Jos Buttler says that the early-tournament form of England's IPL contingent is further proof of the value of exposing such players to the global franchise circuit. However, he feels that the national squad needs to play together more often - at the expense of 50-over cricket if needs be - to ensure that England can truly be considered among the favourites for the forthcoming T20 World Cups in India and Australia.
Buttler himself showed glimpses of his best form in making 21 from 16 balls in Rajasthan Royal's first defeat of the tournament, against Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai on Wednesday, but the game's outstanding performance was arguably delivered by his team-mate Jofra Archer, who bowled with skill and hostility to claim 2 for 18 in his four overs, figures that would have been even better but for a dropped catch that went for six off his final ball.
The man who spilled that chance was Tom Curran at deep backward point - to reprieve his England captain, Eoin Morgan, no less. But Curran atoned with a gutsy display of death-bowling that was more skilful than his final figures would suggest, before salvaging Rajasthan's net run-rate with a determined unbeaten 54 from 36 balls, having come to the crease with the game already out of reach at 42 for 5 in the eighth over.
"Jofra really is a trump card for the team," Buttler said. "He doesn't just bowl exceptionally fast, he has exceptional skills as well, and he makes it look easy, with his repeatable action, which is very efficient. Sometimes in tough situations you want him to be able to bowl six overs out of the 20. He's one of the stars of the tournament.
"And Tom has toughed it out, as he always does," Buttler added. "He is an excellent competitor, he wants to bowl the tough overs, a lot of the time he bowls three of the last 10 which is never an easy thing to do, so he's taken that responsibility really well.
"It might seem on paper he's been expensive but sometimes you have to manage your expectations, because going at 12s and 13s at the end might be match-defining if you are not bowling an over that goes for plus of 20. And as we've seen for England and especially for the Sydney Sixers, his batting has really improved and he's making some really valuable contributions."
With Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran also impressing for Sunrisers and CSK in the early rounds of the competition, Buttler believes these are encouraging signs for England - who soaked up the lessons of franchise exposure in the lead-up to last year's 50-over World Cup victory, and could get an early chance to put their experience of the UAE conditions into practice if, as expected, their tour of India early next year also has to be staged there due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
"It's a really big advantage," Buttler said. "We've really reaped the rewards of more of our players being exposed to franchise tournaments. That's been talked about quite a lot off the back of the World Cup, but going away and performing in these tournaments, in high-pressure situations, not only benefits the individual but obviously benefits the England team.
"When you are performing in these tournaments, it gives you a lot of confidence, and the wealth of experiences that everyone can then bring back to the England side is obviously magnified," he added. "It's a really good feather in the cap of English cricket to see English cricketers in demand to play in the world's premier T20 tournament. That shows the improvements we've made, and how we are developing fantastic T20 and white-ball cricketers, so long may that continue."
However, having been forced to miss a large portion of England's white-ball summer due to his involvement in the Test bubble, and with further divisions of resources anticipated for future series as international cricket navigates a path through the pandemic, Buttler acknowledges that England's eventual first XI may not be as well-tuned as they were going into last year's World Cup, following four years of explicit preparation.
"It's no coincidence," he said. "The time, energy and effort put into 50-over cricket brought it to a par with Test cricket. We put a lot of resources into it and we saw the results, and that should be the same with T20 cricket. The guys have put it on a high priority, and I imagine if they need to be rested from a format, it may be 50-over cricket for a little bit while T20 takes precedence.
"The guys can get a lot of game time in in T20 from franchise tournaments, but what's really important, leading into two World Cups, is that when we have England international T20s, we need to be playing our strongest team. Through the 50-over World Cup, we had a really settled side, everyone knew their roles, everyone had played together for a long period of time, and we need that in this in the T20 side as well."
A further complication for England's World Cup preparations comes in the top-heavy nature of their batting resources, with Buttler one of many squad members alongside Bairstow, Jason Roy, Dawid Malan and Tom Banton - currently on the bench at KKR - whose preference on the franchise circuit would be to open the batting rather than slip into the middle order where they might be forced to feature for England.
"We've probably got seven guys who would love to open the batting," Buttler said, "When they play in different franchises they may open the batting, and that's no bad thing either, but it is advantageous to be exposed to the role [they will play for England].
"Some players may individually ask certain franchises, 'I want to be a number x, y, z' because it suits that person's development for England. But those franchises are going to be desperate to win their tournament as well, so there will be some fluctuations.
"But we're looking forward to the World Cups. We've got a really strong T20 squad of players to select from, and lots of time now before those tournaments take place."
Watch on Sky Sports as Rajasthan Royals take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in their next match of the IPL on Saturday, October 3