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Match Analysis

Wood the odd one out in fast bowling bad boys club

Most speed demons have a scary aura about them, but this guy is good wholesome fun

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
01-Apr-2023
Mark Wood doesn't like being here.
He has bowled just one ball but he is already going Looney Tunes on the pitch. Giving it a glare that is only missing the cartoon knives flying out of his eyes.
It's the landing area. It's slippery. It's not able to support his weight. So on comes a bit of sawdust.
Bodies made of flesh and bone aren't meant to take the kind of strain fast bowlers put them to. And yet they have been doing it for hundreds of years. Because the payoff is immortality.
Fred Spofforth played his last match in the 1800s. He is still called The Demon. There was another guy back in the 1950s who played just 17 Tests. Every time people say his name, even now, they add the word 'Typhoon' to it.
Fast bowlers, man. They bridge the possible with the impossible. They connect dreams to reality. They stir emotion, create history, and revel in infamy. They are the bad boys that your mother warned you about but you can never, ever stay away from.
Except Wood refuses to further that stereotype. In fact, for the most part, he is an utter comedian. More often than not, he struggles to even stay on his feet after releasing the ball, falling splat on the ground in a way that wouldn't look out of place in a Charlie Chaplin sketch. Last year, while under medication following surgery, he took part in a conversation where he was in equal parts adorable child, incorrigible teenager and total brat.
"Is my shoulder meant to be sore?"
"Yeah."
"That's weird, that. I've had elbow surgery but my shoulder's achin'."
"Yeah, it's from the position you were lying in."
"Pff, whatever. I'll still bowl fast."
And that's what connects Wood the goofball to Wood the cricketer. Their need for speed.
Prithvi Shaw and Mitchell Marsh were on the wrong end of it. The little white thing that he gets to play with shattered their stumps. Those scientists at CERN, if they ever want to give their Super Collider a rest, could just ask Wood to power the whole thing. He could probably accelerate those protons to almost the same speeds and it would cost way less.
Speed alone would be scary enough but Wood has got so much else going for him too. His bouncers barely lose pace after making contact with the pitch. Plus they're skiddy. They don't balloon harmlessly over the batters. In fact, one of them followed Sarfaraz Khan as he was trying to duck, and turned his last-minute ramp shot into a catch at long stop.
Wood finished with figures of 4-0-14-5. They're the joint eighth-best figures in IPL history. And you know what? He was actually bowling within himself!
"Today, obviously, you could see the dew on the grass and that was, you know, affecting me when I landed," Wood said after picking up his Player-of-the-Match award. "I fall over at the best of times. So it was no good for me. Maybe I'll have to invest in some long spikes or something.
"Today I was trying to keep my strides short because it was so wet. Usually, I come off a longer run-up now, which has served me well for a couple of years. That's what I feel at ease to do, to charge in and try and let the ball fly. But when you are worried about the front line and you are thinking 'oh, I'm not sure if I am going to slip here or not', it does affect you. So I need to try and clear that out of my mind the next time I come here."
Yikes!

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo