The vivid imagery of England has always had something special for the fan. Then whether we speak about the holy experience of witnessing a live game at the Lord’s or immersing in the very culture of what it means to enjoy the sport at The Oval, the pleasures are countless.
But anyone speaking in a tone of didactic honesty, would wish to look beyond and lurk outside the parameter of the exhilarating experiences and state that England, despite phases of sporadic brilliance, couldn’t become the World Champions despite playing in familiar conditions.
Was there ever a bigger downer than this?
What one saw in 2019 was a bit like witnessing a moment of immense relief having borne patiently the repeat sagas of so many lost chances. Despite having played in the finals in more than a few occasions, the team we see and marvel at today has walked a long mile since the bashings it withstood in the past.
You felt that stood at the disturbing crossroad of historical precedence and contemporary preferences.
Source: EspncricinfoEvents such as the Carlos Braithwaite mishap at the 2016 T20 World Cup final were another shot in the arm for the team, who by then, had endured a long and unfavorable period when success in Test Cricket had not been well complemented by exotic moments in the limited-overs game.
But today, when you see the paragons of English Cricket like Atherton and Nasser Hussain splash out that wide smile, you know it’s got much to do with the collective strength of the team and less to do with an individual, in particular.
Speaking of their biggest success, circa 2019, at the ‘spiritual home of cricket,’ what unfolded eventually was not entirely unexpected.
While there was the regular annihilation by bowlers of the likes of Jos Butler, Jason Roy, and Ben Stokes, on the one hand, the likes of Roy, Root, and Bairstow will carving everyone left, right, and center.
But there was one man, in particular, who was just as important to spearheading England’s chances in the tournament where it mattered the most as anyone else.
Don’t you think so?
Probably yes, without a tract of uncertainty.
Chris Woakes has been one of the chief architects of England’s latest success in all the formats of the game. This in itself a tremendous achievement as he hardly possesses the exhilarating skills of his much fancied and adored counterparts in the English team itself.
Where the game’s modern template demands eye-popping pleasure and breathtaking stuff from the all-rounders, a rare breed in itself, Chris Woakes offers utility sans the histrionics.
He proves that substance is larger than shenanigans, playing his part ever so quietly, just like that phenomenal 129-ball Test ton at Lord’s with Kohli watching cluelessly.
Woakes has gone about his business in a charming and quiet manner, in that sense, he can easily be likened to the steady performers like Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick.
But, England has moved away from the gentle and conventional way of playing Cricket, right?
Therefore, it is quite curious to note that he made a way into the English Scheme of things and has vindicated his presence in many ways. He surely lacks the aura that players like Joss Buttler, Ben Stokes, and Jofra Archer possess. So, does that make him less effective?
He led the English attack masterfully in the 2019 World Cup and certainly saved his best for the must-win games including the semi-final and the final. Being England’s Mr. Reliable, he never failed to perform especially when his team needed him the most.
In the big semi Final against Australia, his spell of 3 for 20 was a rightful affirmation of his class as a clever operator who bowls on a good line and length and seldom presents easy opportunities for batsmen to hit boundaries. His menacing accuracy resulted in an impressive spell in the final against New Zealand as well where he scalped 3 important wickets and conceded only 37 runs.
For a team that has seen gigantic all-rounders like Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, Chris Woakes hardly seems to be the man who can carry the rich legacy of English Cricket forward. But, Woakes has never strived unnecessarily to step out of his unassuming personality and try to do something untoward in order to grab the headlines on popular tabloids.
He is quite happy bowling routine line and length to break important partnerships or play the role of second fiddle in an important partnership whilst trying to resist a batting collapse.
In just his second ODI, Woakes put on a fantastic display of seam bowling while registering figures of 6/45. His tally of 95 wickets from 33 Test Matches does not do enough justice to his utility as someone who has the ability to execute match-winning spells while being minimalistic in his modus operandi.
But quite like the discerning but reticent characters- say a bit like David Wiese of South Africa- Chris Woakes just gets better gently, without making too much of a noise.
The DNA of a man who likes to do it the old-fashioned way?
For a generation obsessed with 5 wicket hauls and ravishing stroke play, it must be hoped that Chris Woakes’ silent and meaningful services to English Cricket are well acknowledged.
After all, at 31, he’s only still nearing the peak.