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.
The 30-year-old fast bowler 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.
Speaking to his close friend Steve Harmison, the former Durham and 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 when Wood has 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, taking 12 wickets in 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, 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.
As recently as last week, when speaking to the Analyst Inside Cricket Club, the Test captain, Joe Root, instinctively name-checked the pace of 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 pays a salary in the region of £250,000, the financial rewards for challenging in the longer format are match fees and bonuses – both of which have been cut for the next 12 months.
For a cricketer with a young family, and a limited shelf-life in terms of his top speeds and earning potential, the extended time away in biosecure bubbles required for Test cricket could bring forward thoughts of throwing his lot in on the global Twenty20 circuit, where the workload to money ratio is more favourable.
Wood, who has always cited Test cricket as his No 1 priority, is understood to have turned down interest from Mumbai Indians at the start of the current Indian Premier League – before England’s central contracts were announced – with the franchise going on to sign Australia’s James Pattinson.
However, next year’s IPL, which likely to return to its usual April start, will see a so-called “mega auction” take place beforehand and England may find that in an Ashes year one of their most potent but fragile commodities cannot say no again.