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India v England 2024

Explained: Why England have dropped Player of the Ashes Chris Woakes for the India Tests

Chris Woakes
by Katya Witney 3 minute read

Chris Woakes has not been included in England’s 16-player squad for their five Test match series in India, despite being named Player of the Series in the Ashes earlier this year. Here’s why Woakes was not picked for the India Tests.

When Chris Woakes played his first match of the 2023 Ashes series, the momentum that his Test career had lost over the previous few years came back with a bang. Having been left out of the first two matches in favour of Ollie Robinson, Woakes was picked along with Mark Wood for the third Test at Headingley when England were 2-0 down and in desperate need of a win.

He made an instant impact, taking three wickets in the first innings and bowling the most overs of anyone in England’s attack. He again took three wickets in Australia’s second innings as they were bowled out for 224, setting up a 254-run chase for the final innings. As England collapsed on day four and the Ashes slipped further and further out of their reach, it was when Woakes came to the crease that England were able to gain some control.


He came in when they were 171-6 with Jonny Bairstow the last man out, and set about building a positive 59-run partnership with Harry Brook to bring England closer. Once Brook was out and Wood joined Woakes in the middle, Woakes hit the winning runs with a four off Mitchell Starc to bring England back into the series.

Things got even better for Woakes after that. He took his first Test match five-wicket-haul since 2020 in the following Test at Old Trafford, rattling through Australia on a flat surface. In the final game at The Oval, he took seven wickets, including the important breakthrough of Steve Smith on the final day, to finish the series with 19 wickets from three matches. He was given the Player of the Series award for his efforts and was credited with being a huge reason England were able to turn the series around.

However, for their first Test match assignment after the Ashes, Woakes has been dropped. This is not entirely unexpected. After The Oval Test match, Woakes said of selection for the India tour: “I’ve not been picked yet, and I’d never say never; never say no. I don’t know if I’d be selected on a tour like that: my away record speaks for itself. I’ve genuinely not thought about it, and there is a lot to come before that.”

Woakes’ away record has been a concern throughout his Test career. While he has 113 wickets from 28 Tests at home, he has just 36 from 20 away Tests. The difference between his averages is even more staggering, taking his wickets at 21.88 apiece at home, and 51.88 away. The three Test matches he played in India in the 2016 series yielded three wickets at an average of 81.33.

While Woakes’ questionable form away from home has been on the radar for some time, until he had almost a year out with injury starting at the end of 2022, England pretty consistently picked him for away Test series. He played three Tests in the 2021/22 Ashes and retained his place for the series in the Caribbean that followed. But, under the new leadership which came in after that series, Woakes now seems to finally have been firmly relegated to a player for home conditions, free to pursue franchise commitments in between international white-ball tours in the winter.

Rob Key elaborated on the decision to select Robinson and James Anderson ahead of Woakes as seamers for the tour earlier this week. “It’s not like Chris Woakes is down the pack in terms of the fifth bowler,” said Key. “It’s the fact that Robinson and Anderson are ahead of him in terms of that style of bowling … I think we’ve got 17 Test matches this year, coming up so we’ll see a lot of Chris Woakes at some point.”

It’s also worth noting Woakes’ performance in the 2023 World Cup in explaining his non-selection for the India Test series. Having led England’s ODI bowling attack for over four years, and been their dependable powerplay titan, Woakes was way off the boil in the tournament – much like most of the rest of the team. He was left out of the side following a disastrous first four games in the tournament, before picking up slightly later in the tournament, when for the most part it was already too late. While the pitches in the World Cup and the format do not bear many similarities to the conditions England will face in the Test series, had Woakes dominated in the World Cup he may have been able to mitigate his past overseas record with a continuation of his late-career resurgence.

Woakes said himself after the India Test omission earlier this week that the decision not to include him was, ‘probably a fair one’.

“It’s mixed emotions,” he said, speaking before England’s five-match T20I series against West Indies. “Whenever there’s a Test squad announcement, you’re always desperate to be in it. But at the same time, at my age, with my away record – particularly in the subcontinent – I feel like it’s a fair decision.

“We had conversations about where my best cricket is likely to be played moving forward and naturally in Test cricket, it looks likely to be at home. It doesn’t mean to say that when there’s not subcontinent tours that I won’t be available. But I feel at ease with the decision if that makes sense. The communication was good, I know where I stand so it’s fine by me.”

Having a bowler who’s a specialist in home conditions and doesn’t tour is tricky. While bowlers will always thrive in the conditions that suit them best, the size of the gulf between Woakes’ home and away record makes him somewhat of an anomaly. Regaining his place after the series for England’s first Test of the 2024 summer could be tricky, depending on what happens in India and, at 34, there’s no guarantee of how long his body will be able to cope with the demands of the longest format.

It’s entirely possible that Woakes has already played his last Test match. But, if he has, it was some way to go out in style.

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