Jos Buttler has insisted he wants to continue to play all three formats for England, and set his sights on the three-Test series in the Caribbean in March.
As Joe Root’s team prepare for Tuesday night’s game in Sydney, where they risk going 4-0 down to Australia for the fifth time in six Ashes tours, Buttler said he had made too many sacrifices to consider giving up Test cricket at the age of 31.
And that means he intends to hold on to the gloves, despite the widespread clamour to hand England’s wicketkeeping duties to Surrey’s Ben Foakes.
Jos Buttler has endured a rollercoaster Ashes tour but is determined to continue in Tests
Buttler reacts after dropping Marnus Labuschagne during England’s second Test defeat
Buttler has endured a mixed tour. He has caught blinders down the leg side but dropped sitters to his right.
Then, after a last-day rearguard of more than four hours at Adelaide, he was caught at deep square leg in the final over before tea off Nathan Lyon on the first day at Melbourne.
That stroke alone caused many to question his stomach for the game’s longest form, and left him with a Test batting average of 32 and only two centuries from 98 innings – a perplexing ratio for a player of his talent.
But Buttler had a simple explanation for what was arguably the worst shot of the series: ‘Mid-off and mid-on were up, and I wanted to attack the spinner. In hindsight, coming just before a tea break, it was a poor time to get out.
Buttler was out to an ill-advised shot off Nathan Lyon during the third Test at Melbourne
Having batted resiliently to try and save the Adelaide Test, Buttler stepped on his stumps
Australia celebrate Buttler’s wicket in the second Test at Adelaide as they closed in on victory
‘But I wanted to be positive, and I saw that as an opportunity to score. I just didn’t execute it.’
As for the drops at Adelaide, where he put down Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, Buttler said: ‘It’s a very lonely place dropping a catch. It’s one of the worst feelings in cricket, letting down your mates. It doesn’t just hurt you: it hurts the whole team.’
Faced with an impossibly crowded fixture list, players the world over are considering their options, with South Africa’s 29-year-old wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock dismaying his compatriots this week by announcing his retirement from Test cricket.
Buttler is one of a handful of Ashes tourists who plays all three international formats, as well as the ever-expanding IPL, and his wife, Louise, gave birth to their second daughter in September.
South Africa wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock has retired from Test cricket
But Root, his close friend, values his tactical nous, and England haven’t given up on the hope that Buttler can translate his white-ball prowess into red-ball success.
Most importantly, he says he retains the hunger to keep playing Tests, one-day internationals and T20s.
‘It’s certainly my ambition,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I’d have put as much into it if it wasn’t. I have fantastic family support – they make a lot of sacrifices for me. That gives you the motivation to make it all worth it.’
Asked if he intended to travel to the West Indies for Test series starting on March 8, he replied: ‘Yeah, I hope so.’
And he denied that the decision of De Kock – two years Buttler’s junior – to commit to a white-ball career had led him to reassess his own future.
Buttler (right) has backed Joe Root (centre) to keep going as England captain after the Ashes
‘That’s Quinton’s situation,’ he said. ‘The world of cricket will miss him in Tests. But I commend him for making a decision that’s right for him.
‘You try to do best by the people who mean the most to you. But at the moment I feel I’ve got that support, and I’m in a place where I want to try to make it work.’
Buttler also reiterated the dressing-room’s support for Root, who is likely to carry on as Test captain after the Ashes if he wants to. ‘We all hope he’ll want to continue. It’s a very individual decision for him, but he’s certainly got the players’ support.’
For now, England’s wicketkeeper is trying to balance the need for reflection with the reality of another important Test.
Buttler will be involved in England’s efforts to try and avoid an Ashes whitewash in the two remaining Tests in Sydney this week and then Hobart
‘One of the frustrations of the tour has been why haven’t we performed to the level we’re capable of?’ he said. ‘We’re not gelling as a group, or individually playing well enough to compete with Australia.
‘Reflecting on my own game, how can I be better, why do I make mistakes that you can’t put your finger on? That’s what I find really frustrating.
‘But you have to make sure you’re in a good headspace to turn up and perform in an England shirt. We certainly don’t want to be a team to lose 5-0.’