England’s Chris Woakes explains why he is not interested in The Ashes just yet

Chris Woakes is determined not to get distracted by the Ashes, insisting this month’s Twenty20 World Cup demands England’s undivided attention.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 9:01 pm
England's Chris Woakes is concentrating on white-ball cricket only as the Twenty20 World Cup approaches. Picture: Shaun Botterill/NMC Pool/PA

Chris Woakes is determined not to get distracted by the Ashes, insisting this month’s Twenty20 World Cup demands England’s undivided attention.

Woakes is one of five players pulling double duty this winter, joining Jos Buttler, Mark Wood and Yorkshire pair Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan in both squads.

Head coach Chris Silverwood and his management team are also planning for two very different campaigns, while bosses at the England and Wales Cricket Board are still in negotiation over the finer details of the trip with their Australian counterparts.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

England's Chris Woakes will only turn his attentions to Test cricket again, once the Twnety20 World Cup campaign is over. Picture: Stu Forster/NMC Pool/PA

But Woakes, who came out of quarantine to join the non-IPL contingent in a first training session in Oman, made it clear that a global tournament should not be playing second fiddle to obsession over the urn.

“It’s exciting that there is an Ashes series around the corner...but there is a small thing of the World Cup first, so obviously I have my eyes firmly on that,” he said.

“We have a T20 World Cup to focus on and prep for and as soon as that is done and dusted our attention will shift. We have no choice, you don’t want to get to the end of a World Cup and think ‘I wasn’t fully engaged’.

“We have to give this our full attention – what is going on with the Ashes is on the back burner and with the people who are making the decisions, kind of dealing with that on our behalf. You can’t get too fixated on that.

CALL ME: Ben Stokes and England head coach Chris Silverwood during a nets session last year. Picture: David Davies/PA

“It is important we focus on the here and now. It is a great opportunity to win some silverware for your country. The Ashes stuff will have to be parked.”

While Woakes is shaping up to be one of England’s most important cross-format players over the coming months, he was only recently recalled to the T20 side for the first time since 2015.

In all, he was won just 10 caps in the format in the 10 years since his debut but as a 50-over World Cup winner boasts plenty of white-ball nous.

“I obviously would have liked to have played a few more but not having to concentrate on T20 too much has helped my other formats I think,” he said. “I’d have bitten your hand off for the career I have had 10 years ago, so I can’t be too hard on myself. I certainly hadn’t given up (on T20), but at the same time I thought that maybe that ship had sailed.

“I’d be lying if I said I thought I would get another go. I hoped I might get another go, and I wasn’t thinking of retiring from that format, but I thought they might have moved on from going back to me. I’m just delighted to be sat here and to have the opportunity to play another World Cup.”

England have lined up practice matches against Pakistan and the West Indies before their campaign gets under way against the West Indies in Dubai on October 23.

They also face group games against Australia and South Africa in the Super 12 round, as well as meeting two qualifiers from the first round.

Ben Stokes, meanwhile, has given English cricket fans cause for optimism, posting pictures of himself gripping a bat properly for the first time in six months.

Stokes is currently on an indefinite break from the game as he priorities his mental well-being, but he has also been rehabilitating from a nasty fracture in his let index finger.

He suffered the injury in April on Indian Premier League duty for Rajasthan Royals. Now he has taken to social media to show the bandaged digit wrapped around a handle, with a caption suggesting it was the first time he has been able to do so since the initial break. The message went on Instagram and Twitter, with Stokes adding “Ohhh aye lad” by way of comment.

Head coach Chris Silverwood was keen to take a hands off approach to Stokes’s eventual return but it is not impossible that England could allow him to join the Australia series as a late arrival, should he feel he is in the right physical and mental shape to do so.

Speaking at the squad announcement about Stokes, Silverwood said: “The communications I have had with Ben is that he is definitely more upbeat.

“What I will say is there will be no pressure from me for him to rush back. I’ve said ‘when you’re ready you call me and we’ll make a plan from there’. So there’s no pressure from me.”