England squad not thinking about possible Stokes return, says Mark Wood
Mark Wood has insisted that the possibility of a healthy Ben Stokes bolstering England’s squad for the Ashes has not crossed the minds of any of the players preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup, despite speculation over the 30-year-old’s availability increasing after the player posted a video of his return to training on Instagram.
Stokes has not played since July as he recovers from an injured finger and takes time away from the game to prioritise his mental health , but the door is believed to have been left open for him to join the Ashes squad during the five-Test series.
“Not once among any of the players has Stokesy been mentioned,” Wood said. “The one thing at the forefront of everyone’s minds is they just want him to be all right. No one wants to even think past that, we just want him to be himself and feel right and happy and stuff like that. So not once has it crossed anyone’s mind about the Ashes.”
Before turning his attention to the Ashes Wood is focused on the World Cup, in which as the reigning ODI champions England have an opportunity to unite the game’s two major white-ball prizes. “I’d absolutely love it,” he said of the possibility. “We’ve got a huge chance, and we’ve got a great team. Everybody talks about a four-year cycle for the next [ODI] World Cup but I still feel like we’re in that  cycle. There’s very similar players, whoever’s come in has got up to speed quickly, has got into the team ethos and the way the team plays. I feel we’ve got a good time now as a one-day side to cement something pretty special. The 50-over competition had a brilliant effect, so it would be great to continue that.”
England have been in the curious position of preparing for a major competition without their captain, Eoin Morgan, who has been busy guiding Kolkata Knight Riders to the IPL final, though Wood says his absence has made “not one bit” of difference. “I honestly feel like when he’s here it’ll be great but we’ve prepped well without him,” he said. “He’s the leader of the team, it’s not like he’s coming in for his first game. It’s not an issue for me.”
With Jofra Archer injured England have lost a bowler of serious pace and global renown, but in his absence Wood is hoping to form an equally effective partnership with Tymal Mills, who is aiming to resurrect his T20 international career three years after the last of his five previous appearances. “Jofra will be a huge miss, and it would have been brilliant to have him,” Wood said. “It’s up to me and T to carry that forward. It’s nice that me and Jofra had played together and proved you can have two fast men in the side, not just one, so hopefully me and T can have a game or two together in the competition. He has looked really good in the nets. I haven’t bowled with him yet, but I certainly wouldn’t want to face him.”