“It’s not a lack of talent,” Buttler said. “[We have] a lot of experienced guys who are fantastic cricketers. So absolutely, it’s a huge frustration. This tournament’s gone nowhere near the way we wanted to; it’s been a huge disappointment. If there was one golden egg that we were missing, then you’d hope to see that. But there is no secret, I don’t think.
“We’re a really good team [who have] done a lot of really good things in the recent past in white-ball cricket, 50-over cricket. We got on the plane with high hopes and a lot of confidence and belief that we can challenge for the title. To be sat here now with the three weeks that have been is a shock – it’s a shock to everyone.
“I’ll walk back in the dressing room after this [press conference] and look at the players sat there, and think: ‘How have we found ourselves in this position with the talent and the skill that’s in the room?’ But it is the position we’re in; it’s the reality of what’s happened over the last three weeks and that’s a huge low point.”
Buttler has managed 95 runs in five innings in this tournament with only one score above 20. “There’s no-one else who can score your own runs or take your own wickets, and that comes from the start – from the captain at the front,” he said. “I’ve been a long way short of my best. As a leader, you want to lead through your own performance and I’ve not been able to do that.”
On his performance as captain, Buttler said: “You’re always questioning, as captain, how you can get the best out of players; how you can get the team moving in the right direction. I certainly have a lot of confidence and belief in myself as a leader and as a captain, and first and foremost, as a player.” Asked if he considered himself the right man to lead England in the future, he said: “Yes.”
England’s preparation for this World Cup has been markedly different to four years ago: they played 88 ODIs between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups compared to just 42 in the 2019-23 cycle, and have rarely been at full strength in bilateral series. But Buttler insisted: “I don’t think there’s any blame elsewhere apart from ourselves.”
He said: “The schedules are the schedules, and we’ve got a lot of things in our favour: we’ve got fantastic support from the coaches within the environment; we get fantastic support from our fans as a country, and we’ve let them all down. It’s been a really tough few weeks, incredibly disappointing – a shock to perform the way we have with the team that we do have.”
And Buttler pushed back again the idea that England had been complacent heading into the World Cup, referring back to a comment he made on the eve of the tournament which has proved prescient – though not in the way he intended. “In any sport, you can’t protect anything or rely on the past; you have to go and create something new every time,” he said.
“We know that as players, we touch on experience and things – having banked stuff before – but something we spoke about a lot as a team [was] that you have to go and create it again. You can’t rest of your laurels or try and protect something; try and protect an image, or protect something as a team.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98