Mark Wood's World Cup build-up: Mario Kart, beard trims & nervous phone calls

Mark Wood

Thursday - and the World Cup opener against South Africa - can't come quickly enough.

It feels like all the England players have been ready to go for a couple of weeks, since the Pakistan series ended.

Still, even though it's such a massive occasion, that morning will be like any other. When the game starts, the lads will be fired up, but the early part of the day, when we first get to the ground, will be quite chilled out.

Mark Saxby, the team masseur, is like the heartbeat of the dressing room. He sorts the drinks, puts daft things on the wall and chooses the music.

So often, he gets the mood just right. One day it might be calypso tunes, another some Oasis and indie, another some rap.

Me, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow will be in the physio's room getting strapped up. Eoin Morgan and Joe Root will be trying to get into their batting bubble.

It might not seem like it to the public, but Moeen Ali is always up to no good. He'll probably be playing a prank on someone.

The noise? That probably comes from me. There's an episode of Friends where Ross makes the 'keep it down' sign. I sit next to Woakesy, and that's what he does to me.

Before then, there will be training on Wednesday and a meeting on what to expect from South Africa.

When we have downtime, we do what we can to not think about cricket. I might go for a coffee with Woakes and Plunkett (I don't actually drink coffee, but just go for the banter) and I bet Plunkett will be getting his beard trimmed to look good for the TV cameras.

A few of us will probably find somewhere to watch the Europa League final, and you'll often find plenty of the lads in Root's room, because he has Mario Kart and Mario Tennis Aces set up. I'm undefeated on the tennis, ranked number one.

Mark Wood
Mark Wood has taken 43 wickets in 41 one-day matches for England

For me, there was the moment of panic in the match against Australia at Southampton on Saturday when I thought this all might be taken away.

My history with left ankle injuries is well documented, but the worry this time was that it felt different - a pain when I was running, rather than when I was bowling.

Jos Buttler, standing in as captain, took no chances. We knew it was only a warm-up game, so we were extra cautious.

When I left the field so quickly, it probably looked worse than it was and, when I got off, the medical staff couldn't see a glaring issue.

They sent me for a scan and, when the results came back, it was the best news it could have been - just a little swelling of the joint.

So, since the weekend, I've been living on an ice machine. The rest of the squad have one between them but, because I use one so often, I bought my own. It's even got my name on so everyone else knows not to use it.

I bowled at 100% on Tuesday and felt no problems, so I can put my name in the hat to be considered for selection on Thursday.

And so, here I am, fulfilling a dream of playing in a World Cup.

Mark Wood
Mark Wood has been passed fit for England's World Cup opener against South Africa

I'll be honest, the past few weeks are the most nervous I've ever been about selection, both before the Pakistan series and then for the World Cup squad, because I played only one of the five games.

I was thinking that, with Jofra Archer around and capable of bowling over 90mph, they might go for a like-for-like swap and I would be the one to miss out.

In the past, I haven't had national selector Ed Smith's phone number saved, so I didn't know when he was calling. Now, it's locked into my contacts.

On that Monday afternoon, I was watching TV with my wife. When you see his name flash up, it's an 'oh my God' moment, because you know you could get some very, very good or very, very bad news.

I dived into a quiet room and started pacing. I was delighted to be picked, but it was a bittersweet feeling when I learned that David Willey and Joe Denly had been left out. We've been such a tight group and I was particularly disappointed for Dave.

Now, though, the overriding feeling is excitement. That's genuine and shared by every player.

Do you allow yourself that tiny moment of thinking what it would be like to lift the World Cup at Lord's on 14 July?

Maybe, but so much hard work goes in first. If we do what we've been doing for the past four years, results will take care of themselves. It's important not to look past the things that have served us well, rather than dreaming too big.

What you can do is think back to last summer, when it was scorching hot and everyone was so into the football World Cup - people partying in parks up and down the country as England made the semi-finals.

Wouldn't it be brilliant to get cricket on the back pages of all the newspapers?

We're ready to put on a show.

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

ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019
Dates: 30 May - 14 July
Live coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary on Test Match Special, plus text commentary, clips and highlights on the BBC Sport website.

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