The England men’s selection panel announced a 16-player squad on Monday for the forthcoming five-Test series against India in January. This squad features four spinners and three uncapped players.
Despite the emphasis on strengthening the spin attack, the pace department includes experienced players like James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, and Mark Wood, but notably excludes Woakes.
This decision is surprising considering Woakes was named Player-of-the-Series in the Ashes 2023, where he secured 19 wickets and scored 79 runs.
Woakes boasts a bowling average of 21.88 at home, but this figure rises to 51.88 when he plays abroad. In the three Test matches played in India in 2016, Woakes managed to take three wickets at an average of 81.3.
“It’s mixed emotions. Whenever there’s a Test squad announcement, you’re always desperate to be in it. But at the same time, at my age, with my away record – particularly in the subcontinent – I feel like it’s a fair decision,” Woakes was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
The low point came in the Caribbean 18 months ago, when Woakes was promoted to open the pace attack due to the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. In the three Test matches, he yielded only five wickets, a 48.80 average.
“I tried to bowl my heart out and really struggled with my body. My knee was sore at the time, I ended up having surgery after that and I missed six months of cricket,” Woakes said.
“I wouldn’t want that to be the same case going to India, bowling on tracks which are unresponsive to my type of bowling; slamming the front knee down at 34 is not really ideal when I want to play a lot of white-ball cricket moving forward. It’s different when that’s just your sole focus but when you want to play all forms, it makes it a wise decision,” said the all-rounder.
Woakes didn’t go so far as to say he’s content to be a home specialist, and he still hopes to be considered for selection when England tours more seam-friendly nations like New Zealand.
“I’ve said that in the past and it’s not through lack of trying, because in the white-ball game my away record is almost probably better than my home record. So it’s not just purely those conditions, but with the red ball, I have found it a little bit difficult. So frustrating, but at the same time, it’s not through lack of effort,” he added.
The first Test of the series between England and India will be played in Hyderabad from January 25 while the fifth and final Test will be held in Dharamshala and the series will conclude on March 11.
(With ANI Inputs)