Lancashire’s Jos Buttler will remember forever the pep talk for his maiden Ashes series, whatever the outcome of this summer’s headline sporting event.
A wide-eyed Buttler could hardly believe his luck when England went straight to the top of their Ashes hierarchy, and invited Ian Botham to dispatch to Alastair Cook’s squad the benefit of his great experience as a five-time winner of the urn.
England start their bid to regain the Ashes against Australia in Cardiff on Wednesday.
And Buttler is being touted by many as the star of a new era, such is the wicketkeeper-batsman’s prowess in front of the stumps especially at this still early stage of his international career.
He described an evening with Botham, who so famously made the Ashes his own with a series of brilliant exploits back in 1981, as “story-time with your granddad”.
At 59, England’s greatest all-rounder is not quite two generations separated from Buttler.
But as the 24-year-old recalled with a smile, but few specifics, the tales of Ashes victories -–and doubtless a few celebrations along the way, too – it was easy to picture this year’s hopefuls hanging on every word.
“It was great,” said Buttler. “It was like story-time with your granddad really.
“Beefy – everyone sat around listening to stories of the rockstar life he led.
“It was quite different the way he went about it as to our how our preparation has been.”
Botham’s influence is universal, of course, but nowhere more so than in Somerset – where he first emerged as a world-class talent and, more than 30 years later, crowds started sitting up and taking notice of Buttler too.
Even so, it was still a treat to be regaled in person by the man who – as Buttler can as yet only dream – created such history.
Botham’s most urgent advice, it seems, is to live the moment.
“You pinch yourself, one of the greats,” added Buttler, who already has his own experience of Ashes hype but has now heard from perhaps the best source of all that he and his team-mates must not allow themselves to be distracted.
“He said you have to understand that is how it is – but the cricket doesn’t change.
“You have to enjoy it, and embrace the Ashes.”
Botham’s finest hour pre-dates Buttler by almost a decade. “It’s something you want to be a part of,” said Buttler. “I’m very aware of the history.