Of course there is pressure when you are the No. 1 ODI team in the world. Of course there is widespread expectation to beat a Sri Lanka in some disarray. But so what, asks Jos Buttler. After decades of being expected to be swept aside in the format, especially when playing in South Asia, it’s nice to go in to a series the much more fancied team.
“I like being favourites – it shows we’ve been doing good stuff,” Buttler said on the eve of the first ODI in Dambulla. “It’s been tricky in the past for England sides to come here. But we are full of confidence, we look forward to adapting our play.
“There’s always pressure being No. 1. Once you get there, I think that’s when the hard work really starts. You’ve got a bit of a target on your back. It’s down to you to keep improving and try to stay there. That’s the challenge and it has its own pressures. I think in the dressing room we have a good understanding of what that is and who we are as a side, and know that we need to keep improving and pushing the boundaries, and putting no limitations on what we’re capable of. That should stand us in good stead. A lot of the guys enjoy the pressure in the dressing room.”
So many of the major trepidations that England teams of yesteryear had, are simply not a worry for this ODI outfit. A relatively modest spin contingent, for example, will have worried previous England captains, but not this lot. In Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, England almost certainly have a better-heeled slow-bowling outfit than Sri Lanka, for whom Akila Dananjaya has been a consistent performer, but Lakshan Sandakan and Amila Aponso have been sporadic ones.
“In England if you look at the two guys who have played well consistently for us are usually the two spinners,” Buttler said. “Adil takes a lot of wickets, Moeen is economical, and they’re a big strength of the side for us, even in home conditions. Seam is going to have a big part to play as well. Maybe there are few different roles for the seamers and the spinners, but the guys are excited for that.”
And the conditions may not be overly spin-friendly anyway. During the South Africa series, Sri Lanka made the decision to play on good batting tracks at home, to better prepare themselves for the challenge of next year’s World Cup, and the New Zealand and South Africa ODI series on the horizon. Whatever the conditions, England are confident they have enough know-how in their squad to tackle them.
“A lot of the squad have been a part of the IPL and experienced that,” Buttler said. “Not just for the conditions, but touring this part of the world and the chaos that comes with the IPL – stuff like weather and not allowing it to impact your performance and preparation. Guys have travelled the world a bit as well. Hopefully you’ll see some return on investment on guys have been part of that competition.”