Matthew Mott: 'We literally can't play our best team, but we've just got to find a way to compete'

England white-ball captain Jos Buttler talks coach Matthew Mott at a training session Gareth Copley / © Getty Images

"It's weird," Matthew Mott says. "It's not like I've never had time off before - but it's usually been in the winter."

Mott is speaking to this writer in a Cardiff bakery, grappling with the bizarre nature of his job as England men's white-ball coach. Outside, the city is soaked in early-summer sunshine and during our conversation, a handful of Glamorgan players wander in for coffees on a rare day off for them, two months into the county season.

But while the rest of English cricket is gearing up for mid-summer, Mott's main goal is "to stay and stay connected". His team's next fixture is a T20I against New Zealand on August 30, five and a half months after their most recent one, a long-forgotten 16-run defeat to Bangladesh on March 14.

He has been driving around the country to watch his players in the T20 Blast, and has kept a close eye on their progress at the IPL. "We have meetings quite regularly, and there's a bit of admin to do. But the physical nature of throwing balls to people isn't there, and I miss that. It's about trying to keep yourself busy without creating work for the sake of work."

A year has passed since Mott took the job after seven years with the Australia women's team. He and his family are settled in Cardiff, where he spent three years as Glamorgan coach from 2011. Mott has spent many hours watching his 14-year-old son Jai playing cricket locally and his six-year-old daughter Milla has just enrolled on the ECB's All Stars programme.

They have recently bought a house, and Mott gives the impression of a man who is in for the long haul: "It's been a great adventure for us all so far. We've really enjoyed the lifestyle and have some great friends here. We haven't set any time frame but I signed for four years. I'd love to, at least, fulfil that - if they'll have me."

Mott's first year in charge has been a mixed bag in terms of bilateral series results: four series wins (two each in ODIs and T20Is), one drawn series and six defeats (three each in ODIs and T20Is). Rob Key, England's managing director of men's cricket and Mott's boss, made it clear to him early on that his success would be defined by silverware, and so far he is one from one at World Cups.

"I don't think any of us are completely happy with the overall year that we've had," he says. "We're definitely trying to get a lot better. But if you'd said to me, 'You're a year into the job, the results are what they are but you've won a World Cup?' I'd have said, 'Yeah, I'll take that any day.'"

It has taken some time to get used to. With Australia, Mott was "so consumed… I'd been working pretty much ten to 11 months of the year and when we weren't with the team, we were doing camps and so on. In this one, there's more of a balance - and an opportunity to put your head up and look further along the line."

He plays down the contrast between working in the women's and men's game: "I don't think there's too much change. I really don't. The mindset is pretty similar; both teams are very confident in their ability and they back themselves a lot. I haven't found too much different at all.

"The one thing about this role, which I probably hadn't expected, what just how blocked it would be…

"And I probably hadn't prepared enough for not having all your best players available all the time. That's something new to me. But as long as everyone's on the same page and the communication is good, I think we can all get through it pretty well."

"You've got to love the one you're with. I work for the ECB, so definitely, I hope Baz and Stokesy and the boys get the win" Mott on who he will support in the men's Ashes

There were moments last year when Mott must have wondered what he had got himself into - none more so than in the aftermath of a 90-run defeat to South Africa in a T20I at the Ageas Bowl. After an initial "honeymoon period" in the Netherlands, England played a dozen white-ball games in 25 days in July and won only four of them, with one no-result and seven defeats.

Mott suffered by comparison to Brendon McCullum, whose red-ball team was in red-hot form at the start of his tenure. He also found himself blooding a new leader in Jos Buttler. Eoin Morgan, England's long-serving captain, announced his retirement a matter of weeks after Mott took the job.

"It wasn't a huge shock," Mott says. "I knew he wasn't going to be around for a heap of time. Even during the [recruitment] process, he asked questions like, 'What happens if I'm not around?'

"He blames me! We had a conversation in London before we went off to Holland, and he was saying then, 'I'm not sure when the right time is.' I said, 'You'll wake up one day and just know you're done.' And he felt that after the second game in Holland."

On the non-stop schedule last July, he says: "It all seemed to come thick and fast. We came up against some really good teams [India and South Africa] in a bit of a rush, and we were all trying to find our feet: new captain, new coach, some players that hadn't played together for a while."

Over the following six weeks, Mott had a watching brief. A number of players went down injured at various stages: Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan and Liam Livingstone would miss the seven-match series in Pakistan, Jofra Archer's absence for the T20 World Cup was confirmed, and Jonny Bairstow broke his leg on the golf course.

But as England boarded the plane to Karachi in mid-September - with a recalled Alex Hales in the touring party - Mott sensed a shift: "That was probably the turning point," he says. "It was a moment where we galvanised together and played some tough cricket - and in some tough conditions as well.

"Sometimes in home series, you can go your separate ways a little bit. But in Pakistan we were locked down, and the group seemed to really grow. Apart from players getting out for golf, it was pretty much a case of getting around each other in the hotel. That had a huge impact on me getting to know the players, them getting to know me, and all the coaching staff and management really bonded there as well."

One such relationship formed between David Saker, who Mott brought in as bowling coach, and Sam Curran. "Halfway through the summer, we dropped him [at Trent Bridge]," Mott says, "and to his credit, he asked for some conversations with me and Jos. He just wanted some clarity on what he needed to do to get back in there.

"When Sakes came in, they clicked straightaway. I remember him saying to me from the start, 'He's going to be one of the best bowlers in the world in this format.' He was adamant about it: every time we would throw around names for teams, he was like, 'Sammy Curran, first pick.' And Sam was a revelation for us."

Curran was named Player of the Final and the tournament for the T20 World Cup, but to get there, England had to overcome a surprise early defeat to Ireland. On a damp Thursday afternoon, their performance was as flat as the MCG was empty, and they succumbed to a five-run defeat via DLS.

For Mott, it was familiar territory. "Over my seven years with the women's team, a lot of people talked about the dominance but during World Cups, we often dropped a game early and were under the pump. Those experiences helped me a lot - to maintain that balance. It was like, 'Okay, that was pretty bad. Let's not play like that again.'

"You're a year into the job, the results are what they are but you've won a World Cup? I'd have said, 'Yeah, I'll take that any day"

"In some ways, it released a lot of that fear. We knew we could still control our own destiny, so we didn't panic. There were a lot of key characters around that: Stokesy was very important; Moeen Ali, with the way he keeps everyone balanced; and then Jos' sheer determination to get things right."

A washout against Australia and wins over New Zealand and Sri Lanka were sufficient to set up a semi-final against India in Adelaide; even with five first-choice players out injured, England thrashed them by ten wickets, then snuck home in a tricky chase against Pakistan in the final. "World Cups are pretty fickle," Mott says, "but it felt like we achieved something special."

The six months since then have been very different. England stayed in Australia for three ODIs - "there's no way we could have competed properly" - and have only played nine times since, losing an ODI series in South Africa and winning another in Bangladesh before being whitewashed in the T20Is. The tours epitomised the direction of travel.

In South Africa, with the vast majority of their players arriving from franchise leagues, England scrapped their warm-up games and barely trained before the start of the series - which lasted only six days. In Bangladesh, they were proud to win the ODIs but by the end of the tour were fielding an imbalanced T20I team because their batters were either resting between a Test tour and the IPL, or had declined selection to play in the PSL instead.

"There's a good understanding among you guys in the press, commentators and our playing group around expectations," Mott reflects. "We literally can't put our best team on the park and we've just got to find a way to compete. The schedule is what it is, and it's not going to change over the next couple of years.

"It's almost like football," he says. Mott was recently invited to speak at a coaching seminar through the Football Association, and spoke to England manager Gareth Southgate before it started. "I asked him about access to players. He said, 'I don't really get it at all - it's like two or three days before we go away, and that's it.' The days of having a lead-in and preparation are gone. There's nothing we can do about that.

"It's very different to what I - and most coaches - have been used to. We just need to adapt. We have to be prepared - and it doesn't feel right to say - to lose in order to win the long-term battles. When you're in the moment, it doesn't sit that well with you but sometimes you have to make decisions that are looking well ahead."

The root cause is simple: the recent trend of Indian investment in global franchise leagues has undermined the status and relevance of bilateral international cricket, offering players an alternative source of income to their national contracts. "In the last two or three years, they [franchise leagues] have expanded rapidly. Everyone is fighting for their little space," Mott says.

"We often talk about this, and Jos is big on it: we want our dressing room to be everyone's favourite; the one that everyone wants to be in. We want to maintain that culture where people turn up and are excited to be there. Financially, sometimes, it's not going to be as good as some of these franchises - and I'm not sure we can compete with that.

"But what we can compete with is that it's international cricket. Look at Sam Curran: a lot of his success [in leagues] is on the back of a great World Cup campaign. Players need to make a living, to look after their families, to pay their mortgages, but the lure of playing for World Cups is something that no franchise can compete with.

"And we need to have a positive look at these franchises too. They provide a huge development opportunity for our players. The more we can work with them to find an equal balance - rather than saying, 'We don't like it' - then we'll create better cricketers in the long run."

Mott brings up the example of the T20 World Cup semi-final, when Moeen - who has just won his second IPL title after six seasons in the competition - was the driving force behind England's decision to chase against India. "He was convinced. 'No, we need them to have to set a score. We need them not to chase,'" Mott recalls. "Those are things that you don't pick up unless you're in those environments."

Key made clear when recruiting last year that he was open to England's coaches working in franchise leagues, and Mott, who spent the first two IPL seasons as Kolkata Knight Riders' assistant coach, admits it is "definitely a goal to get back there at some point". He was approached by a WPL franchise but the dates clashed, and has turned down an offer from another league in recent weeks.

But in the immediate term, Mott's focus is on England's preparations to defend their 50-over World Cup title in India later this year. "With an Ashes and a World Cup in the same year, there's going to be some stress points, I'm sure. But I've got really great trust in Keysy and Baz [Brendon McCullum] to help have those conversations."

Ideally Mott would like to field his strongest 50-over team against New Zealand in September but accepts that might not be possible. "You have to keep a really open mind because there will be compounding impact from the Ashes," he says. "We have to look at the World Cup, work our way backwards and manage individuals as best we can."

Mott is at Lord's this week to watch England's Test team play Ireland and is relishing a "fascinating" men's Ashes series. "Like every cricket nuffy, I just can't wait for it to happen. I don't think there could be a better time for those two teams to come up against each other. At home, England are hard to beat even when they're not at their best but they're going in at the top of their game. But I think Australia are confident."

As for his allegiances, "I've got great friends in both camps, so it's a tough one," he says with a wry smile. "But I always said from the moment I took this job, you've got to love the one you're with. I work for the ECB, so definitely, I hope Baz and Stokesy and the boys get the win." And for the women's Ashes? "I've got lifelong friendships with a number of those people in there," he says of the Australia camp. "That's a hard one for me…"

In the meantime, it is just a question of staying busy. "I'm really enjoying the home time at the moment. My daughter was just starting to have a crack at me about being away too much but that's settled down a bit; I think she's pretty keen to get rid of me now."