AA magnitude 5.2 earthquake struck Antigua at 4:48 a.m. Saturday morning, its epicenter just south and east of the island. All across the countryside, buildings were shaking and swaying, and England’s team hotel was as close to it as it could be. Will Jacks slept through it.
“I woke up around six o’clock, saw the group news and couldn’t really believe it,” he said. “I sleep pretty deeply. I don’t wake up for anything. Some of the guys said their whole room was shaking so it was a little weird. “Harry Brook wrote me a message: ‘Is there going to be a tsunami?’ That was the first thing we all thought.”
Jacks has felt the ground shifting beneath his feet a few times recently in his professional life. He will feature for England in all three one-day internationals against the West Indies. The series begins on Sunday morning at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. So by early next week he will have played 15 times for his country across all three formats, in 15 months, playing a five-fer Test and recording an ODI score of 94.
Having turned 25 last month, he has established himself as a key player in all three formats and was one of nine Englishmen picked up by their Indian Premier League teams last month. When central contracts between players and the England and Wales Cricket Board were being negotiated in September, he felt he might get a call. But it was decided not only that he should not get a contract, but also that no one should tell him.
“I knew everyone was listening and I waited and hoped I would find out and then I didn’t,” he said. “I just saw it on Twitter like everyone else and it was disappointing. I was hoping to get one. I felt like I was part of the team. There are a lot of people who were at the World Cup who deserve to have one and I understand that. And there are a limited number you can distribute.
“It is what it is and I just want to keep going. You never know, it could work in my favor. It means I’m free to plan my winter and my life, but I’ll use this tour and hopefully the rest of the year to prove my point and hopefully get one next year.”
After playing two Tests in Pakistan last winter, Jacks was hoping to take part in England’s five Tests in India in January and February. Instead he will be in South Africa for the SA20. “I wouldn’t say it has changed my motivation to play for England – England is the pinnacle and I want to play as much as I can, but it has almost lived up to my expectations.”
“The India Test matches have been at the back of everyone’s mind – such a massive series and there is constant talk about spin and the need for all-rounders and a strong squad. So instead of thinking I was going to get picked, I now think, OK, if they wanted to pick me, realistically I would have gotten a contract.
“I love playing for England but when I’m not picked I really enjoy playing T20 cricket – there’s a World Cup coming up in June and that’s my priority at the moment. Getting into the World Cup squad is a big goal of mine and playing T20 cricket in South Africa against some of the best players will be crucial to that.”
Having been told that he and Phil Salt will definitely feature as openers in all three ODIs against West Indies, Jacks can at least approach the coming days with a measure of certainty.
“It is always important that you are given the confidence that you will be in the team no matter what. Even if I fail on Sunday it doesn’t matter, I have another chance to try in the last two games. For anyone who wants to play this aggressive style, you need this. If you are afraid of failure or worried about whether you will play or not, it will obviously affect your performance and you will not be able to play at 100% Confidence to play.”
The series features a team trying to redefine itself after a weak World Cup and a team trying to re-establish itself after missing the World Cup entirely. The West Indies have spent the last two weeks in a training camp preparing to attempt to turn around what has been rather depressing in recent years.
“There is a very positive atmosphere in the camp, I have to say. I feel a different excitement,” said Shai Hope, her captain. “We have to let go of the past – it is history for a reason. We need to make sure we create our own story. The way we are preparing now, everyone is moving much closer together. We do things as a family more than anything else.
“It’s not just about cricket, we move as a unit. It’s good to see the boys executing on our plans and we hope we can get the wins we really want to give the West Indies fans something to be happy about.”