Eoin Morgan knows how Jos Buttler feels.
He’s led England to World Cups before, faced the pressure of having to fight for the title, which Buttler will experience at the T20 World Cup in Australia over the next few weeks.
Morgan – who led England to more than 50 years of glory in 2019 – passed the baton to Buttler earlier this summer when he announced his international retirement and Buttler, as expected, was quickly named his successor.
The former skipper says England couldn’t wish for a better leader than the current one as they seek to claim a first T20 World Cup crown since 2010, with the team being beaten in the 2016 final and losing in the 2021 semi-finals under Morgan’s management.
Talk to sky sports Ahead of England’s T20 World Cup opener against Afghanistan in Perth on Saturday, Morgan said: “In my opinion, they couldn’t have asked for a better captain than Jos.
“When you have the ability to lead from the front, stay calm and give absolute clarity of thought to every player on the team, I think that’s a huge skill – and he has it.”
England’s debut under Buttler was lukewarm.
They failed to register a win in the white-ball cricket streak in the summer on home soil as they came up against India and South Africa. Batting slumps were commonplace, the ultra-aggressive ethos that had been fostered under Morgan replaced with a hint of shyness at times.
But those problems seem to have been just a blip, a natural downfall with not only a new captain in Buttler, but also a new coach in Matthew Mott. Things look much rosier now.
A 4-3 series win in Pakistan as Buttler had a brief glimpse – the skipper with his squad but not playing as he took a cautious approach on his return from a calf injury – was followed by a victory 2-0 over T20 World Cup hosts and defending champions Australia, with Buttler playing a pivotal role.
Morgan: Buttler has a fiery side
In a series England would have likely won 3-0 if the final game in Canberra hadn’t fallen victim to the weather, Buttler slammed two half-centuries and stayed cool as he rallied his bowlers and defenders in two ultimately failed chases in Australia.
Like his predecessor as captain, Buttler seems to have ice in his veins at hot moments, but Morgan says his former teammate has a sizzling side too – and not just when he’s got a bat in hand.
Morgan said: “I thought Jos, with [stand-in captain] Moeen Ali, has done an incredible job in Pakistan, galvanizing the troops after a difficult transition this summer, playing against two teams on an upswing in India and South Africa.
“Jos is also a fiery character when it needs to be. You might not see that often, but it’s an integral part of his personality and it’s important for him to stay that way and be himself.
“If people are around him thinking, ‘Damn, Jos starts normally when this happens, why isn’t he now, what’s wrong? “, That’s not what you want. He has to be as authentic as a captain as he is as a person.
“He hasn’t captained much yet, but the best glimpse of his cricketing brain is watching him do his innings at the top of the order. It’s not always crash, bang, wallop.
“When we’ve seen him get hundreds, whether in the IPL or in an England shirt, those are very deft rounds.
“He talks a lot about hitting two or three overs to get into the game, a lot about picking moments to swallow your ego and then knowing when to grab the game by the throat. That’s what great players do.
“They have a tremendous ability to recognize the greatest moments in the game and deliver. He’s the best white ball hitter in the world right now. He makes it so easy.
“Having missed the full-back in The Hundred and Pakistan series through injury, he came back against Australia and looked like he hadn’t missed a game. Even when I was still playing, I watched him play shots that made me think I should retire because I can’t do this!
“He’s on a different level with how hard he hits the ball and how he’s constantly trying to develop his game, no matter how many runs he has or what impact he’s already having on the team.
“His desire is very similar to that of Ben Stokes. Those two are the best coaches.”
“Stokes makes the players around him better”
Stokes’ place in England’s T20 squad – the all-rounder is expected to enter at No 4, behind Buttler, Hales and Dawid Malan – had been debated after a rocky start with the bat in the Australian series, the 31-year-old looking for single digits in Perth and Canberra.
Perhaps that could be reduced to rust with Stokes seen so fleetingly in T20 cricket lately and there were glimpses in the last game against Australia and the warm-up win over Pakistan that he was finding his range. For Morgan, however, Stokes has always been a go-to choice.
“Ben is a guy you want when the team really needs something. He improves the players around him, regardless of form. He’s someone you need to have in your team.”
Stokes’ myriad qualities could be crucial for Buttler and England at the World Cup, as could Mark Wood’s pace, with the rapid speed of 97mph in the Pakistan series.
England have been cautious with Wood’s playing time ahead of the World Cup as they try to ensure a player with a long injury history is at his peak for the tournament itself. Morgan believes the Durham speedster can now be dropped – for all but one of his country’s matches.
Morgan added: “I don’t think Wood needs to play every game, although he certainly will. The games are spaced out so that he will have enough recovery, but I think traveling to Australia could be a bit dicey, especially going from Perth to Melbourne.
“I don’t think he needs to play Wednesday’s qualifier after a five-hour flight to Melbourne – for me there’s no need to risk a guy who’s going to be an important part of your campaign .
“After that the trip is not that far, an hour to Sydney, an hour or so to Brisbane. I think he could play the first game against Afghanistan but not the second before coming back against Australia.
“Woody loves to play cricket. It’s easy when you play on the big stage in your country, but I imagine him having the same attitude playing for Ashington on a Saturday afternoon. The level of enjoyment is completely contagious. C he’s a great guy – who can play at 100 mph!”
Twelve months ago, Morgan was captain of Wood, Stokes and Buttler. This time around, however, he won’t be orchestrating the game plan, but rather analyzing it by commentating on the tournament and performing expert functions to sky sports.
Speaking from Perth, Morgan added: “It was a different feeling on the flight. I’ve been to many T20 World Cups over the years, part successful and part really bad campaigns. .
“Normally your mind is busy for the first two hours, thinking if things are in place, what you need to do when you get there, making plans, but this flight was much more relaxing.
“I can’t wait to see the English boys play good cricket because they’ve been brilliant lately.
“They’ve gone from not knowing what their best team is, with injuries and guys in bad shape, to a team that’s spoiled for choice trying to pick a better XI. It’s the most fit for competition.”
Watch England’s T20 World Cup opener against Afghanistan live on Sky Sports Cricket on Saturday. Coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. before the noon start.