The coloured clothing has been shelved for creams, but remnants of blue feeling remain among those England players returning to India after a chastening 2023 ODI World Cup.
Five of the current Test squad spent October and November traipsing across this country on a trip that began with great expectations of a successful title defence and ended with calls for a generational reset. Some of the signage – official and otherwise – remains scattered throughout Hyderabad as ghosts of that failure, even though England’s varied schedule did not include the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium. Even while the formats accelerate on their divergent paths, success in India will offer some redemption for those few, if not full closure on a tournament that cut them deep.
It was only after the tournament was over and the players returned home that the scale of their failure truly sunk in. And after much introspection, Wood wants to make amends with the red ball.
“I think it hurt everybody,” said Wood, who missed the December tour to the Caribbean. “I’ve texted Woakesy, Jos and other lads in that group. We came here with big expectations and we didn’t live up to it. Nowhere near up to it. It just didn’t go well. We wanted that chance to create something as a group and we fell well short.
“I was really upset with it, after the first week I got home. When you go from game to game, you’re disappointed but then you’re like ‘right, it’s the next game, then the next game’. For about a week once I got home it was, ‘why did I do that’ or ‘why was this happening’, ‘what did we do that for’. It really hurt for a while, but that’s why that was the hunger to come back into this environment. I’m ready to try to prove that was just a one-off.
“I feel like I’ve got a point to prove a little bit here. Very disappointed with that whole campaign, personally and as a team. Conditions might not be favourable for me, but I’ll be trying to put a better show than I did at the World Cup.”
For Wood, this is his first full step into the unknown. None of his 31 Test caps have come to India, though he was on deck for the back end of the 2021 series. He played three ODIs and four T20Is on that tour. Other ventures to these parts came on Indian Premier League duty for Chennai Super Kings and, now, Lucknow Super Giants.
Much like the Ashes last summer, when he took 14 wickets, short, sharp bursts will be the way to go. The difference, of course, will be conditions, especially on what the tourists expect to be turning tracks, starting with Hyderabad on Thursday.
“If I can get reverse swing that will bring me into it a bit,” said Wood. “The two bouncers an over with a certain amount of guys back in one-day cricket limits you. The situation of the game, we were chasing the game at times when we didn’t have enough runs. It could be similar here. In general, it’s a different format, but I still feel like I didn’t bowl well then and didn’t live up to the standards that I want to set for myself. I’m going to have to change things here.”
Constant management of his left ankle means he will not play all five, even with the bigger gaps between the second and third, and fourth and fifth Tests. Nor will Stokes want him to, given the debilitating effect such a workload would have on his pace.
Indeed, a new role as the sole quick could be in the offing. With spin set to play such a prominent part in the five-match series, the onus will be on the quicker bowlers to add variety. If England do decide to go with three full-time spinners, supplemented by Joe Root’s off spin, Wood believes he has the requisite skills and robustness to be the lone ranger.
“I think with my track record, being the one seamer there would be question marks over me. But if it does happen it’s another thing I can hopefully prove to people I can do. My injury record has been better the last few years. If that is the case, it will be a chance for me to show people that I’m up to it.”
As for hopes for the series, Wood was pragmatic; that India are strong favourites should be seen as an opportunity to dream big.
“It’s a free hit, to be honest. Not many teams come here and win. If we give it a good go, we could go down in flames. But if we give it a go, it’s no different to any other time.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo
Source website: www.espncricinfo.com