Will Jacks jumps at opening to prove worth for England against West Indies

<span>Photograph: Ashley Allen/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ashley Allen/Getty Images

An earthquake, of 5.2 magnitude, hit Antigua at 4.48am on Saturday morning, its epicentre a little south and east of the island. Across the country buildings shuddered and swayed, and England’s team hotel was about as near to it as it was possible to get. Will Jacks slept through it.

“I woke up about six, saw the messages on the group and couldn’t really believe it,” he said. “I’m quite a deep sleeper. I don’t wake up for anything. Some of the guys said their whole room was shaking, so it’s a bit weird. Harry Brook messaged me, saying: ‘Is there going to be a tsunami?’ That was the first thing we all thought.”

Related: Jos Buttler backs England’s new blend to banish World Cup blues

In his professional life Jacks has felt the ground shifting beneath his feet a few times recently. He will open for England in all three one-day internationals against West Indies, the series starting on Sunday morning at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, so by the start of next week he will have played 15 times for his country, in all three formats, in 15 months, taking a Test five-fer and making an ODI score of 94 along the way.

Having turned 25 last month, he has established himself as an important player in all three formats and was one of nine Englishmen to be retained by their Indian Premier League teams last month. So when central contracts were being negotiated between players and the England and Wales Cricket Board in September he felt he might get a call. But not only was it decided that he should not get a contract, it was also decided that nobody should tell him.

“I knew everyone was hearing and I was waiting, hoping that I would find out, and then I didn’t,” he said. “I just ended up seeing it on Twitter like everyone else did, and that was disappointing. I was hoping to get one. I felt like I’d been around the squad. There’s loads of guys who were at the World Cup who deserve to have one and I understand that. And there’s a limited number you can give out.

“It is what it is and I just want to move on. You never know, it could work in my favour. It means I’m free to plan my winter and my life, but I’ll be using this tour, and hopefully the rest of the year, to prove my case to hopefully get one for next year.”

Having played two Tests in Pakistan last winter, Jacks was hoping to be involved in the five England have scheduled in India in January and February. Instead, he will be in South Africa for the SA20. “I wouldn’t say it’s changed my motivation to play for England – England is the pinnacle and I want to play as much as I can, but what it has done is it’s almost managed my expectations.

Brydon Carse dives for a catch during a training session at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium
Brydon Carse dives for a catch during a training session at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. Photograph: Randy Brooks/AFP/Getty Images

“The India Test matches have been in the back of everyone’s minds – such a massive series, and there’s all the talk about spin and the need for all-rounders and having a deep squad. So instead of me thinking that I was going to be picked, I’m now thinking, OK, if they wanted to pick me then realistically I would have been given a contract.

“I love playing for England but if I’m not selected then I’m very happy playing T20 cricket – there’s a World Cup coming up in June and that’s a priority for me right now. Making the World Cup squad is a massive goal of mine and playing T20 cricket in South Africa against some of the best players will be vital for that.”

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Having been told that he and Phil Salt will open, come what may, in all three ODIs against West Indies, Jacks can at least approach the coming days with a measure of certainty.

“It’s always important that you are given the confidence that you are going to be in the team no matter what. Even if I fail on Sunday it won’t matter, I’ll have another chance to go and have a crack at it in the last two games. For everyone who wants to play that aggressive style you need that. If you bring in a fear of failure, or worry about if you’re going to play or not, obviously that hinders your performance and you won’t be able to play with 100% confidence.”

Related: In search of joy: West Indies cricket faces long rebuild after years of woe

The series pits a team trying to redefine themselves after a poor World Cup against one trying to reestablish themselves after missing it altogether. West Indies have spent the past fortnight in a training camp, preparing for an attempt to shift what in recent years has been a fairly depressing narrative.

“It’s a very positive vibe in the camp, I must say. I feel a different buzz,” said Shai Hope, their captain. “We have to let go of the past – it’s history for a reason. We need to make sure we create our own history. The way we are preparing now, everyone is coming a lot closer together. We are doing things as a family more than anything.

“It’s not just about cricket, we’re moving together as one. It’s nice to see the guys are taking to the plans that we have and hopefully we can get these wins that we’re really looking for to give the West Indies fans something to cheer about.”