Daily Express


Buttler admits it will feel ‘empty’ playing with no fans after joyful scenes at Lord’s final a year ago

- By Gideon Brooks

JOS BUTTLER says cricket behind closed doors runs the risk of feeling “empty” without the physical connection­s and sparks between players and fans.

The England star, the conduit for the lightning-bolt moment which electrifie­d the nation in the World Cup final last July, is fully behind plans to jump-start the sport.

But with social distancing measures potentiall­y limiting contact between players against a backdrop of empty stands, he admitted vital components will be absent.

“It’ll feel quite empty,” he said. “We’re so lucky in England. We get so well supported. Grounds are packed and the moment of a wicket is huge.

“Look back at last summer. There were lots of moments, iconic images of Ben Stokes (below) interactin­g with the crowd after his catch in the first World Cup game.

“Those moments are quite incredible. It will be a great shame for sport. The live crowd is so important.”

Buttler ran out New Zealand’s Martin Guptill at the end of the final to prompt a huge outpouring of emotion at Lord’s.

But with the ECB getting the green light for bowlers to begin one-to-one training next week, batsmen two weeks later and for cricket to resume under strict controls without fans in July, a new reality dawns.

“You have to use your imaginatio­n to think what it will be like,” said Buttler. “It’s going to be completely different, very strange to get used to.

“Interactio­n with the opposition will be different and with your own players as well. There are lots of scenarios to try to run through in your head, to try to prepare yourself for what will happen.

“At the moment it’s just about trying to work out some coping mechanisms. If we can get them in place, it should hopefully be more manageable if and when it happens.”

Buttler admitted to mixed emotions about emerging from lockdown, with both nervousnes­s and excitement present. But he stressed there was no sense that players were being railroaded into a position where they feel uncomforta­ble.

He said: “People will have apprehensi­on I’m sure, but no players would be under pressure to do something they don’t want to do. That has been made clear.” Buttler also believes some good could come out of the lockdown, for England cricketers at least.

“It has been very tough on a lot of families and a lot of people across the world so it’s tough to say it’s been enjoyable,” he said.

“But to have a complete break physically and mentally could add a few years to the career. It could have a positive effect on us as England players.” England hope to resume on July 8 with the first of three Tests against West Indies and want to be able to play three more against Pakistan, as well as limited-over series against Australia, Pakistan and Ireland.

If they can salvage that from the schedule it could mean projected £380million losses are limited to £100m across the sport.

 ?? Main picture: GARETH COPLEY ??
Main picture: GARETH COPLEY
World Cup victory watched by a full house, in contrast to what is expected in July
DISTANT MEMORY World Cup victory watched by a full house, in contrast to what is expected in July
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