Mark Wood: the fast bowler with wheels and a GPS

Us Indians are infatuated with pace. It’s just not about the cricket either. We’re always looking for ways to get done with things done without breaking a sweat—a task even tougher to accomplish when you factor in the humidity of the subcontinent.

But it suits us better when the going gets slow. The country’s bureaucracy has a fascination for delaying proceedings. It’s not always about corruption or incompetence either. It’s a reflection of our ethos.

If cricket’s a reflection of society, then, our fascination with pace bowling and expertise in slow bowling is symbolic of our country as a whole. We’re getting the fast men and women in our system because of the steps the BCCI has taken. But it’s not a skill that comes naturally to us.

Pace bowling isn’t the strongest suit of English cricket either. There’s something poetic about Anderson being the country’s best bowler. I like to imagine him as a representative of England’s countryside. He’s gentle in his ways. And doesn’t have any rights to maintain himself the way he has for so long. Yet, he remains the soul of his side.

That’s why we need to talk about Mark Wood.

England have pitches which are going to support gentle swing bowlers more than they’re going to support the spinners. It’s an accepted fact of life for most cricket fans. And then, Mark Wood comes along—there’s Jofra and Jordan as well.

Archer is a foreign expert who’s earned the right to play for England, whereas Jordan still depends more on his guile and accuracy than he depends on his pace. And that’s why Mark Wood becomes one-of-a-kind in terms of rising through the ranks and learning his trade at the international level.

I’m infatuated with pace. I’m infatuated with Mark Wood as well. His 3 for 31 in the 3rd T20I against India on Tuesday was stuff for the ages. He served up lots of stuff as well.

Now, some people might say there’s not much to write about when you write about T20 cricket. I’ve felt the same at times. But there’s no repulsion felt towards the format from my side, only admiration at the way it’s forced cricket to innovate. All the same, what does one game of twenty overs, twice, really tell us that matters?

Maybe it doesn’t tell us anything at all—but I believe it shows us what we want to see. And who doesn’t want to see Mark Wood?

I first paid attention to his existence when he elevated himself from the disreputable position of being another English pacer with wheels but no GPS, to being known as the fast bowler who might end up doing something significant after all.

It was 2019 at St Lucia, in the Third Test of the series against West Indies during what had been a wretched time to be a fan of English cricket. He ended up getting 5 for 41 in the first innings, coming-of-age at a time when his team was down in the dumps. But then, Joe Denly got a 69 in the second innings. So, who’s to judge the former’s performance on the basis of a single performance?

But I have followed him with varying levels of interest since then. The interest dialled itself up from ‘mild’ to ‘infatuation’ when he took another five-fer in South Africa during that series from 2019. And now here he was, playing in the 3rd T20I against India.

You know you’re fast when you make Rohit Sharma—the batsman who always seems to have an extra second—hurry up because the ball’s giving him a second lesser than usual to play a shot. Sharma ended up getting beaten on the bounce and lobbing a catch to a close-in fielder. The same genre of short-pitched bowling came off in different ways throughout the innings, but that was the gist of his efforts throughout these four overs.

And mind you, he didn’t do it all with just his effort. He’s learned to channel it in a way which surprises his fans as much as it surprises the batsmen. His accuracy has improved enough for him to be England’s first-choice all-out pacer in international cricket. I know, Jofra’s faster than Wood when he wants to be, but it’s the latter who consistently clocks in speeds above 150 kph well into his spells. It helps to have Morgan as your captain too. In his 100th T20I, he was as synchronised with the side’s bowling changes as he’s always been.

People want Wood in the Ashes side. He’s the one player who deserves to bowl England to victory on Australian soil for the first time in a decade. Would you deny him that? The charm of his demeanour, after all, is inversely proportional to the hostility of his pace. He’d make for a great Man of the Series interviewee if England actually win later this year.

I think I’m infatuated with Mark Wood. Please make it true love when the southern summer comes around.

Abhijato Sensarma


  • Loved your article! As a Durham fan I’ve watched Wood’s career right from its early days. I also was there to see him deliver one of his most explosive spells, at T20 finals day in 2016 when his pace shook up Joe Root snd blasted out Yorkshire. It’s great to see him succeed too in India, where many fast bowlers have historically struggled on pitches that don’t suit them. His spell in the IPL will have helped, even though he didn’t play much.
    Sadly I can’t see him ever being a regular for England in Tests – the strain that bowling express pace puts on his body means that his next injury is never far away. Quitting Tests and concentrating solely on limited overs cricket may ultimately be better for him and lengthen his career.

  • I am 100% with you on Wood going to Australia. On most Australian pitches my envisaged bowling attack would be any two of three out and out speedsters (Archer, Stone, Wood) accompanied by one of the two veterans Broad or Anderson and Leach as sole spinner. At Perth where pitches usually have more pace and life than elsewhere I might even go for the outright gamble of playing all three of the speedsters plus Leach as sole spinner. The only Aussie test venues where a second specialist spinner is remotely likely to be required are Sydney and Adelaide.

  • Great article, but you didn’t need to have a pop at Joe Denly! If more of our players had shown his perseverance and grit in the recent India vs England Test series…well, the outcome might have been the same, but it would have taken quite a bit longer!

    • Hey there! I’m a member of the Denners fan club too. I can’t put it in words, but his sub-50 scores have often been more inspirational than much higher scores in Test cricket. I would have loved to see him giving England a chance with his grit in India :) I guess the reference alluded to his lack of substantial scores, akin to Mark Wood’s lack of reward for all the grit he shows in these parts of the world.

  • I’ve got to admit that Mark Wood is probably my favourite bowler in the England setup too. I’m a sucker for pace, always have been, and I love that he gives 100% in every spell.
    It’s such a shame that his body is fragile and he hasn’t been able to play more Test cricket. I think the improvements that he’s made to his run up should help him though.
    I really hope that England can travel to Australia with Wood, Archer and Stone in the Ashes squad later this year. It’s always annoying when Australia bully our batsmen with their pacemen. Fighting fire with fire doesn’t sound like a bad option to me. We could just rotate the three of them, with two playing at a time.

  • “There’s something poetic about Anderson being the country’s best bowler. I like to imagine him as a representative of England’s countryside. He’s gentle in his ways. And doesn’t have any rights to maintain himself the way he has for so long. Yet, he remains the soul of his side.”

    He comes from Burnley which isn’t the countryside. He’s married to a model and the godfather of his child is a TV presenter which is hardly bucolic. Was it “gentle” when he called Dhoni ” a fat fucking prick”? He has every right to maintain himself so long when he has such a light workload compared to bowlers of the past. Sides don’t have souls, this is twaddle.

    “I’m infatuated with Mark Wood as well. His 3 for 31 in the 3rd T20I against India on Tuesday was stuff for the ages.”

    A performance in a bilateral T20 for the ages? It’ll be forgotten in a week. What was the result of England’s last T20 series in India? Does anyone remember – or care? Wood’s played enough games now to come to some conclusions – he has an excellent T20 record as a wicket-taker, an okay Test record and quite a poor ODI record. He’s also 31 years old which might encourage some realism in how much can be expected of him in an away Ashes’ series.

    • Blimey. Who stole the jam out of your donut today, Simon? Forgive the pedantry but Abhijato said “I imagine” him as a representative of rural England etc. Not quite the same thing. What’s more, it’s understandable that Indian cricket followers might not know every detail of Jimmy’s personal circumstances from the other side of the world in Kolkata. And who minds a bit of hyperbole and poetic licence now and again re: ‘stuff for the ages’ ;-) ?

  • Nice article Abhijato. (Interesting name by the way, where’s it from?)
    I love pace bowling too, even if England has had to bear the brunt of it for decades.
    Watching Lillee and Thompson before the advent of helmets was an education.
    Then there were the endless procession of West Indian quickies, who all seems to play for counties when they weren’t rolling our test side over. Every test innings seemed to begin 23-3 and end 170 odd all out.
    It did produce folk heroes though, like the bespectacled David Steele who rescued that 23-3 so often.
    Then Pakistan produced Waqar and Wasim, who did similar and also played full time for counties.
    Anyway, hope you’ll have more to get infatuated about with England sides of the future..
    In addition to Olly Stone there’s a young quickie who is his partner in crime for Warwickshire called James Brookes, who is only 19 and on his day, if he can stay fit, as consistently quick as Wood has become.
    Brookes Stone and Archer would be a considerable triumvirate to whet your appetite with.
    In addition there is a dangerous South African off spinner called Harmer who will shortly be qualified for England, so future tours of the subcontinent could be more evenly contested.

    • I hate to disillusion your thoughts of a better alternative to Bess, Marc…:-), but Harmer will never be qualified for England. That was a hopeful myth put around by the press, but it was only ever wishful thinking.

      Now that Kolpaks are a thing of the past though, he might represent South Africa again in the future…:-)

    • Thank you, Marc! My name’s been confusing to pronounce as well as to understand since the beginning, even in India :’) It’s a Bengali word which roughly translates to ‘aristocrat’. But it actually refers to well-rounded qualities existing in an individual–talk about parental pressure since the get-go xD

      On a more serious note, I didn’t realise Steve Harmer was on the verge of qualification as an English spinner. I did know he’s seriously good and is excellent on the County’s unsupportive pitches, but I do wonder if he’ll get picked even once he becomes eligible for national representation?

      • I appear to have been misinformed, though I thought you could still qualify for England through residency in the same way as numerous South Africans have done in the past, from D’Oliveira through to Pieterson.

      • I think you’re right, Marc–at least in theory!

        The issue with Harmer was, as I understand it, that he was never granted the kind of visa that would allow residence rights to arise eventually, although he applied for one–so eventually he just gave up, with the end of Kolpak registrations in sight. So it essentially depends also on which type of visa the Home Office grants you.

        I suspect that would have made it harder for Kolpak players–because I think Kolpak status only gave rise automatically to employment rights, not to eventual residency rights–than EU (Bosman) players. Most if not all of the players who qualified through residency were EU and not Kolpak players, I think. So for example, as far as I’m aware Conor McKerr, who arrived at the same time as Harmer, has already been qualified for a year.

        Brexit means that now the pool of people who automatically start on that track is much smaller than it was–essentially people (like Greig, I think, or Pietersen) who have a UK (or possibly Irish) passport or visa, generally through ancestry. Other than that, the situation is back to where it was for people like d’Oliveira who don’t have that connection–you have to convince the Home Office to give you a kind of visa which will eventually allow you to become resident as of right.

  • Unfortunately Wood has been plagued by injury. Play him at Perth for sure if he’s fit, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if he stands up to more than two Tests. Ollie Stone is fast as well, and also almost another walking injury. Archer has a shoulder “problem” and really I’ve not seen him bowl consistently flat out since the 2019 Ashes. Root over bowled him massively, but I don’t see his heart in Tests. I’m not convinced he’ll still be playing them by November. Anderson is currently fitter than any of them, but at 38 going on 39? One bad injury and that could be it. Broad has some go in him but sorry to be a bit of a dump squib, but the near future for English pace at least is looking a little bleak to me. But hope I’m wrong.

  • Excellent article. Mark Wood is a genuine fast bowler who comes across as a warm hearted assassin,with a smile and a twinkle in his eye as he gets you out!


copywriter copywriting