County cricket September 18, 2013

Collingwood's value immense to Durham


Paul Collingwood appeared genuinely surprised by the suggestion that he might be considered a candidate for the Managing Director of England Cricket position soon to be vacated by Hugh Morris.

"Me?" he asked. "Managing director? I don't think so. I'll leave that to the posh boys like Straussy."

The suggestion is not so ridiculous, though. Collingwood's record as a leader is exceptional and he has a range of experiences that would render him an intriguing candidate.

After an unhappy period as England captain in 2007, he returned to lead the side to the only global trophy they have ever won - the World T20 in the Caribbean in 2010 - and has now helped Durham from the bottom of the Division One table in July 2012 to the brink of being County Champions in 14 months. In that time, Durham will have, with victory over Nottinghamshire, won 14 out of 21 Championship games in which he has captained and a club record five in succession to seal the title.

And all that against a backdrop of financial trouble that prevented the acquisition of new players or an overseas cricketer, of high-profile injuries and departures (the likes of Michael di Venuto, Ian Blackwell and Steve Harmison have all, for one reason or another, been phased out in recent times, while Dale Benkenstein has missed most of the campaign through injury) and of the heart attack to head coach, Geoff Cook, that cast a shadow over the club for several weeks. It is an achievement worthy of the highest praise.

This challenge, Collingwood conceded, came at the right time of his career. With his international career over and many personal ambitions sated, he had the combination of experience and personal ability to instil the values that he saw benefit England into a Durham squad that, for all its skill, had an 'old-school' feel when it came to matters such as fitness and preparation.

"I have been a reluctant captain in the past," he admitted. "I am not one to go out calling for the captaincy whichever team I have played for but when I've done it, I've done it to the best of my ability.

"This has come at the right time for me. It's kept me fresh and it's given us the chance to take the club forward five or 10 years. It's not just about success on the pitch, it's about instilling a culture in the club that can take us into the future."

That culture has seen several high-profile players - the likes of Harmison and Blackwell - sidelined and opportunities given to young, locally-developed cricketers who were more in-tune with Collingwood's fitness ethic and, in general, preference for reliability over flair.

He concedes that his own powers as a player are waning. He has claimed only one Championship wicket this season and, though he has passed 50 five times on some demanding surfaces, he has not managed a century and his average is a modest 30.85. He dismissed the suggestion that he will seek a new contract after the 2014 season with a snort of laughter: "I doubt it," he said with feeling.

"That would be pretty much it for me, I would have thought," he said. "I am enjoying it but I'm nowhere near as good a player as I was. And that frustrates the hell out of you.

When you get a ball and think 'I used to whack that.' I'm scrapping more than I ever have. I'm trying to play shots I used to be able to play and the ball isn't going anywhere. But I guess I am still contributing and I would be very upset if I wasn't."

Collingwood is a little coy about his future beyond 2014. Partially because of the heart attack suffered by Geoff Cook a few weeks ago, talks about the coaching structure at Durham at present are sensitive and, perhaps, inappropriate. Until a few months ago, it was presumed that Dale Benkenstein would, in time, succeed Cook with Jon Lewis as his deputy.

Now, however, there is a thought that it may be Collingwood and Lewis who take the club forward. Understandably, Collingwood is reluctant to be drawn on the subject, limiting himself to saying "conversations have taken place" but nothing is decided.

He is also modest about his own contribution to Durham's achievements. "I'd put this success down to the skilful players we have in the dressing room," he said. "Several young guys have put their hands up and I always feel that we have the attack to take 20 wickets. We have an exceptional attack and in Graham Onions - whose averages are ridiculous in the last couple of years - and Chris Rushworth we have bowlers who know how to bowl on this wicket."

The days of former England players going back into the county game are, sadly, declining. The lure of media work and foreign leagues has given them other options and, as a consequence, seen the domestic game robbed of just a little bit of the experience that can help develop the next generation. Collingwood has shown the value of such players, however, and deserves much of the credit for Durham's fine achievement.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brian on September 20, 2013, 20:02 GMT

    The only point in this article which I would dispute is the clause "After an unhappy period as England captain in 2007 ... ". Collingwood's record as England ODI captain in 2007 was actually pretty good, seeing series victories over India and Sri Lanka. Granted that his record as England ODI captain in 2008 (before the role was taken over by Kevin Pietersen) was less happy, seeing 2 defeats by New Zealand, a ban, and the infamous Sidebottom body-check incident. It's also true that England's record at the first two twenty20 world cups under Collingwood's captaincy was not a great success, although even apart from the fact that he led them to victory in the third one, they certainly did no better in the fourth world cup. But my point is that Collingwood did not actually in any strict or liternal sense have an "unhappy period as England captain in 2007"; he had instead, in the calendar year of 2007, a mixed period as England captain, featuring some surprising successes.

  • Paul on September 20, 2013, 18:30 GMT

    Wouldn't Colly make an excellent England coach? He seems to have the perfect combination of experience and character for the job.

  • ian on September 20, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    Congratulations to Durham - County Champoins again! They must be a superbly managed side, and the captaincy of Colly has been truly inspirational. What is so heart-warming (esp. to this Surrey supporter!) is the 'giving back' that Colly has given to his home county. So many ex-Test/ international cricketers call it a day once their England careers are done: after all, the ghost-written book & the golf course await! They've made their money & can't come down, back to the hard school of county cricket, even if they remain quite fit. I admire cricketers that have kept their feet on the ground as PC clearly has. It matters little that Colly's average this year is modest, his experience & ability to get the best out of his men, besides remaining an excellent fielder, more than justifies his place. There are loads of examples of great captains who have not returned amazing figures: Mike Brearley for England probably being the best example. And Stuart Surridge at Surrey, long ago.

  • Jackie on September 18, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    The strength of Durham is that it has shown BOTH flair and character and led by Colly with flashes of brilliance as well as doggedness. The combination is surely what has led to the Championship. Colly has declared to give his team a chance of winning. No safety first policy. We've had the famous run chase by Stoneman and Mustard as well as the Onions-inspired collapses of the opposition. If you look at the victories they are full of sensational elements, whether of attack or rear guard actions. The promotion of Borthwick to No 3 has been inspired. Colly is being too modest. He is a very clever captain and was foolishly ignored by England when he was pushed out of the ODI captaincy to promote Kevin Pietersen as England captain in all forms. A terrible mistake which was only partly rectified when Colly was given the t20 captaincy. Snobbery probably prevented England recognising Colly's captaincy gifts. We're lucky Geoff Cook spotted Colly's potential and turned around Durham's fortunes.

  • Mick on September 18, 2013, 20:43 GMT

    Excellent article George. I am an unashamed, slightly biased Durham fan, but as others have already endorsed, Colly is the type of cricketer we can admire and aspire to be like. Not as gifted as a KP or a Bell, but he grafted and made every last morsel of what talent he does have count.

    As for his efforts at Durham, all I can say is that I shivered, shuddered with pride as the crowd saluted him today. Walking off, stranded on 88 not out, the genuine passion and thanks in that ovation blanketed the ground.

    Whereas the likes of Harmison have departed and left a bad taste with the Durham faithful, Paul Collingwood has already left a legacy and I tip my Durham floppy hat to him.

  • Mike on September 18, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    What a splendid cricketer and a splendid man. There are very few cricketers I've ever admired more.

  • Dummy4 on September 18, 2013, 20:30 GMT

    Immense contribution by Colly. Clearly knows what it takes to make a good team. We were going down when he took over as captain and has totally transformed the team.

  • Andy on September 18, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    Collingwood's been (and continues to be) a great player for Durham and history will suggest that his record for his country is better than you might expect (primarily because of his mental toughness). I doubt however that he's MD material as he doesn't appear to have the "sophistication" or "strategic vison" that a Strauss or Huw Morris might have. That's just the way he is and there's nothing wrong with that.

  • GeoffreysMother on September 18, 2013, 19:16 GMT

    Absolutely spot on. Tremendous credit goes to players like Colly and Ponting who go and put something back into first class cricket once their international careers are over. I would have him over Strauss any day of the week as Director of Cricket. He is the closest player we have had to Steve Waugh : total commitment and maximising ever inch of talent you have - and he wasn't a posh boy either Colly!

    And, from a Yorkie, well done to Durham on winning the championship with a home grown team and a deserved victory in a wonderful match at Scarborough.

  • Dummy4 on September 18, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    This interview says it all, really - here's a man who could have hung up his bat and made a packet with a ghostwritten book and a stint as a commentator, but instead chose to stick with his side to teach the youngsters some things. As I'm sure I've read somewhere, in the dictionary, under 'team man' it says 'See also, Collingwood, P.'; a role model, not only as a cricketer, but as a person.

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