Collingwood concentrates on England preparation
Paul Collingwood insists that Australia's current struggle for form will have no bearing on England's preparations ahead of the first Test in Brisbane later this month, as they turn their attentions to their opening three-day warm-up game against Western Australia in Perth on Friday.
England have named a 13-man squad for the first of their three practice matches, with the fit-again Ian Bell expected to replace Eoin Morgan as the only change from the side that won the fourth Test against Pakistan at Lord's back in August. That level of stability is something that the Aussies cannot currently rely upon, having slumped to an improbable one-wicket defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka at the MCG on Wednesday - their sixth consecutive loss in all internationals dating back to July.
In addition to their lack of form, Australia are also struggling to deal with newspaper reports suggesting that Michael Clarke, the team's vice-captain, has fallen out with senior colleagues who do not believe he should be the next Test captain after Ricky Ponting. But Collingwood, while clearly happy for his opponents to take the heat in the early stages of the tour, was adamant that England needed to keep their counsel in the coming days and not get distracted by matters beyond their control.
"It's a different position - it's something we're not used to when we come to Australia," admitted Collingwood, who witnessed at first hand the media feeding frenzy that greeted England in 2006-07, not least when Marcus Trescothick quit the tour ahead of the Brisbane Test with a recurrence of his stress-related illness. "But we know they're a good side, and we're going to have to play very well to beat them.
"Let's be honest, the more games they lose the better it is for us. The more games they do lose, confidence levels may go down," he added. "But we're not going to read too much into it. We've got to prepare ourselves as a team to be in the best frame of mind going into the Test matches. I'm sure they'll be trying to do that themselves too. We're not going to take them lightly - it's as simple as that."
Australia in a home Ashes Test will be a different proposition to the team that lost the first ODI against Sri Lanka, Collingwood insisted, but nevertheless, the manner in which they let slip a seemingly impregnable position at 107 for 8 has been taken as further evidence of a loss of killer instinct, something that England themselves witnessed at Cardiff in 2009, when James Anderson and Monty Panesar saved the game with an unbroken tenth-wicket stand.
"Most of us watched the game [against Sri Lanka], but really we're very much focused on what we've got to do rather than the opposition," said Collingwood. "Obviously it's a different team to the Test team, so we're very much preparing ourselves to do well in these warm-up games. It would be silly to let the foot off the gas because of the opposition going through whatever they are going through."
Collingwood, for his part, has plenty to keep his mind occupied in the coming days, as he prepares to readjust himself to first-class cricket after a sparse home summer against Pakistan. However, with just seven first-class outings since the World Twenty20 got underway in April, he's not too concerned about the suggestions that he is out of nick, especially having overcome several doubters on the last trip four years ago with a gutsy double-century at Adelaide.
"Anyone who says it's a bad trot I'm going through, I'm not going to read too much into it," he said. "The challenges you get out here are exactly what I want as a cricketer, and something I'm very excited to get my teeth into. I look forward to playing what I hope will be some big, match-winning innings."
As far as England are concerned, their preparation for Brisbane begins in earnest at Perth on Friday, and will continue through both of their remaining warm-up matches at Adelaide and Hobart. "If we can get three wins under our belts that will be fantastic," said Collingwood. ""You want good individual performances out there as well to get the confidence going high, because the belief is the most important thing, coming to Australia.
"There is genuine belief around the camp that we can win out here," he added. "I don't think anything that happens between now and the first Test will waver that belief in any way. The guys are very experienced now, playing in different conditions round the world, and although there are a couple of technical adjustments, I think that belief is the major thing we can bring into this tough environment. We've done plenty of talking in the dressing room - now is the time to go out there and put those big performances in."
England squad Andrew Strauss (capt), Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, James Anderson, Eoin Morgan, Chris Tremlett