Published On: Tue, Feb 27th, 2018

Wood plays down ankle fears after 'grown-up' withdrawal

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Mark Wood used his experience of past mistakes in making a “grown-up decision” to pull himself out of the opening ODI against New Zealand when he felt pain in his troublesome left ankle, but has been reassured by the results of scans which have not shown any further damage to cause alarm.

Wood has had three surgeries on the ankle since 2015 and the scans have shown a small amount of scarring and fluid build-up which is always going to be something he has to contend with, having had so many problems.

He bowled in the nets at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Tuesday, but was unlikely to be brought straight back into the team with Wood suggesting “a bit of strengthening and some rest” would be the course of action.

Wood knows only too well about the risks of pushing himself through matches when his body is telling him otherwise. He cites the 2015 Test against Australia at Lord’s when he shouldn’t have played and then the problems last year against South Africa when bad insoles in his boots led to a heel problem which ultimately cost him his Ashes place.

This latest “pinch”, as Wood termed it, had affected his accuracy – his last outing was the T20 in Wellington when he went for 51 in his four overs – and after training the day before the opening ODI in Hamilton he took it upon himself to tell England’s captain, Eoin Morgan.

“I’ve been bowling with ankle discomfort for three or four years now. It’s not like every time I rock up I am 100%,” he said. “It’s always going to be there, it just becomes an issue when it starts to affect my performance. If I don’t bowl well because it’s not my day or my execution’s not right, I can deal with that. If it’s my ankle that’s causing me trouble, it doesn’t feel a true reflection of me, and I don’t want to do that again, like I did against South Africa in the Tests or Australia at Lord’s. I didn’t bowl very well then.

“I spoke to Morgan after the day’s training last time and said I was umming and ahhing about it I was on the fence for ages. I could have gone out there like I have in the past and not do myself justice and let the team down, or make a grown-up decision and say it’s not quite right. I think I made the right decision. I could have played at 80% but that’s not me at my best and that doesn’t help.”

Wood was confident from the outset that there was no serious problem as he wasn’t “jumping through the roof” when he landed in his delivery stride, which was the impact of the pain when his ankle problems were at their worst. “Previously if it’s been bad I couldn’t really put my foot down. I can do that now, it just gets a niggle that all fast bowlers will go through, it’s just more obvious for me because I’ve had problems in the area before,” he said.

He is also part of the Test squad for this tour – “I won’t give up that dream any time soon,” he said of thoughts of shelving the longest format – before heading to the IPL where he was picked up by Chennai Super Kings.

Wood did ponder whether the IPL was the right thing, but not just because of his injury record – he wanted to be sure it wouldn’t affect his Test chances.

“I wouldn’t play very much for Durham at the start of the season, and therefore would I be in line for Tests? Having had a chat with Trevor [Bayliss] and Rooty, if I’m firing it hopefully wouldn’t be an issue. It’s always a concern with my ankle, thinking about Test matches and longer form, but until I have gone through it I am never gonna know am I?”

With the 2019 World Cup such a major priority for this England set-up, and Wood’s impact on the international stage having been most significant in the 50-over game, the management may yet have to take his Test future out of his hands, but he is desperately hoping his career remains on his own terms. “It’s not the best time to talk about it, when I’ve got an ankle issue but being back around the Test lads is a big boost for my confidence, and one that I hope my body can keep up with.”



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