Mark Wood insists contract talks were not a distraction for England at World Cup

By Sports Desk November 01, 2023

Mark Wood has denied England were sidetracked by contract negotiations at the World Cup but admitted performances need to improve to live up to the new terms.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has revamped its central contract system in a bid to ward off the growing threat from T20 franchises, handing out long-term deals for the first time in addition to the usual annual extensions.

Wood was one of three players to sign a lucrative three-year term, having previously admitted that a huge offer to play in the United Arab Emirates was testing his resolve, with Joe Root and Harry Brook following suit.

The ECB hoped to have agreements in place before the tournament in India but, while some were finalised swiftly, others dragged on into the campaign and the announcement was finally made last week.

By then England had already played four times, losing three, and things have continued to veer off course, leaving the defending champions rock bottom in 10th place after six rounds.

Wood does not believe the two issues are linked but acknowledges the timing of England’s unexpected dip in results has not been helpful.

“I don’t think they were a distraction, no,” he said.

“If we’re trying to look for excuses, I think players need to look at themselves a little bit more, me included.

“But we’ve not lived up to that reward of the contract. I can understand people’s frustration. I would totally get that.

“Obviously when lads are rewarded with things and then they don’t perform at the level that you think, that’s justified. But it’s not through lack of trying. We are trying our hardest to get this right.

“There’s no cracks in the group. There’s no falling out. Everyone is generally trying to do it for each other. We believe in each other. It’s just not happening the way we want.”

Wood was honest about his own status, insisting that turning out for his country remained his primary motivation while acknowledging the financial muscle being flexed by franchise owners.

At 33, and with a long history of fitness issues behind him, he sought security and was pleased to see the ECB provide it.

“My motivation has always been to play for England. That was always what I’ve wanted to do as a kid growing up. That’s the pinnacle for me, so I’m delighted with the deal,” he said.

“I had some positive conversation with (ECB managing director of men’s cricket) Rob Key, to see if he wanted me to stay in the team or what he envisioned for me going forward with England.

“He said that I was part of the plans and I’m obviously delighted to have signed three years. It gives me security for me and my family.

“But I would definitely have had to consider (franchise offers), which is why I had lots of conversations with Keysy behind the scenes.

“As an injury-prone lad, if I ever have trouble, I’ll be well looked after by England physios.

“If you’re effectively self-employed, you go to these teams and say ‘Who wants me?’. But if I have a bad season or you get a bad injury, who then looks after you? So now I’m looked after by England and employed by England.”

England’s next match sees them take on Australia in Ahmedabad on Saturday, a renewal of hostilities between the old rivals after a tense Ashes summer.

Wood excelled for England in the series, helping inspire his side to a 2-2 draw after coming into the side 2-0 down.

Australia head into the match as favourites given England’s recent struggles and their own strong form, but Wood is still hoping to shift the balance.

“It’s completely different conditions, different players, different timing, different form (from the Ashes) but we’ve played against them for years,” he said.

“In one-day cricket, we’ve done well against them in recent times. I don’t think they’ll be going into this game pooing their pants, but it’s up to us to change that.”

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