Chris Woakes is looking to take regular wickets in the pressure-cooker T20 format
Of the many statistical quirks of Chris Woakes’s career – which includes his record at home set against his work overseas – a particular oddity are his 10 international Twenty20 caps.
He made his T20 debut in Adelaide on 12 January 2011, against Australia. Nine and 10 came this summer against Sri Lanka, after what had been an almost six-year gap since number eight, against Pakistan in November 2015.
It’s a peculiarity not unique to Woakes among his England teammates. Up until this year, the format has primarily been a way to vet up-and-coming English talent.
Of course, domestic and franchise competitions have helped keep the 32 year old and fellow established internationals ticking along. Woakes – a veteran of 119 career T20s – has represented Kolkata Knight Riders more times (13) than his country.
In two weeks, however, he will be a vital part of England’s quest to bring home the T20 World Cup. Success would also equate to seven more caps and, moreover, a second limited-overs winners medal in an exceptional career that a decade ago looked more likely to thrive with white than red.
“In the current climate, the way the game has moved forward across three formats, there is no way I would have made my T20 debut back in 2011 if the game was as it is now,” reflects Woakes. “Back then I performed as a red-ball cricketer before anything else, then made my T20 debut.
“The game has changed, there are a lot more players playing certain formats and committing to that. I obviously would have liked to have played a few more, but at the same time not having to concentrate on T20 too much I think has helped my other formats, in particular my ODI game. Tests as well. I’d have bitten your hand off for the career I have had 10 years ago, so I can’t be too hard on myself.”
No doubt we have seen the end of blooding Test cricketers via T20s. Woakes probably counts as one of the few successes of this now antiquated strategy, even though he figured the pull of the two longer formats would ultimately curtail his involvement in the shortest one in terms of global competition.
“I’d be lying if I said I thought I would get another go,” he admits. “I hoped I might get another go, and I wasn’t thinking of retiring from that format. But I thought that might have moved on from going back to me. I’m delighted to be sat here and to have the opportunity to play another World Cup.”
Indeed, time not playing international T20s was spent playing both internationals and domestic T20s. It is perhaps more on the former that Woakes will offer the XI in cohesive terms. The experience along the way, from the World Cup success of 2019 and his 16 wickets to the scrutiny experienced across his 39 Test caps, is invaluable to those around him. In such a volatile game, he will be a measured presence.
“T20 as a bowler at the top and death, can be a whirlwind, you do need to keep a cool head and stay in the moment a little bit. Having the experience that I’ve had certainly helps. Hopefully I can draw on that experience, use it to help me perform at this World Cup. I believe there’s not a huge difference bowling with the new ball in T20 and ODI cricket, players do come [in] a little bit harder, but it’s a great opportunity to take wickets, which is a strength of mine in ODIs.”
Those skills were given a tune-up on Monday as England enjoyed their first outdoor practice of the winter at the Oman Cricket Academy in Al Amerat. Having served a hard quarantine on arrival into the country last Tuesday (5 October), preparations will gradually escalate towards their opener on 23 October in Dubai – a repeat of 2016’s final against West Indies.
The one thing they will lack is match practice. The cancellation of the Pakistan tour means they have just two warm-up matches over the next 12 days. It’s hoped that intense training sessions will make up for a lack of “real” competition.
Some players will be affected more than others. A handful have seen action in the Indian Premier League, which is currently being completed in the United Arab Emirates. Captain Eoin Morgan is one of them, even if his form for KKR has been dismal.
Woakes was going to be one of those out in the UAE until he decided not to return to the Delhi Capitals for the finale of the 2021 season. Instead he remained in the United Kingdom 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 up in the air. Confirmation of the series and indeed a squad has added some clarity, even if critical terms are yet to be decided. Woakes was considered a doubtful traveller, as one of the senior England players with a young family.
However, he feels a degree of satisfaction that there is both clarity and a marquee series on the horizon to look forward to. Having played four Tests on the 2017/18 tour, which Australia won comfortably with a 4-0 scoreline, he hopes to right a few wrongs, as tough as that may be.
“It’s good news with regards to Australia and the Ashes tour. There was never too much doubt that everyone was keen to go and play but obviously there are things happening in the world right now and people want securities around what life is going to be like once we are there.
“I’m excited. Obviously, I toured there in 2017-18 and it didn’t go as well as we would’ve liked as a team, so I’m really hoping we can do something special this time round.”
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