England’s Chris Woakes, who opted to not enroll his name in the recently concluded IPL auction, has revealed that, despite the financial lure of the IPL, he made the decision to pull out of the mega event in order to bolster his chances of making it to the forthcoming Ashes, which will be played in England.
Woakes last played in the IPL two years ago, in the first half of the 2021 edition, and has since been missing from the T20 extravaganza. However, at the same time, he’s also not been a regular in the Test side, with a knee injury last year ensuring that he played no Tests post the fateful tour of the Caribbean which saw heads roll.
Desperate to return to the red-ball set-up and push his case for the Ashes, Woakes has revealed that he had no choice but to prioritize County Cricket over IPL in order to ‘knock on the door for selection’.
“There were a lot of factors [to the decision]. One, my body whenever I have come back from the IPL before I don’t feel I have come back in the best shape going into a Test summer,” Woakes was quoted as saying by Telegraph Cricket.
“For me that jump from T20 to Test cricket is quite big. I have always found that transition quite hard.
“I haven’t played Test cricket for a year, so I feel like I would need some overs under my belt to have the chance to knock on the door for selection in what is a tough team to get back into at the minute. That is a big part of it. Time away from family as well, having been to the ILT20 [in the UAE], you do have to pick and choose.”
A 45-Test veteran, Woakes has been an integral part of England’s Test set-up over the past decade, particularly at home. In England, in fact, Woakes averages a mind-boggling 22.63 with the ball having picked 94 wickets in just 48 innings.
However, despite boasting an impeccable record in home conditions, Woakes has fallen behind the pecking order owing to the knee injury that ruled him out of the 2022 summer.
The right-armer recognizes that it will be no easy task to break into the XI but believes if he can get himself ‘red-ball fit’ and ‘firing’, he’ll certainly be in the mix to play for the first time under the leadership of Ben Stokes.
"Ben [Stokes] and Baz [McCullum] are doing fantastically well at the minute, it’s great to see the way they guys are playing. I would love to be a part of it and I still feel my record in England stands up against anyone’s. If I can get myself ‘red-ball fit’ and firing and bowling well, I’d like to think I’d be in the mix.
“But it’s a tough side to get into and there are guys bowling extremely well. I recognise that and have an opportunity at the start of the season to put in some performances. It would be great to be part of an Ashes series at home. Edgbaston first Test, what a place to start an Ashes series.”
At 34, Woakes is at an age that’s usually considered ‘old’ for fast bowlers but then again right in front of him is a certain Jimmy Anderson who, at 40, is the number one ranked bowler in the world and is bowling as well as he ever has.
Could Woakes, then, follow the same path and carry on playing at the highest level late into his 30s?
He doesn’t think so. Unlike Anderson and Broad, Woakes believes it’d not be practically possible for him to just focus on one format.
"The way Jimmy has gone since 32, 33, getting better every year. I think he is a bit of an anomaly, I can’t see myself steaming in at 40, but you never know. As professional cricketers, especially as bowlers, you have to look after yourself.
“You can’t just rock up and play and expect to be fine. You have to put in hard yards in the gym, look after your body and be professional. Those guys have done that and are reaping the rewards for it.
“You look at them, in awe really at what they’ve done. They have focused on one format for the last 5-6 years. I don’t see myself doing that at the minute. I want to play for as long as possible in all three formats, but that decision might be taking out of my hands at some stage.”