England fast bowler Mark Wood admits return from elbow surgery is ‘slow progress’


Mark Wood is a naturally ebullient fellow, but even he admits he’s “clutching for straws” when trying to take any positives from the timing of the elbow injury that has interrupted his career just as he was hitting full flow.

As recently as January, Wood was right at the top of his game. He alone among England’s players emerged with his reputation enhanced during a chastening Ashes campaign, bowling with off-the-peg heat and hostility to claim 17 wickets at 26.64 in their 4-0 defeat, including a career-best 6 for 37 at Hobart in the last of his four appearances.

The troubling run of injuries that had held him back in his earlier years – including three ankle operations in the space of 12 months in 2016 – seemed to have been put behind him, and at the age of 32, he was ready too to cash in on the bonus of a £735,000 deal with Lucknow Super Giants at the IPL. Life was pretty “mint”, as the man himself might have put it.

But then, during the first Test of England’s tour of the Caribbean in Antigua, Wood felt “acute pain” in his right elbow while warming up in the nets, and barely a fortnight later, he was undergoing an operation in London to remove bone and scar tissue that had been causing an impingement issue in his action.

Although his initial target for a comeback is this summer’s T20 Blast for Durham, Wood admits that his rehab is “slower progress” than anticipated, and after featuring in five Tests in the winter just gone – the heaviest workload of his career – he doesn’t envisage adding to his total of 26 caps until the back-end of the summer, against South Africa in August and September, at the earliest.

“I’m off half a run-up,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can get off my full run-up in the next couple of weeks and then hopefully play for Durham after that. But at the minute it’s a little bit slow going. Every time I bowl at the moment there’s still a bit of swelling. They’ve assured us that that’s normal, because I’ve had surgery five weeks ago, so it’s obviously still a little bit raw.

“If I can build up through one-day cricket first, that will make it easier for us to then come back in the Test matches later in the summer. But, from the roster of fast bowling, I think we’re all trying to get fit as quick as we can, but it’s slow going at the minute.

“After probably two years of not many injuries at all, playing a lot of games felt pretty good,” he added. “To now have a sustained period off is pretty frustrating, when I felt like I was coming up to the best part of playing for England, bowling consistently quick, and taking wickets. But if I do get back, I’ve got the confidence of that two years that I can fall back on.”

The unspoken concern, however, is that elbow injuries are particularly devastating to 90mph-plus fast bowlers. Jofra Archer, whose own return to cricket received a further setback on Thursday with news of a stress fracture to his back, has undergone two operations since succumbing to injury on the tour of South Africa in January 2020. And Wood admitted that the two had been comparing notes in their rehab.

“I saw him the other week. I mentioned my elbow and said how it was feeling. He said it was similar to how he was feeling at the same stage when he was coming back. I ran it by him to make sure I was on the right path.

“I’ve messaged him a few times when I’ve felt he might have been down in the dumps, to tell him to keep his head up and stick with it. I think he was appreciative. But Jofra doesn’t need me to tell him that. He’s very strong-willed and I’m sure he’ll be back with a bang. It’s just about when he’ll be back. He’ll bowl rapid when he’s back.”

After the extended periods in England’s bio-secure environments over the past two seasons, Wood has at least been able to enjoy some family time during his rehabilitation, including with his two-year-old son, Harry, whose favourite three things, he says, are “digger, insects and looking at the moon”.

But, he added, it’s scant consolation for the interruption to his prime years. “I’m clutching at straws looking for positives. I’m really disappointed with this injury to be honest. The West Indies was a huge disappointment. Going there as a perceived senior player, I really wanted to give a good account of myself, and then the IPL after that would have been a big thing for me personally.

“I’m really disappointed that I didn’t fulfil that period of my career, which I really hoped to do. I’m a lot better at dealing with things like that now, I’m not as up and down anymore – I guess Morgy’s rubbing off on us a little bit – but I really wanted that to be a big impact for me.”

Wood can at least console himself with the fact that he has achieved many of the things that might have eluded him during his earlier injury set-backs – he is a World Cup winner from 2019, and now has three five-wicket hauls among his 82 Test wickets.

“It does make it a bit easier, feeling more comfortable in myself and within the team,” he said. “I know what it takes to go into rehab and get back up to speed, this is my fifth time doing it after an operation. It’s never always an upward curve and plain sailing, there’s always some little bumps along the way. But at some point I’ll be back, and when I’m back, I’ll be ready to let loose again.”

Mark Wood and other England cricketers surprised Leicester Electricity Sports Cricket Club during an inter-squad friendly game organised by Test partners LV= Insurance. The club will receive support to train a new coach and relaunch their women’s team as part of LV= and the ECB’s commitment to support 4000 coaches through their #Funds4Runs community initiative. Visit Funds4Runs for more information

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Call Us