It is time for Collingwood to hobble off into the sunset
Out of the one-day side and with a knee problem, England stalwart should retire now – with head held high
Thursday 24 March 2011
Paul Collingwood owes England nothing. He has offered every ounce of his talent and guts over the past 11 years. In return he has played 68 Test matches and 197 one-day internationals and the selectors have almost invariably stuck by him. England owe him nothing.
The balance sheet, then, as it should be at the end of a long and admirable career, is all square. Sometimes it is not, sometimes players depart feeling aggrieved, sometimes teams pick players for too long so that the plus and minus columns are skewed.
It is possible that Collingwood will play again in this World Cup, it is possible that he will wish to prolong his international career thereafter, it is possible that sentiment will prevail and he will be allowed somewhere along the line to become the first England player to win 200 one-day caps.
But the probability is that the boy from Shotley Bridge has come to the end of the road. It is difficult to see how England can choose him for the quarter-final tie against Sri Lanka on Saturday since he played no part in the uplifting victory against West Indies and had been involved in the sapping defeat against Bangladesh.
Whatever happens, it then becomes difficult to provide reasons for picking him again. If the team manage to reach the semi-finals on Saturday and then go beyond even that, the idea of changing winning teams becomes more difficult to justify.
At some point England have to start planning for the World Cup after this when Collingwood will be 38. He is carrying a knee injury and it was confirmed yesterday that he will have an arthroscopy to repair minor cartilage damage after the World Cup. Collingwood is still a centrally contracted player, he is still fit and fuller of beans than just about any other player in the squad – the knee surgery notwithstanding – but there is more to top-level professional sport than that.
For most of the last 10 years, Collingwood has defied the sight of his critics' eyes. At no point has he tried to suggest that he is anything other than what he is, an honest, bloody-minded pro determined to make the best of himself and give his all for the team.
After a hesitant start, which taught him much, Collingwood became a fixture in the one-day side. Indeed, he seemed an archetypal one-day cricketer, someone who batted well enough, bowled less well and fielded like a dream. But he harboured an ambition that would not go away to be a Test cricketer. At every suggestion that he was destined to stay on the fringes he responded that he intended to make it.
He was capped twice, almost grudgingly, on a tour of Sri Lanka in 2003 but that seemed to be that. There were better players, batsmen of greater strokeplaying ambition, men with some class. In 2005, when the Aussies were in town for an epic Test series, it was almost touching the way Collingwood continued to insist that he wanted to be part of it.
That summer, he kept peeling off hundreds for Durham, six of them, one more than he has made in his entire Championship career before or since. It confirmed his bloody single-mindedness: if county runs were what they were demanding, county runs were what they would have.
Injury struck a hitherto unchanged England after the fourth Test and for the decisive fifth, at last, they called on Collingwood. He scored seven and 10 but on the last, vital day at The Oval kept Shane Warne and the Aussies at bay for 72 minutes. Much to Warne's later mockery (but Collingwood's enduring pride) he was, along with the rest of the squad, awarded the MBE.
Gradually, Collingwood became an integral part of the Test team as well, so that he was, improbably, one of the most influential characters in the English game. He was an international cricketer despite his style rather than because of it, but every time he sauntered out to the crease with his chin jutting out it was because he knew that his returns were so extraordinarily good. He was, briefly, one-day captain and titularly remains Twenty20 captain. It was Collingwood who led England to the World Twenty20 title last year, their first major trophy.
A few times over the years, Collingwood's form has hit a trough. It happens to most players but because Collingwood's method was so workmanlike, it was exaggerated. By and large he clung on to his place and though it needed a last-ditch innings or two, he had the trust of colleagues and selectors.
Two years ago he laughed at the suggestion from this quarter that he was on the slide and found some blazing form to rebuff the slight. Then, he was still more or less an automatic choice for both sides. He clung on to his Test place during the last Ashes but knew the time had come to call it a day, which he did during the Sydney Test, and preserved a Test batting average above 40.
Soon after, unthinkably, he lost his automatic place in the one-day side and irregular appearances lately have brought no concrete evidence of returning form. It is time to go and it is to be hoped that he can muster the true self-belief of what he can do for the game in the future to ensure he goes on his terms.
Colly's one-day record
197 One-day appearances, a record. His debut came against Pakistan in '01.
5 One-day centuries and 26 fifties, at an average of 35.36.
120 Top one-day score, against Australia in February '07.
64.12 His best form was in the winter of '09-10, when he averaged 64.12 in 10 one-dayers.
15 Games since his last score over 50: 95 against Australia at Lord's last July. He has averaged 19.15 since.
111 One-day international wickets taken at 38.68. His best figures were 6 for 31, against Bangladesh in June 2005.
Pakistan into semis
Pakistan crushed West Indies by 10 wickets as the World Cup quarter-finals began anti-climactically.
Chris Gayle hit two ferocious early boundaries, but after he was dismissed for 8 in the third over, the batting swiftly subsided. Mohammad Hafeez, unusually opening the bowling, claimed the wickets of Devon Smith and Darren Bravo in the sixth over, to leave the West Indies struggling at 16-3. They never recovered, though senior batsmen Ramnaresh Sarwan (24) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (44*) added a painstaking 42.
Shahid Afridi took 4/30 with his leg-spin, taking his tournament tally to 21, whilst off-spinner Saaed Ajmal's doosra proved far too good for the West Indian lower order. Openers Kamran Akmal (47*) and man of the match Hafeez (61*) ensured Pakistan stormed into the semi-finals, as they raced to their victory target of 113.
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