Jos Buttler, the England wicketkeeper-batsman, revealed he was struggling with fear of failure before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 final against New Zealand last week.
While England went on to win the tournament and lift their maiden men’s World Cup, Buttler, who scored 59 runs and affected a match-winning run-out, needed counsel from team psychologist David Young before the game.
“I had played in eight finals before Sunday and lost seven of them,” Buttler told the Daily Mail. “I’d played in lots with Somerset, the Champions Trophy with England and when we lost the [World] T20 [final] in Kolkata. I knew how much it hurt watching the other team lift the trophy. I didn’t want to feel that pain and that regret again.”
Since crashing out in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup, England underwent an ODI revolution with the sole aim of lifting the trophy at Lord’s four years later. They rose to the top of the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Rankings and were one of the favourites to win the tournament. With the dream final before a home crowd turning into reality, Buttler found himself overawed by the historic occasion.
“What was scaring me was if we lost, I didn’t know how I’d play cricket again,” he explained. “This was such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a World Cup final at Lord’s. It felt like destiny and I was thinking: ‘If it doesn’t happen, I will have no motivation to pick up a cricket bat for a very long time.’
“When I was talking to David, I knew the answers. I knew all I could look after was the stuff I could look after, and I needed to get into my zone, which allows me to perform the best I can. But what happens if it goes wrong?”
Buttler had similar worries in the group stage as well, when England had needed to win at least two of their last three games to ensure qualification into the knockouts. Defeats to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia had put them in a difficult position.