whole time.
SB: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. To be honest, most of the best international cricketers are competitive. Jimmy Anderson loses at football and it takes him an hour to get over it. Some people who don’t understand competitiveness will look at it as a negative, but I think you need that at the top level to be fully ‘in’.
JB: Yes. And if I’ve got something to say in the team meeting, I’ll say it. I’m not shy. Because I care about the team. It annoys me when people don’t voice their opinion to the group, then go away and say, ‘We should have done that differently’. That’s great information that should be shared. It’s our team, your team, we all care about winning and making this team better. I remember a Champions League meeting with Somerset. Justin Langer, our coach, was talking about how we were going to approach the first six overs, and I said: ‘We’ve come to the biggest domestic tournament in the world, surely we know how to play the first six overs? It doesn’t change from what got us here!’
SB: Speaking in a changing room is a hard thing to do. I remember my first England team meeting. There was Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Darren Gough — people I’d watched in the 2005 Ashes, absolute heroes of mine. It’s quite a hard thing to stand up and say, you know what, here’s what I think. It’s great that people like Dominic Bess can come in and feel like they can speak straightaway.
Jonny Bairstow (left), Broad and Buttler pictured during a Specsavers photoshoot
JB: You have to have a culture that allows it. I remember Warney talking at Rajasthan about one of his first games for Australia. The captain said, you don’t leave until I leave. Warne was just sat there in the changing room, waiting, with a tub of beers. There was no one else there except him and the captain: ‘You’re the youngest, you don’t leave until I’m done.’ He was like, this is ridiculous, all I’m doing is passing him a Bud and he won’t let me go. It’s changed a lot now.
SB: One thing Peter Moores said to me, from my Dad’s era, is that you did lots of your learning in the bar at night. That’s gone out of the game because it’s got more professional. But you made a great point about going around different changing rooms around the world: you’re learning information you can share with the England team.
JB: The fact that people want to learn from you gives you confidence as well, especially if someone in an IPL dressing room that you respect comes up to you and asks how you do something. Your self-worth starts to improve. I was almost too desperate to succeed at the IPL. I wanted to show the world. It was the one tournament I really wanted to crack. To be able to perform there has definitely elevated where I feel like I’ve performed and made me think about how high the ceiling can be.
SB: Do you think you fell into a trap early on in your career of building up Test cricket into a different game from the white-ball stuff?
Buttler admits when he first played Test cricket he did well as he had no real expectations
JB: The first time I played Test cricket, I did OK because I had no real expectations, I was just going to enjoy it. Then I lost that. This time round, it felt like I’d been given an unbelievable opportunity so I was going to do it my way and I was going to enjoy it.
SB: When you’re batting for England, guys in the Notts changing room turn the TV on. The respect you’ve got in the game has gone through the roof. I can only think of a couple of cricketers in my time who have had that effect on me. KP was one — you’d get your cup of tea when he walked out to bat because you didn’t know what was coming. And Jimmy Anderson with the new ball.
JB: Kevin Pietersen was definitely one for me too. Brian Lara was up there. And Adam Gilchrist at the top of the order. Also Jonty Rhodes, I wanted to watch him field and pull off a run-out or a ridiculous catch. And AB de Villiers obviously. He can do stuff that no one else can do.
SB: You’re being modest.
JB: I’m really not.
Lawrence Booth listened in as Stuart Broad talked to Jos Buttler.