Mark Wood is in no doubt that he has done nothing wrong. His problem is that the England side as a whole seems to be doing almost everything right.
A common theme on England’s white-ball tour of South Africa – and for some time now – has been how difficult a team it is to break into.
Sam Billings spoke about it before the T20Is began and has so far warmed the bench, Moeen Ali hasn’t been able to get a game in South Africa and even Dawid Malan, the world’s leading T20I batsman and chief architect of England’s 3-0 series sweep, wasn’t taking his place for granted beforehand and fair enough as he’s not even in the ODI squad.
Wood, in the same position as Billings and Moeen as part of both white-ball squads but yet to feature, can only hope the departure of Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran – who are flying home to rest during the three-match ODI series which starts on Friday – will present opportunities.
“I had a conversation with Morgy [Eoin Morgan] before the first [T20I] just saying it was a tough call but we’re going to go with the team that they went with, and was nothing that I’ve done wrong,” Wood said via Zoom from Cape Town on Wednesday.
“He thought I was preparing well and things, it was just that was the gut feeling that he had and that was the team we went with. That’s international sport, isn’t it? I feel I did all right in the Australia Twenty20s but we just won three-nil here so it proved to be a good call.”
Wood was overlooked for the T20s against South Africa despite taking three wickets in the second warm-up match. He took a wicket in each of three T20Is against Australia in September and 3 for 54 as England lost the first ODI to the same opponents.
But in South Africa in February, after being named player of the match with a nine-wicket display in the Test series decider at Johannesburg, Wood’s four wickets in the T20Is came at a cost of almost two runs a ball.
“I think it’s just hard in general to get in this team,” Wood said. “You’ve got to take your chance if you get it.
“I don’t think I did a lot wrong in the Twenty20s against Australia, I think I did okay, quite well. But last time we were in South Africa I got smacked here so I don’t know if that was the reason maybe I wasn’t picked.”
Asked if it helped to show he was unhappy when missing out on selection, Wood, as ever, preferred to be the affable team man rather than complain bitterly.
“A little bit but I still hold the core values of being a good team bloke and the team always comes first and you always want your mates to do well,” he said.
“There is a competitive edge to it where you don’t want to miss out and you of course want to be the guy that’s out there but Morgy has a very open and honest dressing room… and if there was ever a problem or if I wanted to know the reason why I was left out or how I could get better or how I could stay in the team then he would give us that that answer.
“It’s not about banging on his door or trying to kick it down or anything. It’s just saying, ‘look, can we have a quick chat’.
“I don’t think I need to make a point to the coach or the captain, I think it’s more the fact that I’ve been training well, I’ve been trying to keep myself running in case I was needed and now there’s an opportunity there that I could potentially play so it’s not trying too hard or trying to prove a point, I think, it’s just stick to the stuff I’ve done well recently.”
Wood admitted that while he would relish the opportunity to play the one-dayers in South Africa, he would miss the chance to bowl alongside Archer as they did during England’s triumphant World Cup campaign.
“He helps me, brings the best out of me, and he helps me get wickets because we have that combination where we both bowl quick but we’re very different types of bowlers,” Wood said. “I’ve been playing a new role in the 50-over side. When I first started out I opened the bowling, now I bowl first-change. So, it is always great to play with Jof, and I do feel like he does help me, and I hope I help him.
“I’m not that frustrated because I understand. We’re always being told by [head coach] Chris Silverwood we’re going to be rotated and rested and and things like that, so I think when it comes to the crunch, hopefully we’re in and around each other, like the World Cup. But at the minute I do understand that he’s been here, there and everywhere and needs a little break now.”