TFT Talks To Mark Butcher

Back in November 1998, a young Englishman fresh out of uni left these shores to travel around Australia. Obviously it was a complete coincidence that the Ashes was on. On the third day of the first test in Brisbane, he saw another young(ish) Englishman flay McGrath, Fleming, Kasprowicz and MacGill to all corners of the Gabba.

The first young man was me. The second young man, the one who actually had some talent (and some hair), was Mark A. Butcher. Little did I know that eighteen years later we’d be discussing England’s prospects over the phone. Haseeb Hameed was just 22 months old at the time.

If you click on the audio thingy above you’ll hear Mark and I preview England’s test series against India. As you can probably guess, neither of us are particularly optimistic. However, we both agreed that England have enough talented players with good pedigree to defy the odds and actually win a test match. It’s just a shame about the other four games.

Aside from giving his series prediction, Mark also discusses England’s selection policy, our problems with spin, and the omission of Jack Leach – the bowler many want to see in an England shirt, but very few actually know anything about (including us)!

At the end of the interview, which lasts about 15 mins, you’ll also hear me quiz Mark about his music career, and what it’s really like to work with the legendary Bob Willis.

Many thanks to Mark for taking the time to talk to us. He was in bed recovering from a hernia operation at the time – which scuppered my suggestion that he should come out of retirement and open with Cook. Well, he couldn’t do any worse than Robson, Compton, Lyth and Hales.

James Morgan

Mark Butcher was speaking on behalf of Betway ahead of England’s five-Test series in India. Click here to see Mark discuss the secrets of surviving the subcontinent with journalist Simon Hughes and the Betway Insider’s Tom Clee


  • A lovely interview with Butch.

    I’m sorry to hear that he thinks Haseef Hameed might not get a game, but his idea of putting Buttler in at 7 with the gloves and moving Bairstow to 4, is top rate. An improvement anyway on bringing him in to shore up the top order which seems ludicrous.

    I fail to understand why Hameed had been selected and not given a game. Perhaps there are factors of which we are unaware.

    Balance coming back in again seems unlikely and carrying him around India seems daft. If he is resistant to change I can’t see intensive coaching helping him much. Sad to see a player with so much potential, lose It.

      • If Jos plays as a batsman I hope he’s lower in the order than Rashid and Woakes, who both have better first class averages than him and have both scored more first class hundreds.

      • Haha, clueless.. lets out a slogger into a test team that’s already prone to collapsing as its got too many white ball players.. clueless

        Good job India have loads of injuries

    • I can understand the idea of playing Buttler as a bat (although I think it is madness) but I cannot get my mind around the idea of giving him the gloves. Bairstow is the standard of a (very) average county keeper, but Buttler makes him look like Alan Knott. Worse still, Buttler is at his worst standing up to the stumps, which could be an issue with the amount of spin to be expected. There seems to be an idea that Bairstow could be batted higher without the gloves – but opening never seemed to be an issue for Alec Stewart (or Gilchrist or Sangakkara). The Buttler apologists should stop looking so hard for excuses to bring him back.

      • Gilchrist never opened in test cricket (and would only rarely have batted higher than 7), and Sangakkara was a markedly better test batsman when he didn’t keep. Batting Bairstow higher but taking the gloves from him doesn’t seem the worst idea – whether giving Buttler the gloves to replace him is viable may be another matter. Trying to get Bairstow to bat higher while still keep has to risk asking too much of him.

        • You are right that I should not have quoted Gilchrist (although he did open – once :)). The core point remains valid though. A number of test keepers have batted high in the order which would make Bairstow at 4 or 5 unexceptional. Most of Sangakkara’s runs came at 3 (over 11000). I could also have quoted the likes of Andy Flower who usually batted 5, or even Brendon McCullum. If they are good enough bats (and Bairstow is) they can keep and bat up the order. And Bairstow’s stats mean England cannot afford to bat him low; he lasts nearly twice as many balls per dismissal (in 2016) as Stokes and we need to bat long.

          • Andy, happy to accept that Gilchrist did open, without going into the circumstances. However, I still think the point stands – for example, how many of Sangakkara’s runs were made when he was keeping? Regarding many of the players you mention, a common theme is that they didn’t always keep and that they generally if not always batted higher and batted better when they weren’t keeping. Is Bairstow good enough to keep and bat at 4/5, which historically very very few players have been, or are you just creating another problem in trying to solve an existing one?

  • Thanks but here’s the problem:

    Mark Butcher was speaking on behalf of Betway ahead of England’s five-Test series in India. Click here to see Mark discuss the secrets of surviving the subcontinent with journalist Simon Hughes and the Betway Insider’s Tom Clee.

    Did you watch that?

    • That’s the tagline that Betway, who kindly made Mark available to us, specified. A small price to pay for the opportunity to speak to someone like Mark.

      • Sorry James – I disagree

        It’s too high a price. Butcher (and I like/respect him) should either talk without strings to you or not at all.

        • We’ve interviewed Flintoff, Simon Jones, Hoggard, Hussain, Devon Malcolm and Jarrod Kimber (to name a few) over the years. They were glad to talk to us in return for promoting things (books, films, events, businesses and all kinds of things). All they ask for is a plug for whatever venture they’re working on. As a freelancer I respect that. I guess it’s a bit like film stars appearing on chat shows to plug their new film. Robert DeNiro isn’t going to turn up on The Jonathan Ross show simply as a favour to the host. These guys are very in demand.

          I’m glad the blog is considered established enough to provide a suitable platform to be honest with you. Speaking to these guys is one of the things that makes all the time I put into this site worthwhile (for me anyway). I don’t want to turn down an opportunity to talk to my heroes and share their thoughts with other readers because a few people dislike the commercial angle. Feel free to email me at if you’d like to discuss this some more mate.

          • I cannot see a problem – although I would question whether Betway should want to be associated with a Buttler advocate :)

  • The ‘breaking’ news is that Hameed looks set to make his debut as opener tomorrow with Duckett more sensibly being played at 4. No Buttler and to be honest like a few here I’m not that upset as the one first class game since being dropped last year hardly inspires confidence. I do think that Jos has a potential future in the longer form of the game but for the time being he’s got a fair bit of work to do.

    That said I’m not sure any combination of seamers that we put out, in the absence of Anderson will blast England to victory, even if I too have no faith in the spinners to even hold India up.

    • The Buttler option was what they were going to do if the pitch was like Dhaka. The reports so far think it’s going to be a good batting deck for at least the first half of the game. I guess Rajkot as a new venue didn’t want to take too many chances with pitch preparation.

      • To be honest, I didn’t that that would have made much sense. Buttler playing on a Bunsen with close fielders around would have been a horrible thought IMO. I do see a future for him in the longer form as I said, but that time isn’t now. Both he and Ballance could do with some time in the county championship but when will Buttler get enough time, given his IPL and international limited over commitments?

        If the England think tank still see a test match star, then they are going to have to manage him a bit better than they have done previously. Given the last year surely someone like Ben Foakes would have been a better bet as the reserve wicket-keeper?


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