Chris Woakes: 'I felt like it was my shirt. Six months on, I haven’t played a game'
It’s the morning after the night before and 5,000 miles away from Pune, the scene of England’s collapse under lights in the first one-day international, one of their World Cup winners is decked out in Warwickshire training gear en route to Edgbaston for a net before the Indian Premier League next month.
Chris Woakes was the Professional Cricketers’ Association player of the year last summer – as voted by his peers for his England performances – but despite 20 Test wickets at 21, his steely 84 not out in a tense run chase against Pakistan at Old Trafford and no fitness problems since, the all-rounder has somehow not played a game all winter.
The one-day series in South Africa in December was postponed after the bubble burst, his tour of Sri Lanka was scuppered when forced to isolate for a week when Moeen Ali contracted Covid-19, and he was then overlooked for the three Tests in India before flying home as part of England’s much-debated rotation policy.
Missing the current one-day series was a case of England deeming the logistical issues – quarantine, flights etc – too great for only three ODIs. Nevertheless, much like the similarly rested Joe Root, it was hard not to wonder what a difference his cool head might have made striding out at No 8 during the ultimately thwarted chase on Tuesday.
“Watching at home, I would love to have walked out in that position,” says Woakes, over a socially distanced coffee near his home ground. “And that’s my role in the team: I don’t necessarily try to launch sixes, I’d have tried to be the guy to be there at the end. Whenever that blue shirt is pulled on, you want to be a part of it.”
Woakes is not criticising those out in India, it must be said. After England lost 10 wickets for 116, squandering a rocket-fuelled start from Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan doubled down on the aggressive approach taken and his regular attack leader is on board with this given the team’s rise to world champion status.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re No 1 in the world, we should be cruising home in that situation,” says Woakes. “But [expecting everyone to suddenly throttle back] would mean going away from what Eoin Morgan wants from this team overall and I’m a big believer in what he says, goes. Just look at what he’s done in the job.
“When I made my debut in 2011 I was solely worried about my own performance. Others were too. But under Morgs it’s only ever about the team. We could have been smarter [in Pune] but still fearless with it. We play our best cricket by being aggressive. Morgs will be telling the lads to execute better, not change the mentality.”