Scratching around for form in the middle of a Test series is tough enough for an international player worried about his place without wondering how much he might see of the biggest cash windfall of his career. Yet both of these things are vying to distract Paul Collingwood on the eve of a match in which England's one-day captain desperately needs to reassert himself in the five-day game.
Collingwood, whose part in helping England beat New Zealand in the second Test helped save his place despite a dreadful start to the season, admits that preparations for the third Test at Trent Bridge tomorrow are taking place against a backdrop of confusing uncertainty over who will get what when the first of the £10m Stanford Twenty20 challenge matches takes place later this year.
The Professional Cricketers' Association, the body charged with negotiating with the England and Wales Cricket Board on the players' behalf, deny that any division exists in the England dressing room but Collingwood indicated clearly yesterday that there are different ideas about how the spoils should be divided, conceding that there were "always going to be problems" with the unprecedented cash sums about to flow into cricket.
The 32-year-old declined to say where he stood but alluded to several potentially contentious issues. "There are a lot of different scenarios," he said. "I have obviously got opinions but until I know 100 per cent what kind of money we are talking about, whether management get it, what happens about players who are not playing or whether contracted players get a share, I'd rather keep them to myself at the moment.
"I'd rather let the PCA do their job as our representatives, to speak to the ECB and come up with a conclusion, than me say what I think."
Sir Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who will put up the cash when England play the West Indies in Antigua in November, was keen to give the contest a "winners-takes-all" drama as an extra spur to the players. And while England prefer a wider distribution of the spoils, there is still the uncomfortable prospect for some regular squad members that they might miss out, although Collingwood denied it was preying on their minds during games. "We have jobs to do in Test cricket and are definitely not going out to bat thinking 'I must stay in the side to be in the Twenty20'," he said.
"We don't know the ins and outs yet; we don't know if, say, you will get something for being a member of the squad. So it is too early to say that you are going to do everything in your power to be in that side."
For his part, Collingwood will need to improve on a meagre return of 63 runs from eight innings in all cricket this season and keep his Test spot after an unbroken run of 31 matches. His unbeaten 24 as England pulled off their unlikely win at Old Trafford has saved him for now and lifted his confidence.
"Needing to get 50-odd to win a Test match, it would have been scratchy even if I was in top form," he said. "It helps a little although what you really need is a big score. I've been away with Andy Flower [England's batting coach] to work on a few technical things and to just talk.
"Hopefully I will feel comfortable [at Trent Bridge], get one out of the middle early and go on from there."Reuse content