Mark Wood feels delay of return of recreational cricket will prevent emergence of future stars

Mark Wood fears England could be deprived of the next Ben Stokes or Joe Root if the interruption to the recreational season because of the coronavirus pandemic extends much further into the summer.

International cricket is set to resume on July 8 when England host the first of three Tests against the West Indies behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl while pubs, restaurants and cinemas can reopen four days earlier.

Basketball and tennis courts will open up on July 4, too, but club cricket peculiarly remains on hold after Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the ball as a “natural vector of disease”.

Mark Wood is worried future England stars could be lost if the recreational season is lost (Nick Potts/PA)
Mark Wood is worried future England stars could be lost if the recreational season is lost (Nick Potts/PA)

Discussions between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are ongoing behind the scenes and it is hoped there will be a positive resolution soon.

For someone like Wood, who cut his teeth at Ashington Cricket Club and still holds strong ties there, it represents a pressing issue as he does not want to see potential stars of the future turning to other sports in the interim.

“Safety first is paramount and cricket took its time on the backburner, rightly so with everything else going on,” said Wood, who has been supporting children to get active through cricket as part of Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week – a week of fun, online activities for children at home or at school from the national cricket charity Chance to Shine.

“But you just feel that with pubs and restaurants opening, I don’t see how cricket is so far away from that.

“Being a non-contact sport, the examples we’re trying to show at international level, there must be something they can do around the ball at grassroots level because we don’t want to miss out on the next Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer.

ECB Statement on Recreational Cricket. pic.twitter.com/xPKM0jD9nW

— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) June 23, 2020

“Cricket clubs across the country are desperate for some cricket, just to keep that cricket club alive. I know that my home club, Ashington, are itching to get back out there.

“It is important that we get as many people involved in the game as we can, especially at grassroots level with everything that’s going on, you don’t want to lose potential cricketers to other sports.”

Wood is part of England’s training group that assembled at Southampton earlier this week but, despite stellar displays in two of his last three Tests, he believes he is not part of England’s first-choice side at home.

He reignited his Test career with one of the most rapid and hostile spells ever witnessed by an Englishman in recording his first international five-for against the Windies in St Lucia last year.

In his most recent Test outing he finished with match figures of nine for 100 against South Africa at Johannesburg over the winter.

James Anderson is set to return from injury for the Test series against the West Indies (Steven Paston/PA)
James Anderson is set to return from injury for the Test series against the West Indies (Steven Paston/PA)

But with James Anderson and Archer set to return from injury to bolster the bowling line-up, Wood said: “I know I put in probably my best performance in the last game, I don’t see myself being in the best XI in home conditions.

“I’d love to be, and I’ll push as hard as I can to keep my spot but I’m thinking in home conditions I’m maybe not the first name on the team sheet. But we’ll see what happens.”

Wood, an ebullient member of the England team, is adapting to his new surroundings as he faces a long time away from home, saying: “I packed pretty much as if I’m going on tour really.”

As for all the precautions at the ‘bio-secure’ venue, Wood added: “It’s almost going a little bit over the top but that’s because we’re trying to make sure everybody is safe and it doesn’t spread quickly like it can do.”

:: Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week works with the charity Chance to Shine to support and grow the grassroots of the game in schools and communities. Join in at www.chancetoshine.org/ncw20

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