Chris Woakes, who in two days time is all set to play his first international match in 9 months, described the unfruitful winter as ‘really frustrating’ and said that he just wants to put the period behind. Astonishingly, despite traveling with the team, Woakes did not play a single game all winter.
Chris Woakes was one of England’s MVPs in the summer of 2020, but, flabbergastingly, he went on to play a grand total of zero Tests in the following winter, in the sub-continent. Woakes sat out each of the six Tests England played in the subcontinent - against India and Sri Lanka - and the Three Lions’ ‘rest and rotate’ policy also meant that he missed the subsequent limited overs leg against India. In all, the all-rounder warmed the bench for three months, and the ODI series against Australia in September 2020 remains the last time he donned an English jersey.
That could change this week, with him named in the limited-overs squad against Sri Lanka, and the 32-year-old is keen to put the frustrating winter behind. Speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, Woakes revealed that the winter of 2020 felt like a complete waste.
"I just want to put it behind me really and look to what's ahead. It's certainly been a tough seven or eight months since last September,” Woakes told ESPN Cricinfo.
"It all bubbles up to a really frustrating time. Not playing a single game all winter, after the summer I had, almost felt like a bit of a waste for me. Still great to be with the squad but you want to be playing cricket and making the most of your form when you're hot."
Things might have been completely different, though, had Woakes not been a ‘close contact’ of Moeen Ali in January. Ali tested positive upon landing in Sri Lanka, but it also had a ripple effect on Woakes, who had to isolate owing to being a close contact. The isolation period ruled him out of contention for the first Test against Sri Lanka, post which he continued warming the bench, even in the pink-ball Test against India in conditions tailor-made for his style.
The ECB were culpable in many ways, as they’d put Woakes and Ali in the same cab from Birmingham to Heathrow, and the 32-year-old revealed that he vented out his frustration to those in charge.
"I felt like I was kind of a shoo in to play that first Test match in Sri Lanka, and obviously having had what happened, therefore obviously it did have a knock-on effect, [if] the team wins or the team does as well, all of a sudden it becomes hard to break back in. It doesn't mean that I'd have played all the Test matches for the winter, but it might mean that I'd have had an opportunity to put my hand up before in a strong performance. And then the thoughts around selection for further Test matches might have been different.
"I vented my frustration at the time, and apologies were given. [No] stone was [left unturned], but unfortunately that was the one thing that we did not quite get it right, and I did pay a price for that,” Woakes said.
Everything is behind him now, and Woakes is currently gearing up to play T20Is for England for the first time in six years. Some may argue that Woakes got a look-in only due to the injuries to Archer and Topley, but the all-rounder is keen to stake a claim to be a permanent fixture in the side.
"I haven't been in this squad for a while and I look at this as an opportunity. It is great for me to be back amongst the squad. I don't take any squad selection for granted, I am certainly not just here to make up the numbers - if I get a go I will be trying to stake a claim.
“I also realise there are a few injuries knocking around but that doesn't take anything away from me being part of this England team and putting my hand up to be part of this World Cup - with two World Cups around the corner."