“And so the next time — whether in cricket or in life – that you find yourself excessively stressed, to the point that it stifles your natural tendencies and inhibits your performance, maybe you should say well… “f**k it.” It just might help”.
With cameras everywhere, nothing can be hidden these days, especially when you’re on a cricket field with numerous powerful cameras dedicated to the action in the middle. Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft found this out, much to their detriment when their nefarious actions with the ball were revealed to all. What were they thinking? you might have wondered. How could they not have realized that they’d likely get caught eventually?
Not that he was hiding it, but Jos Butler must have considered the possibility that the two words he wrote on his bat handle — one of them an expletive — would be exposed to the world at some point. The batsman rested his bat and gloves on the ground during a break for drinks, only for a cameraman to take a special interest in the very top of his bat handle, where the message, “F**k It” was plainly visible.
Judging by the reactions on social media the revelation took many by surprise. But, it turns out, the batsman has written those words on every bat he’s used since somewhere around 2015.
He first did it at a low point in his career. His mind was encumbered with unhelpful thoughts and he was recently dropped, an act the batsman admits was the right move by the selectors.
“I started to think too much about how not to get out, as opposed to how to score runs,” Buttler said. I learned some really valuable stuff there and got into a rut that I just couldn’t get out of. The only way to get out of it was to be dropped.
“Actually, being dropped released a lot of pressure.”
At some point during those troubles, the batsman decided to say, well… “F**k it.” It appears to have worked too because he’s been saying it – and writing it on his bat handles — ever since.
That change in attitude was largely responsible for the turnaround that brought him here. Unexpectedly Reinstated to the Test side for the recent Lords Test he scored 14 and 67. At Leeds he earned the Man of the Match award for his impressive, unbeaten 80, that lifted England from 212/5 when he strolled to the middle to their eventual 363.
Buttler has been a dominant limited overs player for some time, and Ed Smith’s conviction that he can be an outstanding Test player appears, so far at least, to be paying off. Still, he is only two games into his comeback and so has a far way to go before he can accurately be described as an outstanding Test-match batsman.
To achieve that acclaim he’d do well to stick to the methods he’s found effective to this point. “Dance with the one that brought you,” says famed recording artist Shania Twain. In other words, Buttler should continue to say “F**k it.”
“F**k it” is not a celebration of profanity. Rather, it signifies an approach that many sportsmen have found valuable. It speaks to an attitude that unclutters the mind, one that frees the performer to rely on his instincts rather than fall into the trap of overthinking things. It is an approach that invites perspective.
Though he appeared to be a batsman of ease, Mark Ramprakash’s intense, hot-tempered personality inspired his nickname “Bloodaxe.” Seen as a supremely talented batsman from his youth he was expected to have a great career. And he did. He played at the first-class level for something like 25 years and averaged 53.14 with all of 114 centuries.
Yet he never quite made it at the international level. He averaged a paltry 27.32 in 52 tests, and an inadequate 26.85 in 18 ODIs. Upon his retirement, former England captain Michael Vaughan remarked that though he couldn’t get it right mentally in the international game he was “the best technician the English game has had in the last 20 years.” And another former captain, Alec Stewart, opined that Ramprakash was the finest county batsman of his generation.
But he didn’t handle the pressure of the international game well. The much less intense atmosphere of county cricket better suited his outlook and so there he thrived. At the international level he tried too hard, cared too much and was less successful. Too much desire often led to too much anxiety.
Would Ramprakash have fared better at test level if he’d have said, “well, f**k it?” Should Graeme Hick have done so as well? The Zimbabwean was a talented player who scored loads of first-class runs, only to falter when he ascended to Test-level.
Hick, Ramprakash and others would likely have benefitted from Buttler’s approach. The batsman said this about his bat handle inscription: “I think it’s just something that reminds me of what my best mindset is – when I’m playing cricket and probably in life as well.
“It puts cricket in perspective. When you ‘nick off’, does it really matter?”
It matters, of course, especially if it occurs at an inopportune time for you or for your team. But it doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
“F**k it” unshackled Buttler and allowed him to be himself. It reordered his mind, dismissing the unhelpful concerns that plagued it and urged him towards his natural game. One should not be a slave to one’s natural instincts, but batsmen often find that they play better when they do what comes naturally. Buttler can bear witness to that, as can many others.
And so the next time — whether in cricket or in life – that you find yourself excessively stressed, to the point that it stifles your natural tendencies and inhibits your performance, maybe you should say well… “f**k it.” It just might help.