From the dazzling lights of the IPL to the ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats of Blackpool, Jos Buttler will play his first home match of the summer for Lancashire against Worcestershire on Wednesday at Stanley Park in the Vitality Blast.
Buttler, captain of the England men’s limited-overs team, is in the early phases of a 10-group game run in Lightning colors. His debut came in the Roses’ loss at Headingley on Thursday, and he will play in five home games between now and July 2 – four at Emirates Old Trafford.
Buttler, fresh from two months with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, has been with Lancashire for the past week and a half, training at Chester Boughton Hall prior to away games against Yorkshire, Durham, and Notts.
“It’s been so nice to train at Chester after being in the IPL with all the glitz and pressure; it’s almost like going back to where your career began,” he said. “Club cricket has been an integral part of my development; it makes you feel quite at ease and allows you to focus solely on the game.”
“It’s wonderful for the county that we can take some of our games to outgrounds such as Blackpool. It will be a tad different [than the IPL’s previous couple of months]. But if it were the same every time, you might become weary. I’m eagerly anticipating it.”
Shan Masood, captain of Yorkshire, stated that Lancashire’s Blast team “could be an international side” after Thursday’s Roses match, in which Buttler opened the proceedings with a run. Colin de Grandhomme, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Daryl Mitchell, Matthew Parkinson, Phil Salt, and Luke Wood join Buttler in the squad.
It raises the question, how do the Red Rose stack up against an IPL team?
“This is a difficult question,” said Buttler. “County cricket has restrictions compared to the Indian Premier League. There are four international players, for example. But I believe we have a formidable team for this competition.
There is a wealth of international experience and a number of exceptionally talented players on the verge of breaking through. We also have some veterans from across the franchise industry. We have a good mix of players and should do well in the competition.”
It is hard to believe that this September will mark ten years since Buttler left his home county of Somerset for Lancashire in quest of greater opportunities. Craig Kieswetter was the favoured wicketkeeper at Taunton at the time.
“That makes me feel a bit old,” the 32-year-old said with a smile. “It is a lengthy time, but it seems to have passed very quickly. You consider my evolution as a player over the past decade, as well as my constant desire to get better.
“In red-ball cricket and Test matches, there have been various attempts to make the most of the situation. I’d say that white-ball cricket and being captain of the [England] white-ball team are currently the primary focus.
“It has been a wonderful journey and my game has evolved over time. There are still some very similar sections, but presumably there will be many more. I arrived here with aspirations of advancing rapidly and launching an international career. It has been an incredible voyage, and the club has been incredibly supportive.
“I’ve been in and out and haven’t been as present, but the support has been outstanding. I’ve had a fantastic experience at the club, and I’m looking forward to playing a nice stretch of games and being part of a formidable team. We hope to have a healthy competition.”
Given the dominance of Lancashire’s team over the past two decades of Blast cricket, it is astounding that the county has only won the championship once, in 2015, when Buttler was a member of the squad. The list of players includes Andrew Flintoff, Muttiah Muralitharan, the late Andrew Symonds, and Stuart Law.
Buttler is among those who cannot believe that statistic: “No, not really – given the caliber of the squads and teams we’ve fielded and the standing of the club,” he added. “Teams like Lancashire should be contending and victorious. We’ve won the most T20 contests in England overall. But the goal is to win the championship.
Again this year, we have a strong team, and – as I’ve said – I expect us to fight strongly for the championship.