To, the nicest man in cricket

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Think about some underrated current cricketers in world cricket in your opinion. Got some names? Now think about the superstars of the game. We all know who they are. The world-class cricketers along with the stars just below them. Got them? Among the names you chose, how many of you had Chris Woakes in mind.

Some of you may have thought about him, in the underrated category, but I guess that was very few of you. He, to me at least, is in a weird category of cricketers. He isn’t an average cricketer who is rated just fine. In fact, he is a phenomenal cricketer. But he isn’t a superstar either and nor is he underrated by most people.

He just doesn’t play enough games. That’s why people sometimes go gaga over his talents when he plays and other times, he just disappears. As a huge admirer of Chris Woakes, I’m baffled by his underutilization. So, this is me, ranting and giving my opinions on why the nicest man in cricket, deserves better.

Chris Woakes is now thirty-two years old. Yes, time flies. He averages over 27 with the bat and 29 with the ball in test matches. Quite a good record for a bowling all-rounder right? Heck, you can consider him just a bowler as he is good enough to just play like one. He has been playing international cricket for ten years now and it has been eight years since his test debut.

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He has played 38 test matches in total. England, who play the most test matches among teams, have played 97(including that match) test matches since Woakes’ debut. That means Woakes has played in less than 40% of total test matches played by England. For a man of Woakes’ talent, that is criminal.

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And it’s not as if he has been plagued by injuries. Barring some injuries here and there, nothing out of the ordinary for a professional cricketer, he has been fit to play most games. Again, England just doesn’t play him that much.
He made his ODI debut in January 2011. Since his debut, England has played 213 one-day games. How many of them have our lovely Chris played you ask? 105. 105 out of 213, less than 50%, as emphasized by Michael Atherton during the 2nd ODI between England and Sri Lanka a few days ago. And to nobody’s surprise, Woakes didn’t play that game too.

He had put on a player of the match performance in the first ODI with an outstanding 4 for 18 in 10 overs. How does that work? English ‘rest and rotation policy? Why were they resting him after he didn’t play any cricket for England during the winter? It’s frustrating for the viewers. Imagine what it would be like for the player himself.

Talking about his record in ODIs, he has taken 153 wickets at 29.6 and averages 26 with the bat. That is a pretty good record by any standards. For England, that’s even better. He is the sixth-highest wicket-taker for England in ODIs, only five behind Adil Rashid in fifth. He also has a better bowling strike rate than all bowlers above him in the list. That’s how good he is. And he still doesn’t play more than half the games that England does.

T20 internationals are quite a different thing with teams having a lot of players making their international bow. Still, England has played 100 T20Is since the debut of Chris Woakes. Chris Woakes has played 10. Yes! Ten. I know he isn’t seen as a very good option for death bowling but he did return with an astonishing figure of 1 for 9 in 4 overs in the last T20I that he played in.

It’s almost as if he could’ve been so much better if hadn’t played just 10% of the total games played by England in this format. That’s just my opinion. And most of the fans and pundits around the world share similar beliefs. But hey, rest and rotation, am I right?

Chris Woakes, the man who has a hundred, a five-for, and a ten-for at Lord’s. He has put his name in all three of the honor’s board at the home of cricket. He has over 1000 runs and 100 wickets in both tests and ODIs. He also holds the record for the highest score in ODIs while batting at no. 8. He was instrumental in England’s world cup win in 2019.

He is a very good batsman, bowler, and also an outstanding fielder. He could have gone on to be one of the top bowling all-rounders in world cricket of this era. However, he first needs to play in games to be all that. I am probably the biggest Sam Curran fan out there, but the fact that he has played just 17 tests less than Woakes despite having made his debut in 2018 is just ridiculous. I guess being a left-arm pacer helps.

After all, England has James Anderson and Stuart Broad to fill that right-arm fast-medium quota. It doesn’t help Woakes’ case that they’re probably two of the best bowlers England have ever had. But quality is quality and Chris Woakes is pure quality. That’s why it’s so difficult for me to comprehend this underutilization of a great talent

You can say that he hasn’t performed well overseas but he has only played 14 tests overseas out of the possible 47. 24 of the tests that he has played at home don’t even constitute 50% of total tests played by England during his career. You can say that he isn’t a good enough death bowler to play T20Is, but he has only played ten games.

How is he supposed to perform and prove us wrong? I know the policy of rotating the players has somehow worked for England in the white-ball game with so much talent around. But Chris Woakes doesn’t deserve this. The lad must be frustrated, to say the least, but we know him. He won’t complain a bit. He won’t go on rants on TV like Broad after being ‘rested’.

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Broady, I still love you all the same to be clear. He will just put on that beautiful smile on that handsome face and just carry on. Because he is who he is. The nicest man in cricket. The one that the cricketing world adores including his teammates, who love the personality and vibe that he brings to the team.

Sadly, he can’t always bring his talent to the table because of how little he actually plays. So, this is to you, Chris Woakes. You gorgeous lad from Birmingham. It’s me saying things that you won’t but everyone else does. A call to play you more. You’re already thirty-two and you deserve to play more.

To enchant us with your smile on the cricket field and baffle the batsmen with your deliveries. To stroke, those perfect cover drives and to save boundaries like the athlete that you are. We cricket fans deserve to see that too. I learned from Melinda Farell’s piece on Espncricinfo that you are called ‘the wizard’. England team management does make sure that you can perform your disappearing acts to perfection.

However, I am not satisfied with what little I have got to see of you. I’m certain that neither are you. So I hope, we cricket fans across the globe can see your wizardry more in the coming days. I hope the selectors and team management do you justice.  And I hope we will see more of that beautiful smile on the cricket field for the Three Lions. 

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