County news April 4, 2012

Collingwood considered retirement after England axe

Jon Culley

Paul Collingwood has admitted he wondered if he had the will to continue playing after England effectively ended his international career when they dropped him from their one-day teams last summer, in the process stripping him of the Twenty20 captaincy.

"It came right out of the blue," Collingwood said. "There had been no inkling, so when Geoff Miller came to see me to tell me what had been decided I felt it was very, very harsh. It took me a while to get my head around it. You look at all the options and there was a point when I had to ask myself if I wanted to carry on."

Collingwood, under whose leadership England won their first international one-day trophy in the 2010 ICC World Twenty20, retired from Test cricket in January last year after helping England win the Ashes in Australia.

But after subsequently playing in the 50-over World Cup he believed he could continue his international career in one-day competitions and had not given much thought to what he might do if he was not given the chance.

"When you are in the England bubble your concern is only with playing and giving your best and you don't really focus much on the future. Suddenly I was out of that bubble and in the big wide world again.

"But I thought it was important to give myself time and not make a rash decision. Cricket is my skill, the career I had been working towards since I was 14 or 15 years old and going down a different route is not something you can do immediately."

Instead, Collingwood - who will be 36 next month - gave himself until the end of the season to determine how he felt, and found his appetite for the game at county level remained keen enough to accept the offer of a new three-year contract with Durham.

He has not given up hope yet of an England swansong, although he accepts that it would take "some miraculous performances" to force his way back into contention.

"I'm not bitter about what happened," he said. "I am a realistic man and accept that times move on and there comes a crossroads in everybody's career where the hierarchy are going to make decisions about you.

"I don't bear any grudge towards the management or the selectors. If you put yourself in their position you understand that they have to make calls that they consider to be in the best interests of the England team in the long term. But I think I need to keep it as a goal, to get back in the England side. It is a big motivational factor. There are things about being in the England side that I really, really miss and it would be silly to say I've retired.

"I realise I'm going to have to put in some miraculous performances but I still feel young, I still feel fit and I still feel I can contribute. You never know what might happen."

With that goal in mind, it has not helped that the planned third leg of his winter Twenty20 itinerary has effectively been cancelled after IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals, to whom he was contracted for a second year, told him he had little chance of seeing any action.

"Rajasthan called me up two or three weeks ago and said they had made four new signings, which gave them about nine or ten overseas players," he said. "They said they would fly me out immediately if they had a couple of injuries but said rather than drag me round India for seven weeks I should stay at home and play some cricket.

"They did not want to release me from the contract but I think it highly unlikely I will be going out, the way they were talking. I told them I would like to fight for my place but they were honest enough to say I was well down the pecking order. It is disappointing. If you are out there you can at least be in the nets and try to make an impact."

Collingwood had a more successful time in Australia, where he helped Perth Scorchers reach the final of the inaugural Big Bash League, and captained the newly-formed South African franchise Impi.

"It is the first April I've had in England for seven or eight years but it is exciting to be focusing on Durham"
Paul Collingwood

"Perth was brilliant. Having the family out there was great and playing competitive cricket in front of big crowds was fantastic. Every game attracted about 20,000 spectators - and getting to the final means we will be in the Champions League.

"South Africa was different. There weren't the crowds and the team I captained consisted mainly of fringe players from other franchises and the challenge was to make them competitive. But I loved both competitions and hopefully there will be more opportunities next winter."

The change in his IPL plans makes Collingwood available for Durham for their opening County Championship match against Nottinghamshire next week, when he will reacquaint himself with playing cricket in England in April - his warm anticipation of which may have been cooling a little as snow fell at Chester-le-Street.

"It is the first April I've had in England for seven or eight years but it is exciting to be focusing solely on Durham. There were a couple of other offers and Derbyshire was one of the places mentioned but coming from the north-east, where my family is, and being a Shotley Bridge lad, I want to play for Durham.

"Durham are the people that gave me the opportunity to play international cricket. You want to give something back and hopefully I can pass on to the younger players some of the knowledge I have gained from playing around the world. But it isn't just about that because obviously I want to continue playing, win games for Durham and win some silverware."