Mark Wood is running out of road as he seeks a return to fitness and a place in England’s T20 World Cup squad in October. The 32-year-old, who was England’s highest wicket-taker over an abject Ashes tour last winter, is part of a lengthy list of injured quicks including Saqib Mahmood, Olly Stone, Matthew Fisher and, as of Thursday, Jofra Archer. Famous for his upbeat disposition, Wood’s demeanour darkened when sharing an update on his injured right elbow that required surgery in March.
“At the minute it’s a little bit slow going,” he said. “I’m just struggling to get over that sort of half run-up tempo at the minute just because every time I bowl at the moment there’s still a bit of swelling. But they’ve assured us that that’s normal just because I’ve had surgery five weeks ago, so it’s obviously still a little bit raw.”
Wood will miss England’s three-match Test series against New Zealand starting next month, though he hopes to play some part in Brendon McCullum’s red-ball team at the back end of the summer. His plan is to build strength through one-day cricket with the aim of securing a seat on the flight to Australia for the next global tournament.
“I’d love to be a part of it but there’s plenty of depth in that team now, so I’ll have to put in a performance in the summer to prove my case and try to get on that plane,” he said. “In the [last] World Cup I didn’t live up to it, so I have to put up performances to make sure I’m there in the winter.”
Wood is understandably circumspect when talking about his future. In February he was fit and strong, comfortably England’s fastest bowler and had secured a deal with the Lucknow Super Giants in the Indian Premier League worth £735,000. His body, so often unreliable in the past, was in good shape. Then he felt acute pain while bowling in Antigua against the West Indies.
“I’m really disappointed with this injury, to be honest,” he says. “The West Indies was a huge disappointment, going there as a perceived senior player I really wanted to give a good account of myself. And then the IPL after would have been a big thing for me personally.
“But now I’ve just got to look forward to and take confidence from the bit before where I played quite consistently for a while and felt my performance was getting better and was really starting to show what I could do. So hopefully I can come back with that same mindset.”
Wood will return to a fresh environment. He fully endorses the new captain Ben Stokes (his Durham academy teammate), new Test coach McCullum (his first Test wicket) and white ball coach Matthew Mott (a fellow Palm Beach Cricket Club member on Australia’s Gold Coast).
He believes that Matthew Potts, an exciting addition to the England squad, is ready for the elite level: “He’s a big strong lad, built a bit like a tank. He has a knack, when you think nothing is happening, he gets a wicket.”