- England all-rounder sees ILT20 as ideal bridge to pick up intensity after injury-blighted year
Sharjah, December 23: Chris Woakes has had a mixed year but the England all-rounder is content and raring to start 2023 on a strong note around his fitness with Sharjah Warriors in the upcoming International League Twenty20. The year’s first major tournament marks its debut from January 13 to February 12 and will be played in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The ILT20 will feature six franchises with a high-quality range of 84 international players and 24 domestic players from the UAE over 34 matches. Woakes will line up for Sharjah Warriors along with compatriots Moeen Ali (captain), Paul Farbrace (coach), Dawid Malan and Tom-Kohler Cadmore in one of the most talented bunch which will feature in the inaugural event.
After surgery on his left knee in the summer of 2022, Woakes came back for England to help lift the ICC T20 World Cup trophy, a second world title after the 2019 ODI World Cup to show in his silverware cabinet. A man of his convictions, Woakes, 33, talks about his 2023 plans:
You have been very faithful to your county Warwickshire for over a decade and half. Can we see you with such loyalty for Sharjah Warriors in the franchise cricket model prevalent in recent times?
I suppose that decision will be out of my control. It also depends on how I perform and then let’s see if they want to keep hold of him in the following year or not. There are injury concerns as well. I will give my best and hopefully it’s the start of a long-standing relationship with Sharjah Warriors.
Amid all these, you will feature in the ILT20 for Sharjah Warriors while England have ODIs against South Africa in late January. How will the balance be in that aspect?
It’s a good question. I would like to see the scheduling is similar to what the golfers are facing where there is so much going on and as a player, you need to pick and choose. There is nothing wrong about it and yet it is not as if one cannot do it all. But it could lead to burnout, not getting to spend enough time with the family or simply may not serve the purpose of becoming the player you want to be. Ultimately, I chose what I can do to stay fresh when you show up for England.
After an injury-riddled year and knee injury, your schedule and workload has understandably been more important than ever. After the T20 world cup win, you skipped the three-Test series in Pakistan. Now you are ready to give the lucrative IPL a miss for a tilt at the Ashes. Can you share the thought process?
It is really been a difficult time, and yet some decisions are easy to make when you know what you need to get in life. I had a few offers from the IPL teams and it is indeed tempting, especially when the stock is high after the World Cup win. But I am keen to get some more red-ball cricket in me with 2023 being the Ashes year. I have been fortunate enough to play good amount of cricket. I also have a young family and it is equally important to give them some time.
How much has been the influence of coach Paul Farbrace and captain Moeen Ali, with whom you havebeen friends and colleagues in England, on the decision to join Sharjah Warriors?
When there is a new tournament and a new setup, it surely helps to have some kind of familiarity, even for an established player like myself. Knowing the coach or a few players helps you ease into the team. Paul Farbrace, whom I know really well, is the head coach and obviously Moeen Ali I know from Warwickshire and England days. There is a feeling of comfort and I am looking forward for the team to meet up and prepare for what lies ahead.
When someone mentions Sharjah, what is the first memory that comes to your mind?
There is an incredibly amazing cricket stadium and very popular. There is a lot of tradition there at that ground. I also have good memories of Sharjah. I played in a great game of T20 there against Pakistan (Final game of three-T20I series which England won 3-0, on November 2015) where I bowled the last over that took us to the Super Over. And we won, so I am excited to return there.
With so much of cricket going around, how do see the ILT20 to start of the year’s schedule – especially for England with the ODI World Cup in India and the Ashes lined up?
Like the IPL, the ILT20 is a league full of big international names. And I think franchise cricket is a great way for me to pick brains from other cricketers. With so much talent coming up, I like to use every franchise opportunity, like the ILT20, to learn and upskill where I can.
How do you see Sharjah Warriors’ chances in the ILT20?
It’s hard to say when you are coming to a new tournament as every team is coming against each other for the first time. No one really knows each other too well. I think we’ve got a great chance as a well-balanced side. It is important to gel well, have a great time and enjoy each other’s company and hopefully that kind of drags us to the field with some good form and some good cricket.
You will be spending time with the family after a long time before work begins in 2023 with the ILT20. Any New Year resolutions?
I haven’t got around to think of it. I got to give time to the family. But this year was blighted by injuries so I have to make sure I stay fit and strong so that I can have a good 2023.