Mark Wood: ‘We want to be remembered as one of the greatest white-ball teams’ | England cricket team

These might be tense times for Mark Wood, the fastest bowler at the T20 World Cup and a man whose 90mph-plus zingers are expected to have extra potency on Australia’s pace-friendly pitches. He approaches the tournament with memories fresh of his personal struggles at last year’s event, and of a summer completely ruined by an elbow injury. Wood can be a hard man to read, a person whose natural positivity and humour always make him appear carefree. And yet, as he speaks on the eve of England’s opening game, that appears to be his genuine state.

“I’m proper excited,” he says. “Because I hadn’t played in ages and I feel like I’m coming off some good performances. I had a really poor World Cup last year. I was having injections in my ankle before the games, and I didn’t take a wicket and in the Twenty20 format that’s my job – my role is to try and take wickets and get the big people out and change games. So I’m hungry to prove, I guess, that was a blip.”

England’s white-ball side had one of those in the summer, when they laboured to series defeats at home to India and South Africa, but more recent success against Pakistan and Australia means they enter the competition in buoyant mood. “I think we’ve got a good dressing room where everybody enjoys each other’s success and enjoys being part of it and enjoys playing with each other,” Wood says. “That’s a given within the group, and it’s a value that the group have naturally – it’s not forced or anything like that. And I think this year, the same as last year, everybody feels that we could, you know, we could do something good.”

England are among the favourites for the title, and after their run to the semi-finals in the UAE last year this is a final opportunity for them to double up and add this trophy to the 50-over version they have held since 2019. “I know it’s a bit cheesy but in terms of the legacy of this group, we want to be remembered as one of the greatest white-ball teams in the world,” Wood says.

“I know probably Australia and India are favourites but we’re a dangerous team, I think. It’s a real positive atmosphere in the group and there’s clarity, there’s a good feeling, that calmness. I feel like we’re confident in each other’s abilities and we trust each other, that’s how it feels so far. Leading into a tournament we’re in a great place.”

Mark Wood celebrates during England’s recent T20 win over Australia in Perth
Mark Wood celebrates during England’s recent T20 win over Australia in Perth, where they will open their World Cup campaign against Afghanistan on Saturday. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

While many members of last year’s squad have returned, the team has also been transformed by the retirement of Eoin Morgan, his replacement as captain by Jos Buttler, and the arrival of a new coach in Matthew Mott.

“I think we need to get away from comparing everything to Morgy and his team. This is now Jos’s team, this is his ship,” Wood says. “This is a fresh start for a new team. And if we can start well, look dangerous, put the fear of God into other teams then, you know, we’ll be remembered as a great team. And if I could get a few wickets and we do well then it might just push my book sales a little.”

Wood’s book, The Wood Life, was published last month, the day after its author left England, initially for Pakistan, to prepare for the World Cup. It is an unusual proposition, an autobiography-cum-tongue-in-cheek-self-help-book filled not just with anecdotes from his playing career but tips for a variety of life events, interjections from friends and teammates, and the kind of humour that has made him such a cherished member of England’s dressing room.

“I thought my autobiography would have been pretty boring: I got injured, I played cricket, I got injured. So I was wanting to do something a little bit different,” he says. “I was excited to just, you know, let it out. I felt like I had plenty of things to say. There’s a certain amount in the back of your mind where you feel a bit unsure of how it will be perceived, but I was assured that there might be some demand from cricket fans.”

His publishers must have been concerned as an elbow injury sustained in the West Indies in March ended up requiring two operations and six months to recover from, but his return has been impeccably timed. “It was rubbish. It was crap, just really frustrating,” he says of his summer off. “I did some commentary at Durham for England’s game against South Africa and when you’re not in the group it feels so strange to come back in. It feels like you’re on the outside straight away. That’s not the way the lads make you feel, it’s just how you feel internally.”

Mark Wood in action for England
Mark Wood: ‘This is now Jos’s team, this is his ship. We need to get away from comparing everything to Morgy and his team.’ Photograph: David Woodley/Action Plus/Shutterstock

Wood’s first operation failed to deal with the underlying issue and led to months of painful recuperation. “There were times I was bowling full tick in the nets, but my arm was heavily strapped and I’d have to have two or three days off [afterwards] because I couldn’t straighten my arm again,” he says. “It was literally an hour and a half physio, strap my arm, then warm it up, then go in the gym, then bowl. So a two and-a-half-hour job, just to bowl four overs in the nets.”

A second operation followed in July, which identified a ligament issue. He finally returned to action in Pakistan, where on his first appearance his bowling peaked at 97mph. “It felt great, it felt fresh,” he says. “It was nice to charge in and just let it fly.”

England have suffered from a string of injuries to bowlers across all formats in recent months, and this squad contains four – Wood, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills – who reached full fitness just days before the tournament. This week they have had to deal with another, after Reece Topley was ruled out of the World Cup after tripping over the boundary padding in Brisbane on Monday.

“The bowling group, we’ve all been through injuries, so we all know how hard it is,” Wood says. “This World Cup I was sure he was going to shine because he was in great form. So we’re all just disappointed for him. Obviously it gives someone else an opportunity and we feel like we’ve got good cover, it’s just more that everyone’s disappointed for Toppers.”

This tournament was Wood’s goal throughout his recuperation, a target since the last one ended in disappointment, and his focus since he left home more than five weeks ago. Against Afghanistan in Perth on Saturday it finally begins. “I think the whole group, we’re just ready for the match now. At the minute, it feels really good because everybody’s just ready,” he says “We’re ready to go.”

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