Jos Buttler has spoken of the nerves he felt in the lead-up to England’s clash against New Zealand in the World Cup 2019 final, to the extent that he needed a chat with team psychologist David Young to get in the right frame of mind.
Buttler was haunted by the demons of quite a few losses in finals before that, and he doubted whether he would be able to play cricket again if England had lost.
“I had played in eight finals before Sunday and lost seven of them,” Buttler told the Daily Mail. “I’d played in lots with Somerset, the Champions Trophy with England [in 2013], and when we lost the T20 [final] in Kolkata [in 2016]. I knew how much it hurt watching the other team lift the trophy. I didn’t want to feel that pain and that regret again.
“What was scaring me was if we lost, I didn’t know how I’d play cricket again. This was such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a World Cup final at Lord’s. It felt like destiny and I was thinking: ‘If it doesn’t happen, I will have no motivation to pick up a cricket bat for a very long time.’ When I was talking to David, I knew the answers.”
It wasn’t the only time during the tournament Buttler had these fears. When England suffered consecutive losses against Sri Lanka and Australia, and their hopes of making the semi-finals diminished significantly, he said there were similar feelings, especially ahead of the all-important clash with India in Birmingham.
“We’d been favourites, so highly fancied by everyone, and there was the danger that four years of playing such good cricket was going to come to nothing,” he said. “Think about what people will say about us as a team, think about how they will call us chokers, everything else they will say.
“I remember seeing a comment – maybe it was the one that got Jonny Bairstow wound up – about how it would be the biggest failure because of how much had gone into this World Cup. I was struggling with the thought of that.”
However, in the most crucial moment of the final, the final delivery of the Super Over, there were no such apprehensions. He felt “in-the-moment” and knew exactly what he had to do. “You’re on autopilot really,” he said.
“I felt very in-the-moment. [Martin] Guptill pushed it off his legs and once I saw it going straight to Jason [Roy], I thought: ‘If we get this right, we can win this’. I knew Guptill would be a long way out. Under pressure, nothing is simple but I knew it should be simple.
“When Jason picked it up, there was no thought he might misfield it. None of those thoughts happen. He picks it up, throws it to me and I take the stumps.”
And then there was elation. “I’m 28 and for however long I have left in my career, I would just enjoy it and think: ‘That happened’.”