Chris Woakes aims to give England ‘experience’ and ‘cool head’ in T20 World Cup


Among the many statistical quirks of Chris Woakes’ career – which includes his home record compared to his overseas work – one particular quirk are his 10 Twenty20 international caps.

He made his T20 debut in Adelaide on January 12, 2011, against Australia. Nine and 10 came this summer against Sri Lanka, after what had been a gap of almost six years since number eight, against Pakistan in November 2015.

This is a peculiarity that is not unique to Woakes among his English teammates. Until this year, the format was primarily a means of selecting up-and-coming English talent.

Of course, domestic and franchise competitions have helped keep pace with the 32-year-old and other established internationals. Woakes – a career 119 T20 veteran – has represented the Kolkata Knight Riders more times (13) than his country.

Two weeks from now, however, he will be a vital part of England’s quest to win the T20 World Cup. Success would also amount to seven more caps and, moreover, a second limited winners medal in an outstanding career that ten years ago seemed more likely to thrive with white than red.

“In the current climate, the way the game has evolved across three formats, there is no way I would have debuted at T20 in 2011 if the game was as it is now,” Woakes explains. “At the time, I played primarily as a red ball cricketer and then I made my debut in T20.

“The game has changed, there are a lot more players playing certain formats and engaging in them. Obviously I would have liked to play a bit more, but at the same time not focusing too much on the T20, I think it helped my other formats, especially my ODI game. Tests too. I would have bit your hand for the career I had 10 years ago, so I can’t be too hard on myself.

No doubt we have seen the end of the blood of Test cricketers via the T20s. Woakes probably counts as one of the few successes of this now archaic strategy, although he believed that the attraction of the two longer formats would ultimately reduce his involvement in the shorter in terms of global competition.

“I would be lying if I said I thought I would have another chance,” he admits. “I was hoping to have another chance, and I didn’t think I would opt out of this format. But I thought it might have happened to come back to me. I am delighted to be sitting here and having the opportunity to play another World Cup.

Indeed, the time spent without playing international T20s was spent playing both internationals and national T20s. Perhaps it’s more on the former that Woakes will come up with the XI in consistent terms. The experience along the way, from the success of the 2019 World Cup and its 16 wickets to the scrutiny of its 39 test selections, is invaluable to those around him. In such a volatile game, he will be a measured presence.

“T20 as a top bowler and death can be a whirlwind, you have to keep a cool head and stay in the moment a little bit. Having the experience that I have had certainly helps. I hope I can build on that experience, use it to help me perform at this World Cup. I believe there is not a huge difference between bowling with the new T20 ball and ODI cricket, players are coming [in] a little more difficult, but it’s a great opportunity to take wickets, which is one of my strengths in ODI.

These skills were honed on Monday as England enjoyed their first outdoor training of the winter at Oman Cricket Academy in Al Amerat. After serving a harsh quarantine when they arrived in the country last Tuesday (October 5), preparations will gradually intensify towards their opener on October 23 in Dubai – a repeat of the 2016 final against the West Indies.

The only thing they’ll miss is match training. The cancellation of the Pakistan tour means they only have two warm-up matches in the next 12 days. It is hoped that intense training sessions will compensate for a lack of “real” competition.

Some players will be more affected than others. A handful have seen action in the Indian Premier League, which is currently nearing completion in the UAE. Captain Eoin Morgan is one of them, although his form for KKR has been dismal.

Woakes was going to be one of those in the UAE until he decided not to return to the Delhi capitals for the 2021 season finale. Instead, he stayed in the Kingdom. United and helped Warwickshire win the County Championship.

Part of that decision was governed by the Ashes later this year, which at the time was still pending. Confirmation of the series and indeed a team added some clarity, although the critical terms have yet to be decided. Woakes was seen as a dubious traveler, as one of England’s senior players with a young family.

However, he does feel some satisfaction that there is both clarity and a streak of renown on the horizon. After making four Tests on the 2017/18 tour, which Australia comfortably won 4-0, he hopes to right some wrongs, as tough as that may be.

“This is good news for Australia and the Ashes tour. There was never too much doubt that everyone was eager to go and play, but obviously things are going on in the world right now and people want guarantees on what life will be like once. we’ll be there.

“I’m excited. Obviously I shot there in 2017-18 and it didn’t go as well as we would have liked as a team, so I really hope we can do something special this time around.

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