Jofra Archer might be one of the fastest bowlers in the world at the moment, but fellow England quick Mark Wood admitted he wants to prove that he can be as fast as the Barbados born fast bowler, as that kind of friendly rivalry helps one in becoming a better Cricketer.
Wood, who, along with Archer, played a vital role in last year’s World Cup triumph for England, taking 38 wickets between them, said, “I cannot speak for Jofra but I definitely want to be quicker than him and I’m sure he wants to be quicker than me. Especially in the World Cup, he used to joke about it all the time, that they were putting my speeds up higher deliberately. If we were to play together it would be exciting. But it’s not a bad rivalry, it’s a friendly rivalry. I would say he’s probably quicker than I am and certainly makes it look a lot easier than me so I want to prove that I can be as fast as Jof. That friendly rivalry does spur you on to be a better cricketer.”
Having two bowlers as quick as Wood and Archer can be a good headache for England red ball captain Joe Root, who would most probably look to play either one of the two in the upcoming 3 Test match series against the West Indies on a rotation basis, given the lack of rest allotted between the matches. Both quicks have had their injury problems of late. Wood only returned to Test cricket in the final two Tests in South Africa after a 12 month break and Archer missed 3 out of the 4 matches in that series because of an elbow injury. Although, upon returning, he took nine wickets in the fourth Test match at the Wanderers, bowling at good pace, to help England seal a 3-1 series victory over the Proteas. In his words, Wood put in probably his best performance in that last game. That gives him the advantage to be in the lineup for the first Test, accompanied by Woakes, Broad and Anderson.
However, Wood admitted that his first innings spell against West Indies at St Lucia earlier in 2019 remains the quickest he has managed. Wood ended up with 5 for 41 from 8.2 overs, an effort which kick started his career after an injury plagued, stop-start four years in international cricket.
The Ashington born fast bowler said,”I felt in a great place, and I still look back on that performance with fond memories. It really gave me confidence going into the World Cup and into South Africa so yes it probably was my consistent quickest. I think I could get that again.”
An England Lions tour to the UAE prior to the West Indies tour, and a shorter run up have also helped in his improvement. Wood said, “I wish I’d changed my run up sooner, I think that was a big change. Also the fact I went on a Lions tour before the West Indies to the UAE, got some confidence there and bowled well. Actually stepping out of the international scene, making some adjustments and things I needed to work on then coming back I felt a different player. Once you get that one score, or for me that one five-wicket haul, that gave me a massive boost. It sort of calmed me down where I’m not trying too hard and I can have that belief. I had the belief before but I was frustrated I had not showed people how good I could be. To get that five-for really helped and has allowed me to kick on.”
Wood is one of the 30 players to have assembled at the Ageas Bowl for England’s bio-secure pre-series camp on Tuesday. All the players and management were tested for COVID-19 on arrival, and the results were all negative, which meant that training can begin from today.
Wood appreciated the work done by the organisers to maintain a healthy and safe environment for the Cricketers. He narrated his experience of being through the process, “The organisers have done a fantastic job and literally there has been no stone unturned. You come in and get a check straight away, your bags are cleaned and then you are sat in your room as if you have moved into a hotel room. The temperature check was weird – you just walk through a tent outside and they tell you you’re alright. Don’t know what would happen if you are not alright there! It is a bit like a sci-fi movie. Everybody is masked up you don’t know whether they are friendly or not, some people scowl more than you think. It is something we will have to get used to. You have to follow arrows and feet marks everywhere. You go to a food station with a chef who gives you your food. You’re not touching anything like you usually would. Then you go to the tables which are sporadically spaced out. This morning I had breakfast and looked at the back of Jos’ head. The cleaner can come in once a week for a deep clean. If you don’t want that to happen, you can refuse it. The state that my room will be in, I’ll definitely be accepting it. This is your space. Your own room is yours to look after and I’m not the cleanest. I’ll have clothes and stuff everywhere in a few days’ time.”
To occupy his mind, Wood revealed a few cheeky tricks he has up his sleeves. He said, “Normally with masseur Mark Saxby as soon as I saw him I would be lifting him up in the air but I can’t go near him,” he said. “Everybody is trying to abide by the rules. Of course it is safety first. I am not a big golfer either and there is nothing else to do. You can’t go anywhere so I’m not sure what I’m going to get up to yet. It is a bit odd. The fact that Stokesy can’t get to me because we have to stay two metres apart, he is definitely on my radar. it is a question of how far I can push him before he snaps. I think yes I will get up to something. I have to stop the boredom. There is an old school arcade with street fighter console and I think that looks tempting. I might have a go on that. I might dress up for the part as well.”