Mark Wood has said his career may head towards white-ball specialism and though this appears a long-term consideration, the admission still brings into focus England’s recent decision not to award the fast bowler a Test central contract.
Wood, 30, has undergone three ankle operations since his Test debut back in 2015 and in an interview this week revealed that the third of those in late 2016 led to panic attacks and serious thoughts about his future in red-ball cricket.
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Speaking to close friend Steve Harmison, the former England fast bowler, on TalkSport 2, Wood said: “I was actually close a couple of times to saying: ‘I’ve had enough.’ Just because I didn’t think I could cope with it with my body.
“I ended up having some pretty bad mental health stuff with anxiety. I had a panic attack on a flight. I was sick of the rehab. I thought I’d never reach the potential I thought I had. I was generally just sick of not being the player I wanted to be.
“I did contemplate going down the white-ball route. It’s less stress on my body – four or 10 overs – and I can still make money for my family. That could be a possibility even in the future I might have to go down. I don’t know.”
The words come towards the end of a year in which Wood has, ironically, been largely injury-free, having extended his run-up during the 2018-19 winter and lost none of the 90mph-plus pace that sets him apart from all English rivals bar Jofra Archer.
Wood’s 2020 began with bang too, scorching 12 wickets across two Tests to wrap up a 3-1 away series win in South Africa, but he was then overlooked after the summer’s series-opener against West Indies and handed only a white-ball contract last month.
The enduring qualities of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson at home were a factor here, so too a desire by England to further the experience of Archer, who featured in four out of the six Tests played during a unique season behind closed doors.
Yet as recently as last week, when speaking to the Analyst Inside Cricket Club, Test captain Joe Root instinctively name-checked the 90mph pace of both Wood and Archer as being key to winning back the Ashes when England tour Australia next winter.
Chris Silverwood has also earmarked Wood for roles in the proposed away Test series against Sri Lanka and India in the new year, with the head coach keen to exploit any reverse-swing on offer in what will otherwise be spin-dominated conditions.
Such centrality to England’s Test plans – certainly away from home – appears to contradict Wood’s contract status. While his white-ball deal still pays a salary in the region of £250,000, the financial rewards for challenging in the longer format are simply match fees and