England struggled against New Zealand without a full-strength side

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Jos Buttler has suggested that England could have shown more flexibility in their controversial rotation policy, which has seen crucial players miss recent Test matches, including the Test series defeat at home to New Zealand.

Buttler left England’s tour of India after a superb victory in the opening Test, taking a pre-arranged break that saw him miss the final three Tests as India recovered to win the series 3-1. He also did not feature against New Zealand, after returning from the Indian Premier League.  

“I think you do need an element of flexibility,” he said. “You have to find a balance. We like to plan, and if you were just sucking it and seeing going into the biggest year of international cricket, you’d probably say that’s quite a lack of planning. So I think there has to be an element of flexibility, but I think it’s very important to plan as well.”  

Buttler said that paring back England’s relentless schedule – they will play 16 Tests in 2021, as well as contesting the T20 World Cup – could mean that players do not need to miss as many international matches, suggesting that England might be playing too much international cricket.

“That’s probably a really good question for all the administrators isn’t it? I think in terms of how much cricket we play, we play a hell of a lot and we understand it’s a short career and you want to be available and play as much as you can. But at certain times, I don’t think is possible – and I think Covid has complicated that even more.

“It’s an age where we’ve got to look after people and applaud that the guys are trying to be forward-thinking. Is it perfect? No, of course it’s not, I don’t think so, but I’d rather we look after our guys.

“I don’t think there are any perfect answers. I think in England we’re playing a lot of cricket, more than most. And obviously there’s a lot of cricket left this year and there’s some big cricket to come up. So, those breaks were put in there – I think it’s important for everyone to be looked after really well.”

After making his international comeback in the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka, which begins in Cardiff on Wednesday, Buttler expects to be available for all five Tests against India this summer and all five Ashes Tests in Australia. “That’s the dream, isn’t it? Be available, hopefully fingers crossed. I want to play as much as I can.”

After an impressive streak of six wins and two draws in their last eight Tests up until Buttler’s last Test in Chennai, England have drawn one and lost four of the five Tests that Butler has missed since. Buttler was in fine form before leaving India, averaging 56 in his last eight Tests.

“It’s always disappointing when you miss cricket. I was feeling in good touch,” Buttler said. “Those rest periods are there because it probably allows you to throw yourself into everything when you are involved. If it’s an endless piece of string then at some point you are going to burn out. Of course, it is disappointing to miss games – you want to play everything.”

Buttler explained that there is “an open discussion with the players and the management and the coaches looking forward to the year,” about which matches players miss, denying that Test cricket has been marginalised by the management. “I don’t think there’s any preference for any formats at the moment, you’re just trying to work it out as to however your year looks.”

But Buttler confirmed that he does not expect to play in the remainder of this year’s Indian Premier League, which is set to be played in September and October and will clash with England’s limited-overs tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan before the T20 World Cup. “Usually the pocket of the IPL doesn’t clash with any international games, which makes it a very easy tournament to be available for. When it clashes with international cricket, England will take precedence I’d have thought.”

While Buttler has batted at No 4 for Lancashire in the T20 Blast this year, he expects to return to opening against Sri Lanka. Buttler has an outstanding record opening for England in T20, averaging 48. “I’ve been opening for England in T20 cricket for a while now, and I think it’s gone OK, so hopefully that will continue.”