‘I have come back in the BEST shape’: England bowler Chris Woakes reveals why he pulled out of this year’s IPL auction as he focuses on landing a spot in Ben Stokes’ Ashes side
- Chris Woakes pulled out of the IPL in a bid to win a spot in England’s Ashes squad
- He wants to be ‘red ball fit’ after impressing for both of England’s one-day sides
- Few fast bowlers have better bowling figures than the 34-year-old on home soil
Chris Woakes currently commands a place in two of England’s three teams – but absence from Test cricket has made the heart grow fonder and the head consider some pretty big decisions.
Now 34, Woakes knows only too well the riches involved at the Indian Premier League, having held two £500,000-plus contracts in the past, but he pulled out of this year’s auction as part of his bid to feature in this summer’s Ashes.
It means he will go straight from this tour of Bangladesh, which concludes with a Twenty20 series beginning on Thursday, into County Championship action with Warwickshire next month.
‘There were a lot of factors. One, my body whenever I have come back from the IPL before, I don’t feel I have come back in the best shape going into a Test summer,’ Woakes said.
‘For me personally that jump from T20 to Test cricket is quite a big jump. I have always found that transition quite hard.
Chris Woakes pulled out of the IPL in a bid to land a spot in England’s Ashes squad this summer
The 34-year-old fast bowler currently commands a place in both of England’s white ball sides
The fast bowler has yet to play under England Test captain Ben Stokes because of a knee injury
Bangladesh vs. England, T20 1 of 3
Bangladesh: Talukdar, Shanto, Litton (wkt), Hridoy, Shakib (capt), Afif, Mehidy, Taskin, Nasum, Mahmud, Mustafizur
England: Buttler (capt, wkt), Salt, Malan, Duckett, Moeen, Curran, Woakes, Rashid, Ahmed, Archer, Topley
Start: 9am UK time
Weather: Some cloud; 35 degrees
‘I haven’t played Test cricket for a year, so I feel like I would need some overs under my belt to have the chance to knock on the door for selection in what is a tough team to get back into at the minute. That is a big part of it.’
The knee injury that caused Woakes to miss seven Tests last summer means he is yet to play under the captaincy of Ben Stokes but talks with ECB men’s managing director Rob Key last September confirmed he was still viewed as a multi-format player within this current 12-month contract period.
Stokes recently declared a wish to have a bevy of bowlers at this disposal for a series of five Tests in seven weeks, and Woakes’ undisputed quality on home soil puts him in the mix. No one’s numbers are as polarised as those of the Warwickshire seamer, who takes his Test wickets at 22.63 in the UK and 51.88 overseas.
England may also consider ground specialists as they rotate their attack, further enhancing Woakes’ chances despite fierce competition from Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
The Ashes begins at his home ground of Edgbaston on June 16 and then takes in Lord’s, where in five Tests he has taken more than a fifth of his career wickets: 27 at 11.33. He also averages in excess of 60 with the bat there.
‘I would love to be a part of it and I still feel my record in England stands up against anyone’s. If I can get myself “red-ball fit” and firing and bowling well, I’d like to think I’d be in the mix,’ Woakes continued.
England’s Sam Curran became the most expensive player ever at the IPL auction in December
‘But it’s a tough side to get into and there are guys bowling extremely well. I recognise that and have an opportunity at the start of the season to put in some performances.’
First, however, a chance to complete a white-ball double over Bangladesh. England have not played a T20 match since becoming double world champions four months ago, and begin a new 15-month cycle that culminates in the defence of their title in the USA and Caribbean in June 2024.
However, a series in which England will be missing four members of their winning XI at the MCG last November will be used partly to fine-tune subcontinental skills ahead of this autumn’s 50-over World Cup in India. Fielding has also been identified as an area for improvement.
The decision not to replace the injured Will Jacks will maximise opportunities for the 14 players that remain, and those opportunities include more prime batting time for Sam Curran, promoted to no 5 in the final ODI on this ground earlier this week, and certain to be part of a top six that will feature four left-handers – Dawid Malan, Ben Duckett and Moeen Ali are the others – in a row.
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