England January 9, 2010

Hail Colly, you brave pickle-jar lid

Defiant English rock
25


Paul Collingwood rues not having been born in the days of timeless Tests © Getty Images
 

It is said that if you open any book by Cardus to any page, you will find what it is that you are looking for. By whom is it said? Well, by me, just now. Such is the genius of the great man’s writing, you may not even known what it is you are looking for until you find it. This morning, for example, I picked up my battered copy of The Summer Game, allowed the pages to fall open and came across the following:

“No lover of the game has a ghost of a reason for protesting against true and natural obstinacy at cricket.”

Quite right, Neville, straight out of the middle. As everyone knows, not losing is the essence of cricket. And the key to not losing is sheer, unvarnished, pig-headedness. Duncan Fletcher talks a lot about coming to the party. But he’s only telling us half the story. Cricket isn’t about coming to the party, it’s about refusing to leave the party, even when the other guests have gone home, there is nothing left to drink and the police are hammering on the door.

Ah, you might say, but what about Pakistan? Surely, they lost in Sydney precisely because they were trying not to lose. Not true, say I. Pakistan lost because they were trying to be too clever. Mohammad Yousuf has been incorrectly portrayed as a cautious skipper. That is a naïve view. His innovative in-out field (two men in, nine men out) was designed to puzzle Hussey and Siddle, which it did, to such an extent that they could only stagger the occasional bewildered run or 90.

But it was too clever. Pakistan were trying to fashion a delicate creation, a victory soufflé, when what they needed was something altogether stodgier and Durham-like. What they needed was a dose of Collingwood. Now, admittedly, the ginger-haired one is not a guru of grind - like, for example, the great Chris Tavaré . Tavaré’s Zen-like style has never been surpassed. He was rather like a knitter who only knows how to do scarves and so goes on row after row, knit one, pearl one, block one. Unfortunately, there is only so much scarf, or indeed Tavaré that you need.

But if Tavaré was the blocker’s blocker, Collingwood is a natural stonewaller, a man who only starts playing when the rest of the team have checked out of their hotel. Whilst Australians are at their best when sniffing victory, the English cricketer tends to rise to the occasion only when victory is completely out of the question. I was not privileged enough to see Ken Barrington play but my father speaks of him as a steadfast occupier of the crease. He was a rock, a cliff face; immovable, impassable.

By contrast, Colly is a lid on a jar of pickles. Not as awe-inspiring as rock face, I’ll grant you, but just as capable of defeating even the boldest opponent. No matter how hard you wrench, or pull or hit it with the blunt end of a screwdriver, the Collylid cannot be popped. You grunt and groan and roar with exasperation until in the end, your arms are tired, your hands are red raw and you drop the jar on the sideboard absent-mindedly, whereupon the lid pops off with a sigh. But it’s too late. You don’t care about pickles any more. In fact, you can’t bear the sight of them, and so you stomp off muttering something about lid-tampering.

I’ve never played cricket with Paul Collingwood, not even in my dreams, so I don’t know what it is like to see him plop your very best deliveries back into the dust like fizzled out fireworks. I imagine it isn’t much fun. I expect that when he closes his eyes, Dale Steyn can even now see that Colly crouch, that tap-tapping of the bat and that bow-legged forward poke from a shuffleboard player’s back lift. Block, tap, block, leave, block, tap. Repeat 276 times. Wrestling crocodiles was nothing compared to attempting to dislodge the obstinate Geordie.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hammo on January 14, 2010, 3:37 GMT

    As an Australian Cricket fan, I understand your somewhat misguided admiration for Collingwood. The name, I must point out is an unfortunate burden for any bloke to carry through life, as it is also the name of the most hated Aussie Rules Football team in our land. As if this was not enough, the poor, pale, little ginger with the funny accent is an average, uninspiring batman. Early in his 206 run innings at the Adelaide Oval during the 06/07 ashes series I decided that I hated him and he was killing the game. However watching his innings progress, I must admit that I too grew to admire this little guy carrying his burdens - how could someone with such limited batting talent play such an innings? His test match avg. 43 confirms that batting has as more to do attitude, mental strength and tenacity, than skill and ability. Something that the current crop of pretty boys wearing (stolen?) baggy green caps need to learn from this little man with more than his share of lifes burdens.

  • Junaid on January 12, 2010, 11:19 GMT

    Yes, the comments on the Broad article were closed just in time. I wonder why?

  • I_HateSunny on January 12, 2010, 10:35 GMT

    SunnyForPresident - How can you expect Andrew to write about everything? wait for Tendulkar to clean the seam next time, then Andrew will write about ball tampering.

  • SunnyForPresident on January 11, 2010, 21:21 GMT

    Forget about Colly (good chap, soft spoken etc. etc.), what about the ball tampering I ask?

    :)

  • Smudge on January 11, 2010, 15:56 GMT

    It is a bit harsh on Colly just to be regarded as a stolid blocker. If I remember rightly , he also has the record for the fasted ever ODI 50 by and Englishman.

    Other posters are correct, he is not a Geordie and I doubt would thank you for calling him one.

  • Magnus on January 11, 2010, 15:05 GMT

    for a Saffer to say this is a big thing, but Colly is one of my most favourite cricketers! well done to him! hope he does not manage this at the wanderes.

  • Scott McHugh on January 11, 2010, 13:35 GMT

    Great fan piece Andrew! We English don't want boring Pontings, Tendulkars or Laras. We want underachievers, overachievers, battlers, bottlers the lot. That's the true nature of being English!

  • clive dixon on January 11, 2010, 10:04 GMT

    If England can claim Collingwood is a great batsman.they can also claim the prize for sportmanship!He is awful to watch,so ugly,at least Graeme Smith is a left hander--- which makes some shots astheticly pleasing.Collingwood should be churning butter into cheese.He is no Dravid!!!!

    As for the ball tampering stories,remember your great son,M.Atherton!Where ther is smoke there is fire---- ask Michael Vaughn,no one pressed him to comment.As for Broad,well, his father should put him on the naughty step and give him a lecture.If I was his bowling team mate,he wouldnt be on my christmas card list.To bawl them out for fielding badly and then do the excact same thing,well,its just not cricket,is it? England should practice what they preach,on and off the field!

  • Tony Scott on January 11, 2010, 9:03 GMT

    Collingwood is one of my all time favourites. A gentleman as well... Look how far away he was from the two englishmen tampering the ball during last test match.

  • lance cairns on January 11, 2010, 8:17 GMT

    Anybody who is good enough to play in theNYSD league would not be surprised by Pauls efforts and I bet he had a pint or two afterwards.

  • Hammo on January 14, 2010, 3:37 GMT

    As an Australian Cricket fan, I understand your somewhat misguided admiration for Collingwood. The name, I must point out is an unfortunate burden for any bloke to carry through life, as it is also the name of the most hated Aussie Rules Football team in our land. As if this was not enough, the poor, pale, little ginger with the funny accent is an average, uninspiring batman. Early in his 206 run innings at the Adelaide Oval during the 06/07 ashes series I decided that I hated him and he was killing the game. However watching his innings progress, I must admit that I too grew to admire this little guy carrying his burdens - how could someone with such limited batting talent play such an innings? His test match avg. 43 confirms that batting has as more to do attitude, mental strength and tenacity, than skill and ability. Something that the current crop of pretty boys wearing (stolen?) baggy green caps need to learn from this little man with more than his share of lifes burdens.

  • Junaid on January 12, 2010, 11:19 GMT

    Yes, the comments on the Broad article were closed just in time. I wonder why?

  • I_HateSunny on January 12, 2010, 10:35 GMT

    SunnyForPresident - How can you expect Andrew to write about everything? wait for Tendulkar to clean the seam next time, then Andrew will write about ball tampering.

  • SunnyForPresident on January 11, 2010, 21:21 GMT

    Forget about Colly (good chap, soft spoken etc. etc.), what about the ball tampering I ask?

    :)

  • Smudge on January 11, 2010, 15:56 GMT

    It is a bit harsh on Colly just to be regarded as a stolid blocker. If I remember rightly , he also has the record for the fasted ever ODI 50 by and Englishman.

    Other posters are correct, he is not a Geordie and I doubt would thank you for calling him one.

  • Magnus on January 11, 2010, 15:05 GMT

    for a Saffer to say this is a big thing, but Colly is one of my most favourite cricketers! well done to him! hope he does not manage this at the wanderes.

  • Scott McHugh on January 11, 2010, 13:35 GMT

    Great fan piece Andrew! We English don't want boring Pontings, Tendulkars or Laras. We want underachievers, overachievers, battlers, bottlers the lot. That's the true nature of being English!

  • clive dixon on January 11, 2010, 10:04 GMT

    If England can claim Collingwood is a great batsman.they can also claim the prize for sportmanship!He is awful to watch,so ugly,at least Graeme Smith is a left hander--- which makes some shots astheticly pleasing.Collingwood should be churning butter into cheese.He is no Dravid!!!!

    As for the ball tampering stories,remember your great son,M.Atherton!Where ther is smoke there is fire---- ask Michael Vaughn,no one pressed him to comment.As for Broad,well, his father should put him on the naughty step and give him a lecture.If I was his bowling team mate,he wouldnt be on my christmas card list.To bawl them out for fielding badly and then do the excact same thing,well,its just not cricket,is it? England should practice what they preach,on and off the field!

  • Tony Scott on January 11, 2010, 9:03 GMT

    Collingwood is one of my all time favourites. A gentleman as well... Look how far away he was from the two englishmen tampering the ball during last test match.

  • lance cairns on January 11, 2010, 8:17 GMT

    Anybody who is good enough to play in theNYSD league would not be surprised by Pauls efforts and I bet he had a pint or two afterwards.

  • Miles P Barclay on January 11, 2010, 4:24 GMT

    This Colly thing is getting to me. A friend emails me singing his praises and adds: "KP is a busted flush - do you agree? Such an overrated player. Top bowlers have worked him out" I couldn't disagree more. What were England doing 2nd dig at Cape Town? A flat track and a target of 466 in a day and a half at 3.3 rpo. I don't care what the history books say. England should have learnt from the South Africans at Perth last season (scored 414 to win at 3.46 rpo). If we'd attacked the South Africans from ball one they would have been quaking in their boots. Instead England's game plan presumably was 'safety first from ball one lads; let's hang in for a draw'. How pathetic. If we had kept attacking instead of curbing the natural instincts KP and Trotty and the others, so what if we had lost? We could continue to attack in J'burg and still win the series. Instead we go to J'burg thanks to Graham Onions still one up but in a defensive frame of mind. Expect a lightening pitch made for Steyn....

  • MartinAmber on January 10, 2010, 14:34 GMT

    Hate to be a nay-sayer at this time of wonderful Test cricket involving England.

    But Collingwood WAS OUT in all three of these great escapes. He was next to useless for the rest of the Ashes after Cardiff, and undoubtedly benefited from Pietersen being injured and Bopara being even worse.

    No-one seems to bother mentioning that Collingwood got out with 69 balls left in Cardiff, yet Ian Bell would have been utterly (and undeservedly) crucified if the 10th wicket had fallen in the last 17 balls in Cape Town. I'm certainly no Bell apologist, but most of the praise he got in the press after Cape Town was grudging, unlike that offered to Colly and Onions. Sorry, but that strikes me as deeply unfair.

    It's a sad reflection of the English mentality that Collingwood seems to be getting more praise for being instrumental in drawing matches than Pietersen ever got for winning them.

  • Owen Edwards on January 10, 2010, 14:28 GMT

    Suneel, having cricketing talent doesn't mean one has writing talent or commentarial talent. Sunny deserved a roast.

    As for Colly - amen, Colly is our King!

  • Ian Cockburn on January 10, 2010, 10:48 GMT

    I just want to point out that Mr Collingwood is not a Geordie (someone from Newcastle) but from Shotley Bridge in Durham. He's a Sunderland FC supporter as well.

  • suneel on January 10, 2010, 2:32 GMT

    your last article on Gavaskar was the worst, sorry cant read another one (this may be genuine context, but sorry u deserve no deserve no more reading). Time some people with some cricket exp wrote an article, not every tom, dick and harry who thinks they know everything about cricket (better than sunny?? huhh)

  • MeikoElektra on January 10, 2010, 2:27 GMT

    I assume that the unwanted pickles exposed at the end of hours of struggle are pickled Onions...

  • Smit on January 10, 2010, 0:46 GMT

    Collingwood is kinda like Rahul Dravid. As Dravid is India's wall, Collingwood is England's wall

  • Sumeet Verma on January 10, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    Excellent article man..the sheer imagination...comparing colly with a lid on a jar of pickles...collylid...lmao ..

  • Shekhar on January 10, 2010, 0:06 GMT

    Andrew, extremely well put. What astonishes me is that for such a pickle-jar lid type of a character, he can actually also score at a decent rate when needed.

  • Anonymous on January 9, 2010, 21:32 GMT

    A cricketer of very moderate talent. Rarely if ever wins a test of his bat, but has an ability level that allows him to miss the many balls that a Chappell, Tendulkar, Ponting or Dravid would nick behind. There in lies his real ability - to be not good enough to hit the ball often enough.

  • PoooomaPower on January 9, 2010, 17:15 GMT

    Great read - one small observation. We Geordies can't claim Colly as our own as he was born in Shotley Bridge, Co Durham and is a dyed in the wool Sunderland fan. As such, a Mackem is he.

  • the wall on January 9, 2010, 16:46 GMT

    well said hughes, committed to the core to the team's cause, adversity brings out the best of this fighter of a cricketer, strangely though collingwood could actually end up as one of the underrated players in cricket history.

  • Kevin on January 9, 2010, 16:26 GMT

    I've always enjoyed a bit of pickled cauliflower. After 5 days in the Newlands sun I shall not look at a mixed-pickle-jar in the same way again. I think I've rather gone off the stuff ....

  • Booze on January 9, 2010, 15:22 GMT

    One word : ROFLCOPTER!

  • KHETHOMTHANDAYO SAFANSINI on January 9, 2010, 14:02 GMT

    CONCRETE! CONCRETE! CONCRETE! CONCRETE! CONCRETE! COLLY! ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

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  • KHETHOMTHANDAYO SAFANSINI on January 9, 2010, 14:02 GMT

    CONCRETE! CONCRETE! CONCRETE! CONCRETE! CONCRETE! COLLY! ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

  • Booze on January 9, 2010, 15:22 GMT

    One word : ROFLCOPTER!

  • Kevin on January 9, 2010, 16:26 GMT

    I've always enjoyed a bit of pickled cauliflower. After 5 days in the Newlands sun I shall not look at a mixed-pickle-jar in the same way again. I think I've rather gone off the stuff ....

  • the wall on January 9, 2010, 16:46 GMT

    well said hughes, committed to the core to the team's cause, adversity brings out the best of this fighter of a cricketer, strangely though collingwood could actually end up as one of the underrated players in cricket history.

  • PoooomaPower on January 9, 2010, 17:15 GMT

    Great read - one small observation. We Geordies can't claim Colly as our own as he was born in Shotley Bridge, Co Durham and is a dyed in the wool Sunderland fan. As such, a Mackem is he.

  • Anonymous on January 9, 2010, 21:32 GMT

    A cricketer of very moderate talent. Rarely if ever wins a test of his bat, but has an ability level that allows him to miss the many balls that a Chappell, Tendulkar, Ponting or Dravid would nick behind. There in lies his real ability - to be not good enough to hit the ball often enough.

  • Shekhar on January 10, 2010, 0:06 GMT

    Andrew, extremely well put. What astonishes me is that for such a pickle-jar lid type of a character, he can actually also score at a decent rate when needed.

  • Sumeet Verma on January 10, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    Excellent article man..the sheer imagination...comparing colly with a lid on a jar of pickles...collylid...lmao ..

  • Smit on January 10, 2010, 0:46 GMT

    Collingwood is kinda like Rahul Dravid. As Dravid is India's wall, Collingwood is England's wall

  • MeikoElektra on January 10, 2010, 2:27 GMT

    I assume that the unwanted pickles exposed at the end of hours of struggle are pickled Onions...