Mark Wood is back in the England side…..

With just two more days to go for the high-voltage Test series between England and Pakistan, the anticipation for the same is constantly on a rise. England are all set to lock horns with Pakistan in the series opener at Lord’s on May 24 and would be eyeing to end their winless streak, which has continued for seven Tests now. They have made some canny changes in their line-up and announced the 12-man squad for the series opener.

Mark Wood is a part of the side that will cross swords with Pakistan. The lanky right-arm pacer hogged the headlines few days back when he decided to end his stint with Chennai Super Kings in the ongoing Indian Premier League and return home to prepare for English summer. He was struggling to secure a spot in the CSK playing XI and just played a solitary game till date, where he conceded 49 runs in his four overs without a wicket.

“That’s never even once crossed my mind. Any game I play for England I love it. When I was in the back garden as a kid it was never T20 or 50 overs it was Test matches. In my mind, all the best players were at Test level and that’s what I wanted to strive to. These days, the 50- and 20-over stuff is a huge part of the game so I’m delighted to be part of such a good team – we have an awesome one-day side – but the pinnacle for me is still trying to get into that Test and I think I have a real point to prove,” Wood was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo, when asked about preserving himself.

Wood was expected to leave with his fellow English teammates at the end of group stages, but his non-selection in the playing XI and desire to retain his Test spot might have pushed him to take the tough call a little early. He also revealed how a call from ECB Director Andrew Strauss solved the dilemma and prompted him to return home.

“I’m glad to be back. It was a difficult decision and I was 50-50 whether I leave. Andrew Strauss rang me up and said, if you’re not playing, there’s real value in coming home to push my case and try to keep my spot in the team. I worked so hard trying to get back in the Test side. At the time I wondered whether it was the right decision but as soon as I got back and took some wickets, it was the right decision,” Wood added.

After a long period of recovery, Wood won a recall to England’s Test side in their last encounter against New Zealand at Christchurch. After which, he flew to India for the IPL. Wood’s decision to focus on red ball cricket instead of warming the benches in the IPL was a masterstroke. He returned for Durham and played the game against Derbyshire, where after a slow start, he wreaked havoc in the second innings.

After picking just a solitary wicket in the first innings, Wood recorded his career-best figures of 6 for 46 int he second innings, when the ball started reversing. Wood’s performance quickly caught Ed Smith’s attention as he found a place in the 12-man squad for the Lord’s Test. In the past, there have been concerns regarding his fitness as he has been prone to injuries, but the last seven months has been injury-free for the Englishman.

Wood has done extremely well in red-ball cricket and has the set of skills required to excel in this format. He has done well in First-Class cricket and boasts of healthy numbers. In 11 Tests for England, Wood has 28 wickets to his name, the numbers may not look impressive, but Wood certainly has more in him.

Wood certainly has a long way to go in Test cricket, but the path is difficult and he has a lot to prove. He said, “To be honest I’ve got a lot to prove to the selectors, coaches, media, the fans because I’m a guy people probably had high hopes for and I’ve not done it consistently enough. An average of 40 is pretty average, to be honest, and I definitely want to lower that.”

Talking about quitting the IPL, the move really paid off for Wood as he earned a spot in the opening Test. One cannot ignore the fact that IPL does involve a lot of travelling and stress. It gets really tiring and stressful for a cricketer to travel so often and not get a game. Of course, the team requirements are pivotal, but at the same time, Wood’s decision was also justified.

“I would have liked to have played more. It was hard going travelling every day and not playing. I was the only member of the English side who hadn’t been home for about seven months so that side was hard. I got why I wasn’t playing… I didn’t really set the world alight in my first game and it was always going to be difficult to come back in. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to prove myself in that competition. To have one game and not do well leaves a bit of a sour taste. I’d like to go back and have one more crack at it and prove myself at that standard,” Wood added.

As of now, Chennai Super Kings have made it to the playoffs and Wood will be hoping his side to go on and win the title. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Wood’s departure has hardly made or will make any difference to the CSK side. Of course, his availability would have provided a cushion and an impactful option, but it was unlikely that CSK would have experimented with him in the knockout stages. Wood’s fight starts from May 24, where he will try to retain his spot in the line-up and has a point to prove. He might have won the battle, but the war is coming.

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