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Will Jacks puts injury down to relentless winter touring schedule

"When you're flying between games, the recovery has to be even more important," says Surrey allrounder

Will Jacks spent the winter in and out of departure lounges  •  Getty Images

Will Jacks spent the winter in and out of departure lounges  •  Getty Images

Will Jacks believes the hip flexor injury sidelining him at the start of the English season resulted from a relentless winter schedule.
The Surrey allrounder picked up the injury on England's limited-overs tour of Bangladesh in March, and is expected to be fit by the end of May, in time for Surrey's T20 Blast campaign.
Jacks made his way to Bangladesh via New Zealand, after he was released from the Test squad to reinforce the ODI side upon not making the XI for the second and final match in Wellington. He had started 2023 playing in the SA20 for Pretoria Capitals (their top-scorer with 270 runs), having finished 2022 in Pakistan, on his maiden Test tour where he marked his debut with 6 for 161 in the first Test in Rawalpindi.
That was his second trip to Pakistan after the seven-match T20I series that ran parallel with the end of the English season in September. In between, he was in the UAE as part of a Test training camp.
From a professional perspective, earning caps in all three formats was a sign Jacks is highly thought of by the England management. With much of the 2023-24 winter in India, featuring the 50-over World Cup and a five-match Test series, Jacks has enhanced his case as a destructive batter and serviceable offspinner.
However, he emerges from a productive seven months as a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of the relentless schedule. The injury meant he had to forgo a first taste of the IPL after Royal Challengers Bangalore had recruited him for INR 3.2 core (£320,000) in December's auction.
"I had 40 flights in the winter," Jacks said. "I was meant to go to the IPL, so it would have been another 20 or something. It has definitely been the busiest winter I've ever had; I don't think it helped.
"Flying from New Zealand, I didn't train really before the first game because my bags didn't arrive. I definitely think that didn't help. Then, it was just a random one-off event. You're never really sure, but that's obviously part of it going forward, around flying in the winter - I'm just going to have to be really good on my recovery after flights, looking after my body a little bit better than I have done this winter.
"When we play in England, we drive everywhere. But when you get flying involved, it almost doubles. In South Africa, you have to fly to every game. In New Zealand we took quite a few flights, and then obviously a long one to Bangladesh. That's the difference - when you're flying between games, the recovery has to be even more important."
The England physios out in Bangladesh identified the hip issue immediately and acknowledged the best-case scenario was five weeks of recovery, giving Jacks an outside shot at making the IPL. Upon flying home, an MRI scan revealed the extent of damage and a more realistic recovery time of two months.
Nevertheless, Jacks can reflect fondly on the winter, and is keen to pick up where he left off when is able to take the field again.,
"If I look back to September when I went to Pakistan for the T20s and made my first England debut, that was amazing, and that kind of started the winter from there," he said.
"Up until the injury, I couldn't have asked for it to go any better: I made my debut in all three formats, played in one franchise comp and did pretty well in that, so I've been very happy. Obviously, I would have loved to play a few more games - there were a few times when I was around a squad and didn't quite get picked, but I guess that's part of it when you're trying to force yourself in - but I've loved every second of it.
"It's made me really hungry and I want to have a great English summer. Now I've missed the IPL, I'm really hungry to get back and force my way into squads after missing out on that opportunity."
That he will miss the first six rounds of Surrey's County Championship season is as much a blow for the county's title defence as it is for Jacks' ambitions for the Test side, particularly with an Ashes series to come in June. His inclusion for the Pakistan series was primarily because of a lack of spin options, even if Jacks did show promise in the 2022 summer with 17 wickets at 47.
But his primary suit is batting, as per last year's two centuries - including a top-scorer of 150 not out - along with three half-centuries. He finished with 648 Division One runs at an average of 54, and a strike rate of 77.23 that aligns with the current Test ethos under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes.
He has yet to show that form with England, partly because three of his four Test innings have come at No. 7 or lower. As such, Jacks is angling for a shift up the order, first for club, then for country, to alter the perception of the roles he can fulfil in red-ball cricket.
"I think that has been one of the things that has been slightly lost," Jacks said. "The role that I have here [at Surrey] - batting seven or eight, I even batted nine last year - I think one thing I've been slightly frustrated at is the lack of opportunities up the order.
"I averaged 50-something last year and I know I can bat in the top six - well, four - and I'd love to do that. Just because I've suddenly started bowling, it doesn't mean I'm no longer a batter. I'm a full allrounder who can bat in the top six and I'd like more opportunities to do that."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo