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I’d love to play for Stokesy – Mark Wood not ready to turn back on Test cricket

Mark Wood is not ready to give up his red-ball career (Darren England via AAP/PA)
Mark Wood is not ready to give up his red-ball career (Darren England via AAP/PA)

England bowler Mark Wood accepts he may have to “wait my turn” to resume his Test career but has no intention of settling into life as a white-ball specialist.

Wood has not played since March due to an elbow injury but is part of England’s touring party in Karachi, where England begin a seven-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan on Tuesday.

He is hoping to play a major role at next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia too, a workload that makes the subsequent Test series in Pakistan look a long shot.

Wood was England’s top performer in last winter’s Ashes but, at 32, and with a body that has been put through the ringer by the rigours of 90mph bowling, it would not be a complete surprise if he chose to pursue a less-demanding, highly-lucrative schedule in short-form cricket.

But, despite penning a new book, ‘The Wood Life’ – part autobiography, part tongue-in-cheek self-help manual – he is not ready to close the chapter on his red-ball ambitions.

“That day will come, eventually, but I’m not there yet,” he told the PA news agency.

“I still want to play Test cricket and play for as long as I can. It was always my dream as a kid, to play for England as many times as I could. When England don’t need me any more, or if my injuries get so bad that I can’t perform to the level I want, then I’ll look elsewhere and maybe think about a different path. But right now I’m very England focused and I want to play as many games as I can and win things for this team.

“The Test team have had a great summer, they’re winning games, playing entertaining cricket and I can’t believe how relaxed the environment is under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

“It’s been fantastic and something I would love to be a part of, but I know I’m going to have to wait my turn because they’ve done so well. There’s a long list of bowlers trying to get in that side and I’m one of them. I’d love to play for Stokesy.”

Wood is close to his Durham team-mate, with the pair sharing plenty of highs and lows – from winning the 2019 World Cup together to struggling through the physical and psychological demands of life as an international athlete.

Stokes confronted his own mental health battle in his recent documentary and Wood’s book also opens up about his experiences of panic attacks and anxiety during a low ebb in 2016.

Wood’s account of that period comes in contrast to his sunny public persona and levels out the light-hearted humour that punctuates most of The Wood Life.

Wood (left) and Ben Stokes (right) have been through it all together.
Wood (left) and Ben Stokes (right) have been through it all together (Scott Heppell/PA)

It is, though, one of the subjects he feels proudest of confronting.

“Being positive and fun is part of my character, but I have been through hard times, be it injuries or having a panic attack on a flight and struggling with anxiety for a while,” he said.

“Putting that stuff in shows that my life and my cricket career hasn’t always been that happy and jolly, that I’ve had to battle some things. But that battle has probably made me a better and stronger person.

“In my background the perception is, ‘Don’t be soft, you can get through it’. I thought I wouldn’t want to show my vulnerability, but if anything it made me feel stronger to say those things. You have to have balance and if I was going to show the fun side, I had to show that as well.

“I haven’t done it looking for sympathy, I’ve done it for other people who go through it. I’ve come through, I’ve got five-fors and won a World Cup. At times I never thought I could get to that point.”

:: The Wood Life: A Not so Helpful How-To Guide on Surviving Cricket, Life and Everything in Between by Mark Wood, £20 RRP, Allen & Unwin UK, out now.