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Mark Wood column: Christmas, South Africa, Sri Lanka and 2021


Like most people, my Christmas has been a bit different to what it normally would have been.

Still, I’ve spent time with my family, eaten far too much chocolate and couldn’t get enough of the pigs in blankets.

When you get time off from being an international cricketer, you end up mixing the mundane, everyday things with your responsibilities as a professional athlete.

On the one hand, I had an injection in my ankle before Christmas, then reported to Loughborough for some training on 28 December. The following day we were due to spend some time netting on grass inside a marquee, but it was called off because of the snowy, dark conditions – the exact of opposite of what’s coming up in Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, I do the things that everyone else has been doing: a trip to the tip, a Zoom quiz with my friends and family on New Year’s Eve, messages from the lads on Christmas Day. Joe Root’s Christmas jumper was his England one-day sweater.

Now we turn our attention to Sri Lanka, setting off on Saturday for the two-Test series.

Sri Lanka is a hard trip anyway – it is the hottest place I have ever played cricket – but there are also the challenges of isolation and a long time spent in hotel rooms.

There is some natural trepidation over going abroad, not only because you worry about the loved ones you are leaving behind, but also after the challenges we encountered on the abandoned tour of South Africa.

Hopefully, lessons will be learned from that experience so the players can trust the environment we’re in.

We managed to get through the Twenty20 series, but difficulties started to mount around the scheduled one-day matches. First, more South Africa players tested positive, then hotel staff, then two of our touring party.

Thankfully, the results in our group turned about to be false positives, but the time we spent waiting for the confirmation was pretty stressful.

There was a period when we were in isolation in our hotel rooms when I was wondering if I could build a den by blocking the door with my mattress.

We were worried about our friends, if they might be prevented from travelling home, and also concerned if anything had been passed on to us.

Not only that, but you’re also trying to get your head around potentially playing international cricket. I hadn’t played in the T20s and thought I would get an opportunity in the one-dayers, but all the focus was on coronavirus.

People might ask why we felt we ultimately couldn’t play those one-dayers.

It was a culmination of a number of things, the most stark being when we found out that a staff member who had been serving us in the hotel tested positive.

That is now in the past, and at the beginning of a new year, we’re looking ahead with excitement to everything that is to come in 2021.

A hard contest in Sri Lanka, huge series home and away against India, the opportunity to become double world champions at the T20 World Cup and a shot at regaining the Ashes in Australia.

From a personal point of view, I want to nail a place in both the T20 and Test sides. I’ve had conversations with the captains and the coach and I feel like I’m well aware of what I need to do after missing out on a central contract in September.

However, I don’t feel like I have a point to prove in Sri Lanka. In the past, I’ve tried too hard, but this time I’ll just give my all and not worry about the outcome or what it might lead to.

With regard to T20 cricket, one option to press my claim for a place in the England team could be to put my name forward for the next edition of the Indian Premier League.

I’ve only ever played one IPL match before, and I didn’t give the best account of myself. There have been other times when I’ve turned down IPL opportunities to stay fresh for England.

However, I know of the benefits of taking part, not least the chance to rub shoulders with the best players in the world.

I’d love another bite and it might be something that I look at in 2021.

Mark Wood was speaking to BBC Sport’s Stephan Shemilt.

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