Paul Collingwood: This is our Olympics, that's what it means

The England batsman on why the Ashes will always be on 'another level'

You tend to go into other series pretty much knowing what is going to happen – if you play well you are going to win, but the Ashes…" begins Paul Collingwood, and then he pauses, as if the roller-coaster of his own experiences against the old foe is careering around his mind. "It brings that extra pressure, extra nervousness. The speculation and intensity is another level. For a lot of players it is a really nerve-racking time. It was always that first day, singing the national anthem, all the build up to it. You are desperate to get into it, get out on the park and get the competitive juices flowing."

Collingwood knows what it is like to win the Ashes and lose them, to have moments of exquisite triumph, moments of utter dejection, the full cricketing gamut; a double hundred in a losing cause, a rearguard action that led to a winning one and even at the end it was a churning mix of emotion – victory accompanied by tears.

"The Ashes," suggests Collingwood, "are like the Olympics – that's what it means to everyone."

Collingwood played the last of his 16 Ashes Tests in Sydney in the fledgling days of 2011, six years after his first. It was the final match of the last series between the sides, in which England earned a first Ashes win in Australia in 24 years and Collingwood had decided it would be his last as an England Test player.

"I was very emotional," he says of that final day when England completed an innings victory. "I was wearing my glasses all the time in the field because there were times when I was in tears. None of the boys knew it – I hadn't told them that I was about to retire. There were times when it was real emotion – this is your last game of Test cricket for England, something I had always wanted to do.

"I remember walking in every single day through the groundsman's entrance and looking up at the cross of St George and just being proud, being proud of having played for my country. There were loads of emotions but knowing you were leaving Australia with the Ashes and having won them convincingly was a great feeling."

Collingwood played his first Ashes Test in the last game of the historic 2005 series, partnering Kevin Pietersen for 72 minutes of his epic innings at The Oval, 72 minutes of Shane Warne rabbiting in his ear. There was even longer in the middle in Cardiff four years later – 344 minutes of a resistance that was improbably completed by Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar. In between those was England's catastrophic whitewash Down Under. That it also included Collingwood's career-best 206, made against Glenn McGrath and Warne, a regular critic of Collingwood's, did little to diminish a chastening experience. "I'm very proud of scoring 200 against Australia [in Adelaide 2006] with the bowling attack they had but that was one of the most mentally tough tours I have ever been on," he recalls. "They really drilled us. They were ruthless. It became very tough."

His varied Ashes experiences, and that tour in particular, have instilled in him a wariness of Australia and an insistence that the current side – no matter its trials and tribulations, from David Warner's bar-room brawl to a whitewash in India – will pose a threat to England, both here and, in particular, back there this winter.

"I find that a ridiculous comparison to make – oh England won out there [in India] and Australia got absolutely annihilated," he says. "It would be silly to write Australia off because of that. It is completely different conditions. In India you rely on spin, you rely on reverse swinging the ball and scoring big runs. Australia's spin-bowling department is not as strong as England's. The way they reverse swing the ball is not as good as England but those two skills will not be tested as much in English conditions. The skills of swinging the ball around with the Dukes ball and bowling fast in good areas will be a skill you need in English conditions, which they have an abundance of.

"They are a dangerous side. Look at that seam-bowling department, they are going to cause a lot of problems. England are a good batting line-up when they are on song but [Australia] have some serious pace and it's not just pace – they swing the ball around as well, and certainly in English conditions they can be a handful. When you have a team that can take 20 wickets they are going to be dangerous.

"It's whether they can score enough runs. But if someone like David Warner, who has a point to prove, comes off, or Michael Clarke has a good series, or Shane Watson – you can go through their team and they are actually a competitive team, especially in conditions where those seam bowlers come into their own. They are going to be dangerous."

When the players trot out of the pavilion at Trent Bridge this morning and line up for the anthems, Collingwood, who is still playing for Durham and beginning a coaching career, will be in front of the TV, as he was when the 2005 series began.

"I miss it, of course I do. When you come out of international cricket you find it hard to replicate the intensity and the adrenalin. It's an amazing environment to be involved in so you miss those times, the big crowds, playing the game. But I love watching England – they have moved on even in the couple of years since I stopped playing Test cricket. I think they are a highly skilful team now. I would love to be involved with England in some way in the future but at the moment it is just great to watch them."

Paul Collingwood is an ambassador for Yorkshire Bank, who are giving away 150 cricket bats via their Giving Bat to You campaign at: www.facebook.com/YorkshireBankCricket

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003