England had made no secret of this five-match series against the 2016 T20 World Champions being as much a fact-finding mission as it was a pursuit of victory.
After falling to two defeats in a row to start the series, England had a team meeting where they pledged a change of approach where they would “fight fire with fire” against a West Indies team who had hit 13 more sixes than them across the opening two fixtures.
“Yeah I think so,” Buttler said. “You want to win and we all wanted to win the series. It’s hard to say when you’ve lost but I think we’ve found out some good things.
“Obviously some players have stood up and done really well. We’ve obviously had five games out here in the Caribbean and had a really good look at what conditions will be like for the World Cup only six months away. So yeah, it’s been a good series.”
Nevertheless, it is a concerning trend for an England team that have won just four of their 12 T20s this year and none of the three series they have played. The group is still considered to be exceptionally talented and genuine contenders for the World Cup in June, but the winning habit has deserted them.
“Not really, [but] I’ve had some low moments for sure,” Buttler said, reflecting on his own 2023 and whether he had ever considered giving up the captaincy. “It was a huge disappointment in my career that [ODI] World Cup just gone, but after you let the dust settle there’s huge motivation and determination to have another crack and keep going. So that desire still burns strongly.”
There is a tangible difference between the public message of positivity and the private sentiment of irritation after this latest defeat. As England gathered for their post-series drink in the hotel, the TV in the corner was showing the highlights of their loss. Then Buttler arrived and turned it off.
There is also no shame in losing to a West Indies team that has defeated South Africa, India and now England in consecutive series.
“I hope so,” Buttler replied when asked whether this series had contained two of the world’s best T20 teams. “Two really good teams and we had a fantastic series.
“We don’t play together as a team now [until May] but everyone’s going to be playing lots of T20 cricket in different tournaments around the world so that’s a plus. Hopefully we can come here and look forward to a really good World Cup.”
Buttler highlighted death bowling as an area of particular improvement that England will look at, with the potential return of Jofra Archer a major cause for optimism.
“It’s been good to be in these conditions and [to] have a look at what might work in those scenarios. I think if you can execute your yorkers they’re still the best ball in T20.
“I haven’t spoken to Jof. Obviously I saw him in Barbados, it was good to see him back in training with us and bowling well. I know the medical team and staff have got a good plan for him and I think I speak on behalf of all England cricket fans and cricket fans around the world that we want to see Jof back and back for good. So I think it’s important that he takes his time.”
In the final two T20s, Buttler opted against wicketkeeping, with the gloves handed over to Salt. Mott had said he expected Buttler would return behind the stumps for the decider, but the captain remained in the outfield and appears open to the option of staying there for the World Cup.
“I’ll probably take a few days to reflect on that. It’s nice sometimes during the over to be closer to the bowler, but when you’re keeping wicket you can always run down and run back. It’s just a sort of stereotypical thing from the outside that it’s slow or it doesn’t look right. So, I don’t know. I like the view as a wicketkeeper behind the stumps, to be able to see exactly what’s happening, but I enjoy fielding as well. So I don’t really have any huge preference either way to be honest at the moment.”
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby